Labour MPs attitudes towards charities

Downing Street sign

Labour MPs attitudes towards charities

In the approach to the general election, the sector should be reflecting on the opportunities that a change in leadership could bring about. This week we're sharing what a Labour government could mean for charities and their advocacy work.

Heather Sturgess

The upcoming local elections in May are being treated as a bellwether for the general election. A big loss for the Conservatives will be seen as an indicator that Labour is poised to win the next general election. But after over a decade of a Conservative government, what do we know about Labour MPs and their attitudes towards charities? 


Labour MPs are positive about relations between parliament and the charity sector

Our research found that 64% of Labour MPs think relations with charities and parliament are ‘good’ or ‘very good’,  compared to just over 1/3 of Conservative MPs (35%). This could be a positive sign for charities, as the potential of a Labour majority should spark optimism about the sector’s relationship with  government. It should be noted however that overall only 6% of MPs described this relationship as ‘very good’, while 32% of MPs had a neutral view, saying relations were ‘neither good nor bad’. This indicates that charities are not at the forefront of MPs' minds. One Labour MP described current relationships with parliament as muted due to critical attitudes from government: 

“The Government is not supporting the charity sector well enough and too many of their MPs are critical of charities campaigning. This has a chilling effect.” Returning Labour MP ‘Neither good nor bad’

Nevertheless, Labour having warmer views about relationships with charities could mean a warmer reception for charities with a future Labour government.


Labour MPs were excited to work with charities in Parliament

For Labour MPs, excitement about working with charities has increased since 2016 whereas it has decreased for their Conservative colleagues. These changing levels of enthusiasm are likely to be driven by the fortunes of political parties, with Labour the current favourite to win the next election. Another factor could be that Conservatives expressed a higher preference for working with charities in their constituency.

It's positive to see Labour’s enthusiasm for working with charities,  and this suggests more openness to collaborating with charities should Labour win the next election. However, charities will still need to work hard to build relationships with MPs as this positivity won’t automatically translate into increased engagement.


Labour MPs are less likely to see charities as ‘too political’

We saw big party differences on the topic of charities being political, with Labour and Conservative MPs at completely opposite ends of the scale. Almost all (94%) of Conservatives said that some charities are ‘too political’ compared to just a quarter of Labour MPs. 

Of more concern, 83% of Conservative MPs said that the charity sector as a whole is too political compared with just 8% of Labour MPs. This has also increased considerably  on the Conservative side since 2016. In the past when we asked MPs how they would define ‘too political’, Conservative MPs were more likely to define it as ‘party political’ and partisan whilst Labour MPs spoke about lots of different ways of being involved in politics. 

The increase in Conservative MPs agreement with the idea that the charity sector is ‘too political’ is cause for concern. It will be challenging for charities to strike the right balance in the run-up to the election as they advocate for their causes to be considered. Should Labour win the next election it will be interesting to see whether Conservative perceptions that charities are ‘too political’ prevail as the opposition party. 

Labour being less likely to see charities as ‘political’ suggests they will be more open to discussion and debate with charities on policies. However, this idea will be tested should it be Labour’s policies that are facing scrutiny from charities.


A majority of MPs’ view charities as a force for good 

Regardless of election outcomes it’s encouraging that there is widespread agreement amongst MPs that the charity sector is a force for good in the UK. MPs also recognise the vital research and support charities provide and MPs agree that it is important for charities to have a voice in Parliament. 

Whatever the outcome of a general election, the work of charities remains crucial in providing evidence, research, and challenges to the government as charities ensure positive change for society. 


Tracking your reputation with MPs may prove vital to your political and advocacy efforts as we approach the next election. If you want to learn more about our work with MPs, consider downloading more info below. 

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