Saturday, 6 February 2016


A version of this article was originally published in The Dundee Courier on 6th February 2016.

Camila's Kids Company: The Inside Story: Wednesday, BBC One

World War Three: Inside The War Room: Wednesday, BBC Two

Paul Whitelaw

When, following highly publicised allegations of severe financial mismanagement, controversial charity Kids Company was forced into closure in August 2015, thousands of vulnerable people were left without a safety net.

Formerly one of Britain's most successful charities, for years it succeeded in transforming the lives of disadvantaged children. But now, having become totally reliant on its support, they were suddenly plunged into chaos and uncertainty.

So who was to blame for this catastrophic collapse? In Camila's Kids Company: The Inside Story, flamboyant founder Camila Batmanghelijh refused to accept any personal responsibility. Instead she blamed “a collective madness that the media, the politicians engaged in.” Her only regret was that she hadn't raised enough money.

Despite mounting pressure, she remained blindly defiant throughout this eye-opening documentary, in which director Lynn Alleway gained intimate access to the final days of a crumbling empire. Hired as a trusted confidante – she'd already made a film about Kids Company in 2005 – Alleway's role, at least as far as Batmanghelijh was concerned, was to fairly portray the truth behind the headlines. 

It was a chance for Batmanghelijh to answer her critics. In a way, she succeeded.

I've no doubt that her altruistic intentions were fundamentally sincere. And yet she emerged from Alleway's profile as a stubbornly foolish, romantic idealist whose desire to help children in need far outweighed her interest in the pragmatic details of running a major charity. Kids Company had become her own personal fiefdom.

Whenever she sought to portray herself as a victim – which was often - she unwittingly worked against her cause by cloaking herself in arrogant denial about her many errors of judgement. All she cared about was saving her staff and beneficiaries, and to hang with everything else. She lived inside a bubble of bloody-minded, well-meaning naivety

The media, according to Batmanghelijh, targeted Kids Company because it doesn't believe that disadvantaged children deserve a chance in life. Does she really believe that the media, for all its egregious faults, would go out of its way to destroy a charity for the sheer hell of it? Her delusion is rampant.

Little could she have known that, during the course of filming, Alleway would gradually expose her failings and challenge her behaviour. Though broadly sympathetic, the director couldn't ignore her growing realisation that this clucking mother hen really had sabotaged her company through gross negligence. Kudos to Alleway for refusing to kowtow to her disingenuous bleatings.

Despite vague glimmers of hope, the film wound down with a regretful sigh. Batmanghelijh's reputation was in ruins. Her staff were unemployed, tainted by association. The people she'd sought to help were left frightened and adrift. 

And God only knows how this mess will affect the reputation of the UK's charity sector in general. What a shocking, tragic legacy.

Even the long-overdue resignation of shady BBC exec and Kids Company trustee Alan Yentob – who declined to participate in the programme directly – couldn't blot out the sad, lasting impression of a noble enterprise hobbled by hubris.

Ian, you are edging us further and further towards Armageddon!” exclaimed the otherwise unflappable Sir Christopher Meyer, former British Ambassador to the US, in World War Three: Inside The War Room.

A sombre simulation of the ultimate nightmare scenario – a “hot war” with Russia – it featured Mayhew and a round-table phalanx of leading British military and diplomatic figures wrestling with whether to retaliate in the hypothetical event of nuclear escalation in Russia.

Though it strove for verisimilitude via fake news reports and dramatisations, the central discussion failed to ignite, even with the fate of the world at its feet. Their ultimate decision not to strike back felt perversely anticlimactic, even if it did suggest that sane minds might prevail when doomsday comes a-calling. Oh, and in case you were wondering, it was all Putin's fault. 

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