Oxfam 'perfect storm' poster attacked as 'shameful' by Conservative politicians

A message above the image said: “Lifting the lid on austerity Britain reveals a perfect storm - and it’s forcing more and more people into poverty.”

Rob Williams
Wednesday 11 June 2014 12:15 BST

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A leading aid charity is facing an investigation by the Charity Commission after Tory MPs complained about a poster campaign attacking the Government's austerity drive.

Oxfam published a picture of a faux film poster on their Twitter account depicting a raging sea under the tag line: "The perfect storm...starring zero hours contracts, high prices, benefits cuts, unemployment, childcare costs".

A message beneath the image said: “Lifting the lid on austerity Britain reveals a perfect storm - and it’s forcing more and more people into poverty.”

Conservative backbencher Conor Burns told The Daily Telegraph: "Many people who support Oxfam will be shocked and saddened by this highly political campaigning in domestic British politics.

"Most of us operated under the illusion that Oxfam's focus was on the relief of poverty and famine overseas. I cannot see how using funds donated to charity to campaign politically can be in accord with Oxfam's charitable status.

"For that reason I have asked the Chairman of the Charity Commission to investigate Oxfam as a matter of urgency."

Fellow Tory Charlie Elphicke added: "Political campaigning by charities like Oxfam is a shameful abuse of taxpayers' money."

"Oxfam is deliberately misleading people - after rising under Labour, child poverty and inequality have been falling under the Conservatives."

Tory MP Priti Patel told The Telegraph: "Oxfam are behaving disgracefully by misleading the public about Government policies and their political campaigning may be in breach of their charitable remit.

"With this Tweet they have shown their true colours and are now nothing more than a mouthpiece for left wing propaganda.

A Charity Commission spokeswoman said: "I can confirm that the commission did receive a complaint about Oxfam raising concerns that it breached the rules for charities on campaigning.

"The complainant hasn't specified the material to which he objects and so we will be contacting them for further information before determining whether there is any cause for regulatory concern here.

"Separately, we are aware of concern relating to a tweet by the charity and are currently assessing whether it raises any regulatory concern."

The poster is part of a wider campaign across social media addressing poverty in the UK. The OxfamGB account has invited people to hear how “we investigate the reasons why so many people are turning to food banks in Britain 2014”.

Another OxfamGB Tweet said: “We think all political parties need to commit to action on food poverty in the UK. RT if you agree #BreadlineKids.”

Asked about the row, the Prime Minister's official spokesman said: "The Prime Minister's view about the Government's deficit reduction programme hasn't changed.

"It underpins the long-term economic plan which is so important, for example, in terms of supporting private sector job creation and that, alongside things like welfare reform, is what is at the heart here in terms of ensuring that people can, in the long term, see their standards of living rise, and of course work being the best way to tackle poverty.

"So, that's the Prime Minister's view and not any other.

"Charities and other organisations will have their campaigns. The Government's job is to have the right policies and explain why those are the right ones."

Ben Phillips, Oxfam Campaigns and Policy Director, said: "Oxfam is a resolutely non-party political organisation - we have a duty to draw attention to the hardship suffered by poor people we work with in the UK.

"Fighting poverty should not be a party political issue - successive governments have presided over a tide of rising inequality and created a situation where food banks and other providers provided 20 million meals last year to people who could not afford to feed themselves.

"This is an unacceptable situation in one of the world's largest economies and politicians of all stripes have a responsibility to tackle it."

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