Lottery thousands pay for former trans stripper to sway public opinion The Sunday Times 23.12.18

The original article is here.

Dressed only in a glittery bra and panties, Morgan Page is performing Wardrobe Changes and Four Cocks, a no-holds-barred cabaret routine about her encounters as a Toronto sex worker, including one with a trans client boasting “the world’s smallest testicular implants, the size of Cadbury’s Mini Eggs”.

Life has moved on for Page since then. Now in London, she is working for the advocacy group Stonewall on its “transgender leadership programme”, which is managing a new national lottery grant of almost £500,000. This was given to Stonewall to “empower trans leaders and organisations” with a “particular focus on leadership, media and influencing”.

Page’s views on the debate she is paid to influence are as explicit as her descriptions of her former customers. Britain is “losing its mind over trans people . . . bigotry has reached a fever pitch,” she has written.

While trans people in North America are “bogeymen primarily for Trump voters . . . anti-trans sentiment among feminists here in the UK has long been a problem, inflamed by the popularity of affluent white columnists [and] conservatives dressed up as feminists”.

Page’s activism in Canada may not assuage those feminist concerns. In 2012, amid some controversy, she ran a workshop called Overcoming the Cotton Ceiling. The “cotton ceiling” is a term used by some trans lesbian women to criticise biological lesbian women for refusing to have sex with them because they have penises.

The organiser, Planned Parenthood Toronto, insisted that “sexual consent was absolutely paramount . . . the workshop was never intended to promote overcoming any individual woman’s objections to sexual activity”.

When The Sunday Times revealed last week that the Big Lottery Fund (BLF), which awards grants from the national lottery, had given £500,000 to Mermaids, a trans group that advocates sex-change treatment for children, there was an outcry — and an immediate review.

News of this second grant for a partisan lobbying operation will trigger further questions about the lottery’s approach.

Other Stonewall trans leaders include Aimee Challenor, a former Green Party deputy leadership candidate who was suspended, then resigned, after using her father as her election agent, even though he had been charged with imprisoning, raping and torturing a 10-year-old child. He was later sentenced to 22 years in prison.

Challenor claimed to have known nothing of the crimes, which took place in the attic of the house they shared. Stonewall has since promoted Challenor to secretary of its trans advisory group, according to her Twitter feed.

Stonewall said the new lottery project was “designed to help trans people from all walks of life reduce both the discrimination they face and the fear of violence that is still a daily reality for many”.

David Davies, the Tory MP for Monmouth, said: “Nobody objects to grants designed to provide services to LGBT people. But my concern with grants explicitly described as being for ‘influencing’ is that the lottery is taking a clear position at one extreme of what is a highly contested political debate.

“That is explicitly prohibited by their own rules which say that ‘political activity’ cannot be funded.”

After 24 years of lottery playing, a national obsession is in decline. “It’s gone right off the radar,” said Peter Grant, former director of its new opportunities fund, now senior lecturer in public and charitable funding at the Cass Business School in London.

As other forms of gambling have proliferated and the price of a lottery flutter has doubled, ticket sales dropped in 2016-17 by 9% and the money raised for good causes fell by 15% — although it has ticked up recently.

Yet the proceeds remain enormous — more than £1bn last year. And the BLF, the largest of the 12 grant-making bodies which hands out £500m of the annual total to community causes, may be quietly shifting its priorities.

A search of its grants database reveals that last year £5.5m was paid to projects mentioning the word “women’s”, the lowest for any full year since 2004. In the first 10 months of 2018, £3.7m was paid to women’s projects, suggesting a further drop across the full year.

In the same 10-month period, £11.6m was paid to projects mentioning the words “older people”, again indicating less than last year (£21m). The declines are only partly due to the overall fall in money raised for good causes.

The BLF said that many projects benefited women or older people without naming them in the project summary. Including these, it said, meant that spending in the last financial year was £70m for women and £83m for older people. It claimed that on this basis “average annual spending” on both groups had risen.

“I would be very sorry if the lottery has fallen out of love with the older people’s sector,” said the television presenter Dame Esther Rantzen, whose charity for the elderly, the Silver Line, had its lottery funding ended this year.

“I think they think that older people have got a lot of advantages these days because of what the media say, but that’s not looking at the truth.”

Some of the new money has gone towards increased spending on identity politics. The grants to Mermaids and Stonewall may be traceable back to an event last year held by the LGBT Consortium, an umbrella body for most of the sector’s charities and lobbyists, with the BLF’s portfolio development director, Gemma Bull.

“Basically the pitch was that public donations to LGBT organisations have gone down dramatically since equal marriage, so the lottery needs to step in,” said one person who was there.

A few months later Bull went on an LGBT leadership course run by Stonewall and this year was named as an LGBT role model by the organisation OUTstanding.

Early this year the lottery paid for the LGBT Consortium to hire a new staff member, Matt Halliday, to draw up grant applications and work on a new funding model. Halliday left in July in apparent dismay. He tweeted that he had “written to the funders of my project with a report on my project and the things I’ve seen” but neither he nor the consortium would comment last week. The BLF said it had received no report from Halliday.

It appears that neither the Mermaids nor Stonewall awards were considered at the highest levels. One former staff member said only the largest grants went to the BLF board to be scrutinised by external figures. Projects of £500,000 or less were approved by heads of funding, the 12 or so people who are part of the BLF’s middle to senior management.

They “would typically have up to 165 different funding applications to consider in a three-hour meeting”, the former officer said, which meant a little more than a minute on average for each grant. “They would make their decision based on three to four sides of A4 submitted by the funding manager responsible for assessing the application. The vast majority just went through on the nod.”

A senior BLF manager disputed this, saying a maximum of 25 applications were considered at each meeting and the paperwork ranged from 1-10 pages.

The former officer said levels of scrutiny had deteriorated in recent years because of problems with a computer system: “In order to cope, they cut down a lot of the questions they asked applicants including, crucially, on safeguarding. You used to have to describe in detail what the safeguarding risks were and how you’d address them. But now you only have to tick a box saying you’ve considered safeguarding.”

The review of the Mermaids grant could prove important in setting parameters for political grants in the future. Passions are high on both sides: MPs have weighed in and the charity’s supporters have adopted the Twitter hashtag IStandWithMermaids.

Even before its recent spending spree, the BLF was the ninth largest funder of LGBT causes in the world, according to the Global Philanthropy Project, and its money has been pivotal in the creation of a powerful UK trans lobby.

The LGBT Consortium says 89% of all funding for LGBT organisations comes from official sources, including the lottery. Further large grants are expected: the consortium has promised a “very exciting announcement” next month.

The BLF said: “National lottery funding is for everyone. Our decision-making processes are robust and designed to provide the appropriate levels of scrutiny for the applications we receive.” It added that LGBT groups had been given “2% of our £500m funding last year”.

● Readers’ poll: Is the Big Lottery Fund supporting the right causes? Cast your vote here

Charities have funding cut Charities providing services to the elderly and domestic abuse victims are among those that have had their lottery funding ended in recent months, writes Andrew Gilligan.

• In the northeast, Northumberland Domestic Abuse Services, which has received £756,000 from the lottery since 2012, faces closure by March after a new funding bid was turned down. Provided by the charity SixtyEightyThirty, it helps about 1000 people a year and is the county’s only specialist domestic abuse service to offer support and counselling for children.

• A charity for male victims, Abused Men In Scotland, came within weeks of closure after losing its £419,000 lottery grant. It was bailed out at the 11th hour last month by a new funder, the Crerar Trust, which gave £29,000 to keep it going.

• Dame Esther Rantzen’s national helpline for the elderly, The Silver Line, which has received just under £11m from the Big Lottery Fund since 2013, was told this year that funding would end. Rantzen said the charity was “secure for the moment” but its situation “isn’t easy”.

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