Friday, 28 November 2008

Lib Dems 'staring into an abyss'??

. Iain Dale thinks we are after the Michael Brown verdict;

"The Electoral Commission has said it will now reopen its investigation as to whether the donation was permissible in the first place. If it finds that it wasn't - and I can't see what other conclusion it can come to - then the LibDems face having to pay back the £2.4 million."

The BBC also reports;

"an American lawyer has launched High Court action for the return of hundreds of thousands of pounds he claims Brown gave to the Lib Dems."

So, in short it would be wrong to assume as Ifran Ahmed does that we are 'out of the woods' on this issue. I'm not really inclined to agree with Iain that "an admission of at least some culpability" ie, return the money, at this stage would be right (especially as the term 'culpability' is somewhat loaded).

However, he does make a valid point about a necessary review into procedures that let this event occur; when things like this go wrong it should always be the case that they are reviewed.


Jim Smith said...

A party gets offered its biggest donation ever, from a company it has never dealt with. Any sensible person would run a few checks to validate that its Accounts were in order.

That did not happen.

Darrell G said...


Yes it does look a little bad and us appearing to do nothing makes it look worse to be honest.

Alex Wilcock said...

That's nonsense, Jim.

I, personally, think it was a bit daft to take so much money from someone the party wasn't familiar with. The party was stupid. But rather a lot of checks were carried out, and the Electoral Commission has repeatedly found that the party did all it should have done!

It took months and months of police investigation to turn up anything dodgy in Mr Brown's case. For the Lib Dems to have found he was a crook so much earlier than the police did, they'd have had to have either broken the law massively, or political parties would have to have intrusive, untrammelled Stasi-like power and private armies to pull any information they like about anyone they like.

And, particularly in a week when a Tory politician's been arrested on dodgy political grounds, if you believe political parties themselves should have that sort of power, you are stark, staring mad.

Darrell G said...


But the Electoral Commission is reopening its investigations is it not?? What happens if they find something different this time around??

I still think we should be seen to be doing something when things go as badly wrong as this...

Alex Wilcock said...

Of course they're investigating now the conman's been found guilty - but the facts aren't going to change, are they?

Do you seriously, seriously think the Lib Dems could have carried out an investigation a year faster and much deeper than the police did? As I said, not without political parties being the Stasi. So what are the Electoral Commission going to say? "The Lib Dems should have used illegal powers they didn't have and been much, much better investigators than the police?"

And "We should be seen to be doing something" - of course we should. I wish the Lib Dems'd never taken his money. It makes us look stupid to be taken in, and it lets our opponents smear us as if we were crooks, rather than a party that was conned. It's a PR disaster. So... What do you suggest the 'something' is? I got a letter the other day from party HQ saying we need to raise £120,000 to campaign next year. Do you think the party's got £2 million down the back of the sofa to chuck down the loo? It's not as if it would pay off his creditors: what about the charities he gave to, the clothes and yachts and homes and whatever else he bought - the big difference being, unlike those people, the Lib Dems checked him out first, just not as thoroughly as a year-long police investigation, and he didn't get anything at all from the Lib Dems.

So, what's this 'something'? The party volunteer to go bankrupt to pay back a small fraction, and leave the country in the hands of Labour and Tory crooks?

Come on. Every single person who's given over a million pounds to the Labour Party has received either a knighthood or a peerage. Michael Brown didn't get anything from us: not a single word of policy change, not a nomination to any award or office. That's a huge difference.

I know Labour and the Tories love to say that it's worse to fall for a conman than to take bribes to pervert democracy like both of them did, but I've never met anyone outside of a political party who doesn't think bribes are worse.

Darrell G said...


You yourself said 'personally I think it was a bit daft to take so much money from somebody the party was not familiar with'. I dont think the money should be given back; have said that both in this post and elsewhere...

However, what is the problem with announcing an internal review to show some kind of contrition and that lessons intend to be learnt??