Dame Shirley Porter Funded Prince Charles’ Political Report on NHS Alternative Medicine

porter After writing about how Prince Charles’ charity, the Foundation for Integrated Health, is now under police investigation for possible fraud, it has become clear how I have missed one of the most shocking aspects of the Smallwood Report.

The report has proved to be very controversial because it was commissioned by Prince Charles and was sent directly to government ministers in an attempt to influence them to fund the provision of pseudo-medical treatments, such as homeopathy, within the NHS. Given, the unique constitutional position of the future monarch, direct lobbying over specific policy issues is seen as being in conflict with the democratic process.

Furthermore, when an academic, Edzard Ernst, criticised the report as being deeply flawed, the Prince’s private secretary, Sir Michael Peat, wrote to the University of Exeter to complain about the whistle-blowing of Ernst. Since then, The Prince’s charity, the Foundation for Integrated Health has stated that Peat wrote to Exeter on their behalf as Peat was their chairman. However, this  was not true as the complaint clearly stated that Peat was writing both in his role of “Prince of Wales’ Principal Private Secretary and as Acting Chairman of His Royal Highness’ Foundation for Integrated Health”.

The origin of the report had a peculiar origin too. Originally commissioned by the Foundation for Integrated Health by asking the economist Christopher Smallwood and the research consultancy FreshMinds to take a “fresh and independent look at the role of complementary medicine” in the NHS, it suddenly switched to being directly commissioned by the Prince of Wales himself. And when the Prince took direct responsibility, the funding appeared to switch too.

In a comment on my last blog post, Ernst makes it clear that the money was coming from Dame Shirley Porter and that Smallwood made it clear the Prince did not want it to be known who was behind the financing.

It is not difficult to understand why Prince Charles would not want it to be known that Porter was funding his pet project.

The Smallwood report was published in 2005 at a very ‘sensitive time’ for Shirley Porter. She has been described as “the most corrupt British public figure in living memory”. During the 80’s, Porter was leader of Westminster council where she systematically tried to gerrymander wards to make them more likely to vote Tory by selling off council houses in marginal areas to private tenants. She ousted homeless people out of marginal wards and tried to house them in safe labour wards in buildings unfit for human habitation. She sold of cemeteries for 15p each and organised thugs to jeer at families who protested.

She was ordered to repay £42m for her “blatant and dishonest misuse of public power”. One of the biggest charges ever. As heir to the Tesco empire, one would have thought that  such a sum would have been easy for her to find. However, she spent years avoiding repaying the money. She claimed she only had £300,000 in assets and fled to Israel. She told her son that “you’ve inherited my genes and know how to lie.”

It is during this time that she was in self-imposed exile and was claiming near poverty that she was slipping Prince Charles the cash to fund his misconceived exercise into persuading the government to embrace pseudoscience in the NHS. Porter eventually settled with the new Tory administration of Westminster and only paid £12m after the investigators thought she had no more assets. Porter continues to make ‘philanthropic’ donations.

I find it incredible that the heir to the throne was not only speaking to Porter during this period but was also prepared to do business with her. And that business was to indulge in trying to push charlatanism into public health care by producing a report that was clearly misleading in its one-sidedness and bias.

Many questions obviously remain. Given that Ernst knew of the origin of the funding, it would appear likely that other contributors did too. Ernst contribution was not used in the end as his views of the evidence do not fit in with the pre-selected conclusions of the report. But there are many high profile figures from the world of pseudo-medical treatments who took part – people who run his charity, the Foundation for Integrated Health, academics who promote quackery and even people involved in mainstream medical policy.

It is a shabby business. It amazes me how often we see people who believe in magic medicine tend also to make rather bad value judgements in other areas too.

26 comments for “Dame Shirley Porter Funded Prince Charles’ Political Report on NHS Alternative Medicine

  1. April 7, 2010 at 1:17 am

    Wow, just wow.

    -r.c.

  2. April 7, 2010 at 7:57 am

    Gobsmacked.

    Excuse me whilst I nip out and post this on every public forum I can find…

  3. Kev Simpson
    April 7, 2010 at 8:06 am

    “It amazes me how often we see people who believe in magic medicine tend also to make rather bad value judgements in other areas too.”

    It never amazes me. In my experience, there’s a very strong correlation between a person’s willingness to accept myth and magic as fact their inability to make sensible decisions in other areas of their lives.

    K.

  4. jane
    April 7, 2010 at 8:54 am

    Prinz Charles in it again. Tree hugging nitwit who appears to the world as some eminence gris, the guiding hand behind the best biscuits for the populace. Shirley Porter used her wealth and influence for nefarious ends. so does the Prinz. Off with their heads.

  5. April 7, 2010 at 12:31 pm

    extraordinary – the lengths that supporters of quackery will go to in order to peddle their beliefs continue to astound…

  6. Julia
    April 7, 2010 at 12:41 pm

    Bloody hell. I haven’t read this blog for a couple of days and actually checked to make sure this story wasn’t posted on 1st April!

  7. Sili
    April 7, 2010 at 2:11 pm

    Ahhhh. Delicious!

  8. April 7, 2010 at 4:14 pm

    What Kev said. Reality and Truth are necessarily close bed-fellows; if you reject one, you tend to reject the other.

  9. Paul Berry
    April 7, 2010 at 4:36 pm

    Ah, Dame Shirley. One of the few people to make local government interesting*… for all the wrong reasons.

    With friends like that, the Prince does not need enemies.

    * http://www.guardian.co.uk/books/2007/mar/24/politicalbooks.biography

  10. April 7, 2010 at 5:14 pm

    As I said on Twitter, I was a graduate student in London in the 80s so Dame Shirl was a major figure in my personal political demonology, along with the Blessed Margaret (Thatcher).

    After Dame Shirl decamped from the UK to Israel in the early-mid 90s, she and her late husband donated a lot of their money to various philanthropic projects there, especially at Tel Aviv University, none of which seemed particularly weird (some mentioned in this excellent Jay Rayner piece from 1999). So it is a bit odd to hear that she bankrolled the Smallwood report, especially as at the time she was fighting legal attempts to reclaim money for the Westminster ratepayers and apparently claiming to have no UK assets at all.

    I would be interested to know if the money for the Smallwood report came from a personal donation or (probably much more likely) from the Porter Foundation.

    As to it being odd (or not) that the very rich are heavily into Woo, one has only to look at the Prince’s FIH’s American friends the Bravewell Foundation for a stand-out example. Alternatively (no pun intended) the Porter Foundation has apparently taken an interest in environmental topics (e.g. funding a “green architecture living laboratory building” to house Tel Aviv Uni’s Environmental Studies Dept), so perhaps that is the sort of thing that might have brought the Foundation into contact with the Prince of Wales.

    • admin
      April 7, 2010 at 5:28 pm

      If you examine the Porter Foundation accounts you can see that some of her biggest donations were to the Foundation for Integrated Health.

      Now this raises interesting questions: is this the same money for the Smallwood report or different money? If this money was used for Smallwood then it rather blows out of the water the idea that FIH and Prince Charles act independently on these matters – a subject of a recent complaint to the Charity Commission by Republic.

      Nonetheless, it is again rather remarkable that FIH were accepting money from such a controversial figure. I am sure we have not heard the last of this.

      • April 7, 2010 at 5:44 pm

        Is that right about the donations to the FIH? How very fascinating. The stuff the Porters funded in Israel seems to have been much more mainstream.

        It is a bit odd the FIH taking large donations from an outfit whose co-founder was the subject of such a long-running and high profile legal battle. Though Porter was (and as far as one has heard remains) unrepentant about what she did in Westminster – see Jay Rayner’s piece I linked before.

      • admin
        April 7, 2010 at 6:28 pm

        Her donations to the Foundation for Integrated Health are all on public record – just buried in accounts. They have not come to light before today, as far as I am aware. (V. grateful to @gimpyblog for the digging on this)

  11. April 7, 2010 at 5:30 pm

    Bravewell Collaborative, sorry, not Foundation. Bravewell is widely regarded as the brainchild of Christy Mack, Reiki practitioner and wife of current Morgan Stanley Chairman (and former CEO) John Mack (see e.g. the article here).

    Bravewell is a sort of much more successful US equivalent of the FIH. Its dollars are a major cause of the growth of “Integrative Medicine” set-ups in the US Medical Schools. For more about Bravewell go to Orac’s Respectful Insolence blog and search for “Bravewell”

  12. Livos
    April 13, 2010 at 12:59 pm

    May the Queen live forever!! (hoping she is NOT into it…) Cheers.

  13. Jon
    July 22, 2010 at 1:10 pm

    This woman never does anything that does not benefit her.
    So, was she just trying to cause some amusing trouble for the UK Gov, or was she trying to win Charlie’s support at a time when she was hoping to make a deal over her fines so that she could return to the UK?

  14. Mary Queen of Scotts
    October 25, 2010 at 6:08 am

    It appears you just love to see someone else stewing in their own juice? I have heard it said amongst wise men that when you critisize someone else, it is simply a mirror image of some aspect of your own personlality that you do not accept or have not come to terms with. So check yourselves out folks. How about spreading something good around for a change, and putting the emphasis on the positive things this woman did whilst in office.
    It takes a strong women to make the kind of changes that Dame Porter made in the city of London.
    Get off your high horses ladies and gentlemen.

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