Common Purpose

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Common Purpose (CP) is a not-for-profit organisation that was started by Demos trustee Julia Middleton. It has been around for sometime but gained much funding with the advent of New Labour and its service towards business elites. Initially money was put in by David Bell, the former chairman of the Financial Times (and the Millennium Bridge Trust).


Current members

Former members

The board at one point included Lord Dahrendorf, the chairman of the right-wing Ditchley Foundation and Prof. Laurence Martin of the like-minded Royal Institute of International Affairs. It was composed of representatives of big business (mostly Labour party donors) including multinationals, the police, the MOD, banks and their associates:

Corporate Sponsors

CP's list of corporate sponsors is impressive and they say they have offices in every UK city. CP says it tries to promote 'corporate community engagement', and a synergy with big business. Relationships between corporate CP funders such as BAe Systems, Royal Ordinance and GEC-Marconi and, say, the work of CP trustee David Grayson of the National Disability Council are unexplained. The idea is to accentuate the positive. The real value of CP must be measured by its closeness to power. For example former board member Gillian Ashmore from the Cabinet Office:

Gillian Ashmore is currently on secondment from the Department of Transport to the British Railways Board working on railway privatisation. She joined the Civil Service in 1971 and has worked variously in the Departments of the Environment, Transport, Employment and Trade and Industry. On the Transport side, she has worked mainly in the public transport field. In the latter two Departments she was Deputy Director of the Enterprise and Deregulation Unit. Mrs. Ashmore has also been a non-executive director of P & O European Transport.[2]

CP's constitution states that the organisation:

"is diverse and non-aligned. It draws on the widest possible variety of sectors, areas, and social groups and recognises only peer level and geographical boundaries as common factors to each group. It is always independent, always balanced and owes no historical or other allegiance to any other organisation. Common Purpose works for the benefit of society as a whole..." [3]

It has been argued that CP creates the illusion it is for ordinary people, yet it is both run by an elite and caters its projects exclusively for an elite:

"the rising generation of decision makers" as they say in their web site. This also states that: "We are looking for applicants who are decision-makers in their city, towns or area", and that "participants are over 30 and already hold a position of considerable responsibility". They say their long-term aim is "educating the next generation of leaders in each city or town".

Funded by big business and public bodies (everyone from arms companies, banks to curiously the Scottish Arts Council) CP operates for their benefit while its constitution maintains that they seek "the advancement of education for the public benefit... to educate men and women from a broad range of geographical, political, ethnic, institutional, social and economic backgrounds."

Former trustees include Gerry Robinson, the ex-Coca Cola salesman and former chairman of the Arts Council of England and Janet Paraskeva, the director of the National Lotteries Charities Board (the 'independent organisation' which distributes National Lottery money supposedly to charities and community groups). [4] CP has specialised in channelling money away from genuine charitable causes. Demos is also partially funded directly via the Arts Council/Lottery 'New Opportunities Fund'.

Citizen's Connection project

The illusion of independence from funders and government was abandoned with CP's biggest project,'Citizen's Connection'. Tony Blair's old flatmate Lord Falconer's New Millennium Experience Company (NMEC) said that: "Camelot, NMEC and Common Purpose created...Citizens Connection." [5]

But the legal position of the Camelot Group plc is this: as the operator of the UK National Lottery it is supposed to be "not responsible for the allocation of funds raised". Except when it is. The NMEC was (is?) an extraordinary concoction. According to their press release the "NMEC is a non-Departmental Public Body and a company, independent from government with one shareholder, Lord Falconer". This makes it an Anstalt, a financial vehicle more commonly associated with Swiss Bank accounts and money laundering. The 'off-shore account' was pioneered by the Mafia: their Lotteries ('the numbers racket') were deemed illegal because of the evidence that they preyed upon the poor - the National Lottery magically does the reverse.

NMEC is funded by the National Lottery via the Millennium Commission (who tried to be independent from government but were threatened with a judicial review). NMEC ran the Dome and a national programme of events across the UK. It is misleading to gather all this up as the problem with 'the Dome'. For instance, Labour MP Robert Marshall-Andrews tabled a Commons question on numerous secret contracts worth some £450 million - awarded by the NMEC, "a company with no direct lines of information or accountability". But with millions pouring down the drain an attempted diamond heist and daily financial craziness at the Dome, no one really noticed anything unusual when Camelot and Lord Falconer gave £2 million to Common Purpose to run a web site which links to the governments' sites, which is all Citizen's Connection is.

A very similar organisation to 'Citizen's Connection' already existed with Lord Young's School for Social Entrepreneurs, which is funded by HSBC, the National Lottery and the Esmee Fairbairn Charitable Trust, run by the wife of the former chairman of the SAC, Magnus Linklater.

CP projects have been criticised as extensions of PR exercises run by big companies, for example the 'Your Turn' project, which was directly run by BT's PR consultants. Yet despite CP receiving millions for its website - 'Your Turn' was specifically given additional funding by the National Lottery Charities Board, which given former CP board member, Janet Paraskeva's position, represented a possible conflict of interest.


Senior management

Former staff


  1. Common Purpose Trustees, accessed 12 July 2011
  2. Gillian Ashmore
  3. [1] Barclays also sponsored Common Purpose's Alchemist Awards to various friends including the Founders of Jubilee 2000 which aims to ask the banks to abandon third world debts.
  4. Changed its name to the 'Community Fund'
  5. , Camelot Press launch
  6. Senior Management Team, Common Purpose website, accessed 12 July 2011