Saturday, June 28, 2008

Why I Don't Crow Over Wendy Alexander

So Wendy Alexander is going to fall on her sword and step down as leader of the Scottish Labour Party this morning. She is also, if rumour is true, going to step down as MSP for Paisley North, causing yet another by-election headache for her party. I'm not going to join the cheering throngs.

What we are seeing is yet another politician deciding that political life is just not worth the candle any longer. Yet again the system of registration of campaign donations has brought a political career to an end in an inglorious manner. Surely the whole system needs to be looked at to ensure that essentially honest politicians cannot misunderstand it, or receive wrong advice from officials (as in Alexander's case). If you create an unnecessarily complicated system no one should be surprised if people are tripped up by it. The donations in Wendy Alexander's case were of around £1,000 each and had been declared to one register but not another. There should be one system for declaring donations and interests, not two. If there had been, at least half the cases of so-called mis-declarations would not have happened - and Wendy Alexander would probably still have a political career.

Wendy Alexander was a politician clearly out of her depth as Labour leader in Scotland. But she was not on the take. And for that reason alone, I take no joy in seeing that her career in politics has been brought to a premature end.

105 comments:

Anonymous said...

"Wendy Alexander was a politician clearly out of her depth as Labour leader in Scotland. But she was not on the take. And for that reason alone, I take no joy in seeing that her career in politics has been brought to a premature end."

Indeed, we wouldn't want the blowback to scorch Caroline Spelman as collateral damage either...

Anonymous said...

Wendy goes - so the Ballses will have to go as well.

More broken cell 'phones in No. 10?

Nick said...

If you create an unnecessarily complicated system no one should be surprised if people are tripped up by it.

I wouldn't argue with that - however it would seem to apply to many things in life today, not just political donations! eg the tax system. Life is so fiendishly complicated nowadays that it is easy to get caught out without meaning to break the rules.

And who has created this situiation? Well, it's politicians. So it's poetic justice really.

Maybe what we need is the "simple life" party.

The Lakelander said...

The ironic thing is that the money was raised for a leadership contest that never took place.

She was elected Leader of the Scottish Labour Party unopposed.

Instead of returning the money to her donors, she blew it on a "Victory Tour."

Perhaps you're right about "crowing", Iain. It clearly ends in grief.

Tom Paine said...

I would have more sympathy with your gentle views if ordinary citizens were also treated so indulgently. Members of a political class which has created many offences of strict liability, where lack of criminal intent is irrelevant, are entitled to precisely as much sympathy as we would get if charged with such offences; i.e. none, zero, zilch, zip, nada.

If ignorance of the law is no excuse for us, Iain, why the hell would it be an excuse for the people who make the law? If our inability to understand their confusing and contradictory legislative excretions is no defence to us, why the hell should it be a defence for them?

I worry, as you Conservatives get nearer to power, that you do not have any better attitude to its use and abuse than the petty tyrants who govern us now. Please differentiate yourselves clearly. We want to believe. We want to give you a chance. But your apparent sympathy with the devil is not going to inspire much confidence.

bobthedog said...

The thing to remember Iain, is that the reporting of political donations is an act imposed on MP's by the Liarbour party. As most politicians are lawyers in one form or other surely they can read and understand the rules that they made!
What part of the statemet "Donations must come from the UK electorate" doesnt she understand!

Anonymous said...

"Surely the whole system needs to be looked at to ensure that essentially honest politicians cannot misunderstand it, or receive wrong advice from officials (as in Alexander's case)."

Fair point - but many people in this country no doubt think that starting a small business isn't worth the candle with the highly complex tax and employment rules and regulations.

Yet the self-same politicians don't make any allowances in that regard and many of these 'engines of the economy' are currently struggling against a Government that appears to be strangling the 'goose that lays the golden egg'.

By all means remove these vendetta campaigns against politicians, but let them also employ a slightly fairer and more equitable tax regime for the country.

Anonymous said...

Bye-elections soon pending will be

House of Commons: Haltemprice and Howden (Conservative Defending)
Sc. Parliament; Paisley North (Labour defending)
Sc. Parliament: Motherwell North (Labour Defending)
House of Commons: Glasgow East (Labour Defending)
House of Commons: Meriden (Conservative Defending)

Anonymous said...

You have said `Polititian` and immediatly in the next sentence, `not on the take`.

You sir have fell in my estimation as someone I thought was not easily fooled.

Anonymous said...

Re sleaze:

Peter Oborne is doing his usual Saturday job in the Mail - pleasing his masters Dacre/Brown.
This time he's hoping Spelman's and Alan Duncan's little difficulties will turn the tide for the Bogyman. No mention of Labour stuff.
Does anyone remember when Oborne was a Tory?

Man in a Shed said...

You may not crow - and I think your attitude shows considerable maturity.

But the profits at carphone warehouse will still be heading up from its Westminster branch.

It creates yet more trouble as the whole independence referendum idea will come up in the election for leader ( as we know Gordon is allergic to elections ). Unless perhaps Gordon fixes it so its a coronation again - now that's more Gordon's style.

Anonymous said...

I have no sympathy for this egotistical woman who thought she was above the law. She had no opponent for the leadership, but lobbied for donations, asking specifically that they were all £5below the £1000 figure , which would have meant that they would have to have been declared. She then showed either arrogance or stupidity by not revording them as donations, considering it was labour who brought in the rules. She only asked for clarification when she was rumbled and by the time she sought guidance she had already commited the offence as it was more than 30 days after the donation. She got off lightly with the illegal foreign donations with both the CPS and Electoral Commision failing to pursue the admitted guilt.
Scotland is well rid of one of Brown's sycophants, who believe they are above the rules, hopefully it will not be long to we get rid of the rest of them.

Anonymous said...

It's not a matter of whether Alexander was "on the take". The rules about donations, complex as they may be, are there to try and reassure us that our political parties aren't being influenced by people with fat wallets.

Alexander may not have intended to decieve. But she was caught by the speed camera, and just like everyone else would have to do, she has to accept the penalty.

geoffers said...

I agree with Tom Paine's comment... if it's good for the goose then it's good for the gander.

bobthedog said...

From her speech, I dont think she resigned over what has come out so far, but there is more to come......

Somebody has some dirt on her and she has stood aside on instructions from somebody.....

Anonymous said...

1 she took donations for a campaign which didnot happen at just under the declarable limit.

2 one of those donations was illegal under legislation passed by Labour to snare Connery and the SNP.

3 she denied knowledge of it but wrote to thank the doner.

4 she failed to declarethe donations as gifts.

5 her principal line of defence was she was advised by committee clerks she need not declare.however it is said the question she posed was not "ought I declare" but "has anyone else declared"

Centre of England said...

anon: 11.04 am

Spelman may be forced to stand down/resign as Conservative Chairman or not but I can guarantee you one thing she is highly regarded in her constutuency and would win any vote of confidence hands down if she chose to call it so that particular fox won't run and it's just wishful thinking on your part

Nick said...

I do take joy in seeing her go.

She has broken the law, and she should be prosecuted.

If she thinks it is partisan, then she can clear her name in the court of law.

It's not a case of parliment (S) passing judgement, the proper place for a decision is a court of law.

The fact that the system is farcical in having two registers is rather funny. They have created the system. They make the laws. If they make stupid laws, this is the result. They cannot claim that they are ignorant of the law as a result.

ie. The defense that she relied on someone else telling her what to do is baloney.

The fact that donations were solicited to be under the declaration limit shows mens rea.

Nick

Kate said...

I am fed up with the continuous attempts by politicians of all parties and the media (bloggers included) to smear elected politicians at every possible opportunity, however tenuous the situation. I am also fed up with those politicians who are genuinely fiddling the system at a high level for their own gain to the detriment of the whole political system.

As a councillor at a large town council which does not even pay mileage for attending the many meetings involved, let alone any more substantial allowances, I put up with constant insinuations that even I am 'in it for what I can get' which is borne out of the ingrained, widespread belief that all politicians are corrupt.

We're fast heading for the time when no one of any worth is going to want to put themselves forward for political office at any level, and it will be communities and public services that suffer as a result. At least then there might be something genuinely worth people complaining about!

Grim Up North said...

She deliberately solicited donations of £950 so that donors fell under the £1000 reporting threshold and could therefore not be named. Amongst them was a Jersey-based non-voter who has built multi-million pound shopping centres across Glasgow that have never seemed to have planning permission problems.

She ignored registration requirements at the Scottish Parliament despite taking contributions of around £16,000 and only took advice once it had been exposed by the Sunday Herald - AFTER the one month reporting deadline.

Yeah, not on the take at all.

Jeff said...

How strong is the rumour that Wendy will stepping down as an MSP?


I'd be very surprised if she gave Scottish Labour a 'leaving gift' of a very tricky by-election to contest.


And I agree. As I sit here and watch her resignation announcement, I do not feel I am looking at a corrupt individual whatsoever.

I am looking at a lousy leader and maybe therein lies the real reason for the resignation....

wrinkled weasel said...

Oh Iain, you are too magnanimous. Wendy Alexander was an arch plagiarist - she borrowed heavily from Cherie Blair's mouth.

molesworth 1 said...

I've got a significant wedge on a GE before the end of the year @ 16/1, so I'm dancing round my hat. Quite apart from the fact that I cannot stand the woman.
I also have cash tied up on the next Labour leader & could do with that being decided sooner rather than later, so the crumbling of the edifice can't come soon enough...
As for politicians all being decent chaps who are just trying to do the right thing... do not make me laugh! I'm with Guido on this one - if you put yourself up for bossing me around with your piddling little laws & whopping tax-take you better had be whiter than bloody white, otherwise sod off & leave us to sort our own lives out and defend our liberties ourselves.
BTW, bought a copy of your new mag y'day, enjoyed it,but Sarah Mackinlay's knicker-wettingly effusive interview with The Supreme Leader did not change my opinion of him. His discourse on personality versus character was self-serving drivel - he is, in common parlance, a dickhead.

Anonymous said...

"...receive wrong advice from officials..."

Let's stop that bit of spin right now. She only asked for advice when she was already in breach and over the time limit for declaring. If she had any doubt, she should simply have declared. It's not complicated and it's not confusing. Just declare any present you get over the limit set for so doing.

Anonymous said...

If rules are too complicated who made them so? Politicians.

The rest of us have to battle with red tape and regulations especially if we start our own businesses, so politicians should do so also.

If she's not up to the task of keeping her affairs in order why should she be up to the task of running Scotland?

Good riddance.

neil craig said...

Having, in my opinion correctly, brought down previous First minister Henry McLeish for putting an office rent on his expenses & not mentioning that he had sub-let it (something the Westminster Ombudswoman had let him off with) we are now risking being "unco guid" to all politicians.

Wendy had promise, though her call for the SNP to "bring on" a referendum on separation was very silly. However she was head & shoulders better than any other Scots Labour MSP which will cause them problems.

jimbo said...

Who was it that said "ignorance is no defence"?

Oh that's right. It was you Iain.

Before you buy the Labour spin you might want to read the Code of Conduct whish says: "If a Member is uncertain about any aspect of the operation of the Act or the Code, the Standards clerks may be asked for advice. However, each Member must ensure that the provisions of the Act are complied with and may additionally wish to seek independent legal and other professional advice prior to registration."

The onus is on her. Not the Clerks. And none of us know what question she asked the Clerk as that hasn't been published.

And she also only went to those Clerks well past the 30 days period. A clear breach.

As you said ignorance is no defence.

Instead of trying to act like beings of absolute perfection Labour should be a bit more like the ordinary people who still get done despite their ignorance. She should have accepted a mistake and said she would take the punishment as ordinary people have to. She would have gained respect for that.

But Labour can't face up to being seen like ordinary people.

Unsworth said...

Her demeanour was entirely arrogant. Her position was untenable. She has finally gone, despite clinging desperately to whatever power she had.

Frankly if she had more dignity and self esteem she would have been better off - and may not even have had to resign. Her advisors and supporters got it very badly wrong.

All this nonsense about 'I've done nothing wrong' was merely a direct challenge to the authorities. No one in their right minds could accept that statement without proper investigation and corroboration. She declares she's innocent and we therefore had better accept her assertion?

Political stupidity and incompetence of the highest order.

Anonymous said...

The original story broke only because someone in the inner circle of Scottish Labour passed it out to the Sunday Herald. Then came a drip drip feed for nearly a year of further information. The fault lies not with a witch hunt by the SNP but her own party wanting rid of her.

Roger360 said...

Wendy Alexander has transgressed but I tend to agree with Iain that it was not sufficient to bring her down. However an official reprimand was justified on her record.

Unfortunately this was a case of trying to be too clever - always ends in tears because the rules change or you get shafted by soemone who doesn't like you. I think the basic problem is that politicians lose the habit of thinking straight so can't see the obvious pitfalls.

Paul Pinfield said...

I essentially agree with your concerns, Iain. However, I can't help but feel a deep sense of joy that this is yet another nail in Brooon's coffin.

If the Labour leader in Scotland can't be bothered to fight for her job, then the outlook is surely grim for NuLab.

dougal said...

anon @ 11.14 - Labour brought in these complex rules, and you think that's prevented them being influenced by those with fat purses?

Purleeeeese......

Anonymous said...

she denied knowledge of it but wrote to thank the doner

People who write to kebabs have no place in British politics, that is for sure.

simon said...

The rules, however over-complicated they may be, are there to remove corruption and to show that politicians are above corruption. MSPs should make themselves aware of the rules and stick to them, or get out.

Anonymous said...

fpsdaAs far as I can figure out your argument, you think Wendy Alexander is entitled to get away with being a stupid politician (nb, I do not think this is a tautology) because, well, she's stupid and a politician. Won't do, really.

Anonymous said...

Odd, I seem to recall you revelling in her troubles some time ago...

Anonymous said...

But, Iain, who brought the whole mess in?

THE LABOUR PARTY ! why? because of the Tory party! and to a lesser extent the Lib Dems.

What you appear to be advocating is taxpayers paying towards the upkeep of these tired moribund parties!

This country needs parties that will speak up honestly for their countrymen and women and not self seeking, bank account filling, morons we have now.

Let us have some honesty please.

captain cupcake said...

Another cracking post from the World's Greatest Blogger.

Wendy is "falling on her sword" (of course) having misunderstood the rules.

However, if you accept a donation of £950 when those over £1000 must be declared it would appear that far from not understanding the rules, you understand them only too well.

Moreover, your friend Mr Guido produced a document that seemed to show that on at least one occasion Wendy was not telling the truth about such matters.

The public are kept under surveillance and fined for far more trivial matters than this, because politicians have decided that is how things must be.

But when politicians break the rules it is somehow different. We are treated to a barrage of bluster, chutzpah and lies that lasts until the slings and arrows are heading elsewhere. Resignation is the last thing we can expect from an errant pol.

So perhaps Wendy can be congratulated for belatedly doing the decent thing. But don't ask us to accept all pols are decent types doing a good job in difficult circumstances when too often exactly the opposite is true.

Iain Dale said...

How revealing it is that most of the people on this thread are happy to throw insults and allegations around under the cloak of anonymity. At least I put my name to my opinions.

Frankly, all you anonymous cowards can go sit on it and swivel.

No more anonymous comments on this thread.

simon said...

I thought Wendy's resignation speech was hilarious- 'it's the SNP's fault' she wails! Nope, it was Wendy's fault. Plain and simple: just like Scottish labour at the mo. She then wails about the system set-up in the Scots Parly. Erm...which party legislated for the Parly to have these powers? Labour! Which party when setting up the Parly made the electoral system biased against the SNP? Labour. Plus, Wendy's/Labour's attack on the SNP government has no real resonance. Labour say 'broken promises form the SNP'. The SNP DO NOT have a majority! They cannot get 100% of their manifesto through the Parly! What a shock! We need not get into Lyinglabour's broken promises do we?

Chas said...

Iain, Two points:

1. Labour created this ridiculously complex system of donation reporting. Like most of the initiatives foisted on the wider public by this lousy government it is bureaucratic and unworkable, so I am not sorry if some of them get caught in the net of their own incompetence.

2. As you said, Wendy was out of her depth. She is yet another example of a Labour politician who has been talked up and said to be very clever and talented when she simply is not. For other examples, please refer to the whole cabinet in Westminster. To refer to them as second rate is a gross insult to second raters everywhere.

TrevorH said...

"The public are kept under surveillance and fined for far more trivial matters than this,"

.... this is a fair point but two wrongs do not make a right. Likewise Spellmans long ago misdemeanour is becoming a witch hunt.

I cannot believe that a political career can be brought down by a piffling amount as this - and unless the rules are clarified and simplified we will all get the useless politicians we deserve.

Tories are under the spotlight, not for not declaring sums but for only declaring them to one organisation. Its getting pathetic. This is not like Abraham's 600,000 secret donations, or Hains massive and against the rules fund raising. And labour sucking back up to the unions is immoral but quite legal.

Alexander by the way is, as a politician, a numpty and deserves to be removed as leader just for that, but i fear all we are heading for is taxpayer funded parties.

Anonymous said...

Iain , putting a name to a comment makes no difference. The idea of the blog is that we all can express our opinions on your initial comments. Surely?

tapestry said...

I don't think that they deserve much sympathy. Rules are rules.

The atmosphere of deceit and pocket-lining was created by the Blairs. John Major I imagine didn't get involved in troughing.

Politicians never imagined that the peasants would ever find out how they troughed the loot.

Times are chnaging, and those on the wrong side of the rules can go - from all parties.

We might then find that our politicians have something that the whole of our society requires badly - respect.

There are plenty of others to take their place, Iain. Why be so worried about the political casualties of this new anti-corruption era? Let them all go to blazes. And our society will be much the healthier for it.

john smith said...

How are you going to decide whether or not someone is using their real name?

The Lakelander said...

Iain,

I still don't understand why she kept the money, once it became clear that there was going to be no leadership contest.

If she'd sent it back to the various donors, she'd probably still be leader.

Do you think that spending it on a "victory tour" can be defended? Or maybe such triumphalism was the reason why so many of her own party in Scotland disliked her.

When she then committed the Scottish Labour Party to a referendum over the independence of Scotland, this was totally against national Labour Party policy. From this point on, her days were certainly numbered.

I can't help thinking that her political demise was mostly self-inflicted thought it was her own party that ultimately finished her off - not the SNP, the Lib Dems or the Conservatives.

Paul Pinfield said...

Iain, you should prevent all anonymous comments throughout the site.

sylvia said...

I have no opinion on Wendy Alexander and dislike snouts-in-troughs as much as anyone, but, like Kate, and probably Iain, I dislike the blanket condemnation of ALL MPs. There are many MPs who are thoroughly hardworking and honorable, especially the younger ones. As Kate says, soon enough the brighter ones will say it isn't worth it, because they are very employable elsewhere.

DiscoveredJoys said...

Iain, I'll agree with your comments about the systems being too complicated (true also in the real world, outside politics).

However that means that either Wendy Alexander was too careless and/or stupid to understand the rules, or too clever to think that they need apply to her.

Neither option reflects well on her. That the donations were just under one of the limits suggests that she was gaming the systems - and then she was caught out.

My limited approval for her is that she eventually stood down from her leadership role. Other politicians please note.

Anonymous said...

Iain, exceedingly poor response from you. Think you need to take a deep breath and stop taking yourself so seriously. You were advocating going easy on someone who has broken the law. Think you need to think about it. As stated thepublic arehounded by laws these people have put in place but like them you appear to want to have different rules for politicians,despite daily reports of their breaking the laws that we have to abide by ,justifying it by self policing.
Get a grip and stop going into a huff,not adult and not nice.

Iain Dale said...

Jesus, does anyone actually read the post or do they comment on what they imagine I might have been thinking.

I haven't defended Wendy Alexander. I have criticised the system. She got it wrong and was punished. She has now resigned. I don't believe she was on the take. Therefore, she should take her punishment, but in my opinion that was probably enough. It does not warrant her being hounded in the way she is.

I welcome all comments provided they aren't from trolls who are absuive or looking for trouble. It's quite clear there was a concerted effort on there this morning to deflect attention from this onto Caroline Spelman - who, I might remind people has been found guilty of nothing.

Anonymous said...

I agree with you Iain. I do not consider this woman was dishonest - wrong advice given to her which says something about the set up in Scotland's Labour Party. I thought she was a poor leader - there has been no proper leader since Donald Dewar which is why the SNP are doing well! The SNP are of course gloating and did not even have the decency to be generous in their comment.

Whilst we are on the subject, I am really feeling angry at how women are being treated in the donations/expenses difficulties. I believe that the rules for expenses cover male members of the House. I find it astonishing that people can set up trust funds using property and then claim rent from public funds. Also that public funds reportedly meet a life insurance policy taken out by a junior minister on her husbands' (also an MP)life. Further, people can claim second homes allowance when they live within commuting distance from the commons. If I compare this to sosmeone claiming allowances to pay for child care I know where I stand. It seems that rules are bent to suit some and not others.

For those who comment on ignorance of the law is no defence - I disagree. Intent is part of any defence of wrongdoing and the punishment for the crime reflects this.

JuliaM said...

"Life is so fiendishly complicated nowadays that it is easy to get caught out without meaning to break the rules.

And who has created this situiation? Well, it's politicians. So it's poetic justice really."


This is really the crux of the matter. And it's why I'm only too pleased to see any politician from any party falling fould of the 'rules'...

julie andrews said...

So your final paragraph was not a defence of Bendy Wendy, it was a criticism of the system.

I see.

It's a jolly good job you pointed that out, otherwise I would have completely misunderstood what you were trying to say.

Anonymous said...

Still have to say that it is poetic justice that Labour,who brought in the rules just to spite the SNP and stop them getting donations from Sean Connery , have been hoist by their own petard. Especially as it is Wendy , the biggest brain in Britain, Alexander that has been caught out. Precious.

tapestry said...

Disrespect for money is disrespect to people.

Blair confused the world by having dubious standards of honesty, and Cherie too. All the lesser politicians and officials below them assumed it was safe to copy, but the Blairs were cleverer than them, and knew how to get away with it.

Whatever the rights and wrongs, people want a return to decent standards, even if it means they have to vote Conservative to get there. (Cameron is standing by what's right, while Brown is sliding around).

Without honesty, without certainty, people cannot deal with each other, and the whole of society goes into decline.

Thank you the Blairs for corrupting our political system. The MEPs must be next....

belt and braces said...

So there are two places where some donations must be registered. That does sound unnecessary, but it does not sound complicated.

It might be enough to confuse someone with a spectacularly low IQ, but should not confound those who aspire to lead their country.
everything.

Adam McNestrie said...

There's a great deal of magnanimity in your attitude and I'm not sure how many examples of that we'll see on the right in the next few days.

I think to suggest, though, that it is a technical, procedural problem - a failure of the rules - is wrong. It is a problem of political culture. The British people hate their politicians - or come very close to it. There is a terribly corrosive cynicism which is ever-ready to assume that our politicians either enter politics because they are corrupt, or are corrupted utterly by politics once they enter it. It's almost as if our self-hatred is turned outwards on our politicians as the paradigm representatives of us; or as if we resent them for having power over us.

Whatever the explanation it is a non-rational and deeply unhealthy phenomenon. This atmosphere of suspicion and of accusation has destroyed Alexander and is poisoning our politics.

To read more of my views, link to my blog on wordpress.com, at:

http://adammcnestrie.wordpress.com/

mitch said...

Hang on a mo these buggers make the benefit/tax credit system so complex that your average person cant understand them, then they moan when it happens to them.
Too many useless lawyers in HMG making complex rules and if this serves to simplify matters then she will have achieved more by going than she ever could by stopping.

Rohan said...

Nu Labour - hoist with their own petard. How ironic.

Chris Paul said...

I agree with you Iain! I'll say that again: I agree with you Iain! But I can count a baker's dozen of Tories who have done far far worse both in terms of amount and potential influence and list some of them here. You are of course included in the graphic, albeit with a question mark, as the proud reporter of the Davis expenses which later somethingly unravelled. Nothing to do with you I'm sure. But strict liability and all that.

As for Grim Up North suggesting that planning permissions in Glasgow - often years ago - were expedited in some way by Wendy Alexander in return for £1500? That is extraordinarily defamatory and silly IMO. Unless that is you know something we don't Susan?

If so you should tell Iain or he should take your comment down as a precaution.

Landowners with sensible schemes in the correct urban zones for those schemes get planning permission. Without giving small change to junior pollies with no infliuence over those (semi-judicial) decisions. Ridiculous.

Oxbridge Prat said...

Iain, I have read your post twice and I still find it utterly unconvincing.

Like many people with interesting tax affairs I have to fill in two separate tax forms every year, a tax return and an NI form (until last year I had to fill in a third form as well since I was both a higher rate tax payer and a recipient of means tested child tax credit, which shows just how insane the present system is). If I declared income on one but not the other I would be in deep trouble, and I don't see why the architects of this idiotic system should be treated more lightly.

Casual Observer said...

She is(was) part of the lawmaking machine. Many of the lawmakers seem to think that the laws they make don't apply to them. Well the law is the law and the should and do.

If she, or any other members of any UK, or UK members of the European Parliament, break the rules, then the price must be paid. No ifs, no buts, summary dismissal with all that goes with it. The soft option of resignation should not be available.

We can't have law breakers pretending to be law makers and we can't have law makers breaking their own laws. That's what people like Mugabe routinely do.

Iain Dale said...

Oxbridge Prat, I couldn;t care less whether you find it convincing or not. It is my view. It is entirely immaterial to me whether you or anyone else agrees with it or "finds it convincing".

Chris Paul, Be very careful. My registration of David Davis's donations were entirely correct and above board, so I would be very careful about insinuating any different. There was a technical error by his Association on a donation before the previous election, which, as you may remember, was well before my time.

Unsworth said...

So, whose fault is it that politicians are so loathed by the majority? Could it just possibly be that they have been seen for what they really are?

People like Wendy Alexander know exactly what they are doing when they ask for donations to be £950, rather than a higher sum. Let's not be too stupid here, eh?

'Bendy Wendy' is exactly right. Bend and flout the 'rules' wherever possible. So much for personal and political integrity.

The fact that some here regard £950 as a paltry sum is a measure of them and their thinking. To some others £950 is the difference between freezing to death in winter or surviving.

Let's not forget, too, that she received many multiples of £950 for a campaign which was not even run. Did she return the cash? No, she simply frittered it away like a latter day Viv Nicholson.

These politicians make up their own 'rules'. The very least they should do is abide by them.

Astro-Turf Lawnmower said...

When that chap got fined for not closing his wheelie bin lid properly, Wendy Alexander did not jump to his defence on the grounds that he did not realise he was committing an offence.

Therefore, I shall not jump to her defence.

SRH said...

As a Scots Nat I am sorry to see Wendy go because she was a great leader for us. I sympathise with what you are saying Iain but...

Without re-hashing the Paul Green money Wendy dodged a bullet on that one and could and should have gone then.

For the actual offence that she was found guilty on as others have commented on she actually should have declared it a month before she even asked the question. No-one knows what question she asked. Interestingly Wendy herslf has never said what question she asked. It is thought that she asked did the SNP declare their leadership contests of 2004 and was told no. Labour then tried to throw mud at the SNP. Only problem is that the party pays for all expenses during leadership campaigns and therefore no declarations were needed.

I would have some sympathy for Wendy if it wasn't for the fact that at every point she and her allies have lied, distorted and smeared over this issue. Had they come out at the start and told the truth she might very well have ridden this out.

Finally, the spin today attacking the SNP really takes the biscuit. In the last couple of weeks members of the Labour Party made official complaints to the standards commissioner regarding two SNP MSPs. Both complaints thrown out as no breaches were committed. Wendy, Cathy Jamieson and all the other Labour politiciams who have commented today should condemn that as well but I doubt they will.

stuart said...

I must admit confess that my first reaction was one of glee over Labour's inevitable discomfort, but what you have written here made me think again.

Congratulations, Iain, on a mature post. Yet more evidence why, even as someone who is no Tory, I read your blog every day (and sometimes several times a day). Keep up the good work.

ann o'nemus said...

Knock knock
Who's there?
Wendy
Wendy who?
Wen de red red robin goes bob bob bobbing along....

I think I'll put my money on Kerr to be the next failure as leader of the Scottish Labour Party sorry leader of the Scottish Labour Party in the Scottish Parliament

Colin said...

Kate said...

"We're fast heading for the time when no one of any worth is going to want to put themselves forward for political office at any level",

By and large, we’re there already pet..

The rise and rise of the career politician has seen to that.

The reason why the bad guys no longer resign these days or sail close to the wind in relation to funding and expenses is because they need the money. Part of me longs for the days when we were governed by toffs and men and women of self made means and vast life experience, (members of all the main parties, by the way).

The idea that you can go from being a union big wig, a polytechnic lecturer or a primary school teacher to being a minister of state in the space of 5 to 8 years is a recipe for disaster. Look at this government; it is collectively so far out of its depth as a result of having no real world experience it doesn’t know which way to turn.

If Wendy has done nothing wrong and has been hounded out of office, then that's plain wrong. I've seen it happen in business and it's not fair.

That said, I don't think she's any great loss, either to Labour or the people of Scotland. Given her demeanor towards brown lately, I wouldn't be surprised if she bailed just to spite him.

DougtheDug said...

"What we are seeing is yet another politician deciding that political life is just not worth the candle any longer. Yet again the system of registration of campaign donations has brought a political career to an end in an inglorious manner. "

The bill was brought in by her own party eight, yes eight (8), years ago. If she doesn't understand the rules she simply shouldn't be involved in politics. The Labour party was also given £183,000 to help them understand the rules. Maybe we should get the money back.

"Surely the whole system needs to be looked at to ensure that essentially honest politicians cannot misunderstand it, or receive wrong advice from officials (as in Alexander's case). "

One: Wendy Alexander is not fundamentally honest. A series of donations just under the £1000 barrier is not the action of someone honest.
Two: Have you seen the advice and correspondence between Ms. Alexander and the Clerks? No-one in Scotland has. You must have privileged information or a direct line to Labour press releases.

"If you create an unnecessarily complicated system no one should be surprised if people are tripped up by it. The donations in Wendy Alexander's case were of around £1,000 each and had been declared to one register but not another. There should be one system for declaring donations and interests, not two. "

Most people in private life have to cope with more than one system of regulation, MOT's, Car Tax, Income Tax, Tax Credits. What's so special about politicians? They've got party lawyers to cope with this stuff, they're not on their own. This was not some lonely MSP, this was the MSP Group Leader with a direct family line of contact to Mr. G. Brown.

"If there had been, at least half the cases of so-called mis-declarations would not have happened - and Wendy Alexander would probably still have a political career."

Wendy Alexander's political career was sustained only by being Gordon Brown's pet and the fact that the talent pool in Labour in Scotland is as shallow as a toddlers paddling pool. She's survived worse and the Parliament still had to vote to see whether they agreed with the committee. She's been "disappeared" because of her constant calls for a referendum on Scottish independence which Gordon doesn't even want to think about and which has a direct link to calls for a European referendum.

"Wendy Alexander was a politician clearly out of her depth as Labour leader in Scotland. But she was not on the take. And for that reason alone, I take no joy in seeing that her career in politics has been brought to a premature end."

Iain, you're a political blogger. Get your facts right. There is no Scottish Labour Party and therefore no Scottish Labour leader. The British Labour Party is monolithic and has only one leader, Mr. G. Brown. Wendy Alexander was elected by the Labour MSP's in the Scottish Parliament to be their leader in the Parliament. She was only group leader of the Labour MSP's in the Scottish Parliament. The only power and influence she wielded in Labour came directly from being Gordon's pet. I've no idea if she was on the take as the whole case got shunted sideways by the Electoral Commission which was fulfilling its function to create a buffer zone between politicians and the Law.

I am also sad that her career has been brought to a premature end. She was the best electoral asset the SNP had but I'm surprised that a conservative blogger should get so upset about the failure of an incompetent and frankly useless Labour politician.

strapworld said...

Ms Spelman is as guilty as Ms Alexander.

Whilst the system (Like all legislation) brought in by this incompetent government needs ammending, I do agree that I do not want tyax payers money going to political parties.

If parties collapse through incompetent management (i.e. bankruptcy?) and lack of membership and donations WHY in Heavens name should the Taxpayer keep these rotten parties in business?

As Trades Union members have an 'opt out' out of political donations so should we taxpayers have an opt out of which parties we will not support!

But I have no respect for anyone that clings on to their office, when it is apparant to anyone that they have transgressed!

If it was me I would be charged and before the beak on Monday!

Politicians, it appears, are above the law.

Johnny Norfolk said...

Iain

I think you are far to kind. It may have been a complicated syasem but she lied about when she said she knew about the donation.

We are being totaly let down with these dishonest people and there is no excuse.

Anonymous said...

Sorry Iain but I can not agree with you

These are not British laws they are Scottish laws written recently by the new Scottish Parliament.

The point I am trying to make here , if you will bear with me, is that the previous Labour administrations in Holyrood wrote and passed them, modern laws for a brand new parliament.

Wendy and her party were directly responsible for them, and even had the chance to simplify them if they decided it was too complicated.

Added to that is her coninued denial of any wrongdoing , her insistence that she would be exonerated , and her claims that she has been stitched up by the opposition.

Really if she cant understand the rules, and she cant take the heat, what on earth was she doing in politics in the first place ?

Margaret Thatcher said...

I made my anonymous comment because it's less bother than going through the rigmarole of inserting my name. Happy to do so. You decide if it's real.

The Blessed Margaret returns said...

And if it's immaterial to you whether your arguments are convincing or not, Iain, you're perfect material for Westminster, but perhaps not for political commentary

Alex said...

"Wendy Alexander was a politician clearly out of her depth as Labour leader in Scotland."

In which case she had no point in being there. At that level, politics isn't just about pushy people who want to impose their view on others, it is also about the ability to run the country and to understand and enact legislation. If you can't sdtand the heat, get out of the kitchen.

chuck said...

A lot of people in England seem to think Wendy is nice. She's well known in Scotland for her explosive temper and condescending attitude toward subordinates.

Mr C said...

Wendy Alexander broke the rules and was a lousy politician - however I don't believe she was on the take and I don't think that the donations issue was the sole reason for her resigning either.

I suspect that Alexander's repeated calls for an immediate referendum on Scottish independence sealed her fate, as it undermined Brown's authority and probably hacked him off rotten.

In fairness, Alexander probably reckoned that the only way for her and her fellow Labour MSPs to survive the forthcoming wipeout of Labour at the next election was to distance themselves from the Westminster crowd as far as possible.

Anonymous said...

She knowingly played, as she thought it , just within a ridiculously complicated law put there to catch Labour's enemies but not Labour. In the event it caught her.

Hoist with her own petard is the phrase -and it fits beautifully.

The political game has been deliberately corrupted by her own party in the last 11 years and on a vast scale. Expenses, rules of donations,the political electoral deposits game have all cunically distorted by Blair and Brown and the whole Labour gang who just love it. There is much more we don't know about.

There is no record of Alexander condemening it on principle at any time in the last 11 years. why therefore should there be any sympathy for this typically corrupt member of the entrenched political class.

It worries me Iain that you are so soft on her. If this going to be the attitude of the Tories when/if they get power ie "let them off/ its our turn now/after all aren't we are all members of the same poitical class aren't we?" then perhaps the Tories are not he best party to vote for .

There has to be something better than buggins turn.

Aardvark said...

molesworth 1 said...
"I've got a significant wedge on a GE before the end of the year @ 16/1, so I'm dancing round my hat."

You are throwing your money away.

Since Brown must know that he has virtually no chance of being re-elected in the near future he will hang on for as long as possible (i.e. spring 2010) in the hope that his electoral chances will improve.

Anonymous said...

Quote "If you create an unnecessarily complicated system no one should be surprised if people are tripped up by it."
I suggest Iain that people would have more sympathy for this view if the gvmnt was more accommodating for people who did not quite grasp every detail of the legislation on VAT, Income tax, corporation tax, national insurance, etc etc,

What's happened to Wendy is exactly on a level with a van driver being flashed by a speed camera and losing his job as a consequence - out there in the world, there is no sympathy, not any more

45govt said...

"I don't believe she was on the take."

If she wasn't on the take, she was certainly taking the piss. Face it Iain, Bendy was a third-rate pol promoted way above her abilities who had come to believe the theory of multmillionaire Bliar that ZaNuLab apparatchiks could do no wrong.

It is disappointing that once again you miss the crux of what after all, is a very simple matter. She set out to break the law, and tried to lie her way out of it when caught. Lucky she's not inside, which is what would happen to a citizen who used her economy of actuality in dealing with the Revenue.

Newmania said...

I was going to agree with you Iain but Dougthedug makes a such a good case I cannot . In general your concern that the system is so complex that errors are unavoidable is fair enough but this was not an error .
An aspect of the circumstances of this problem that will further embarrass brown is that it highlights the fact that while we talk about it Scotland has already become another country whose Labour MPs have little more right to vote on English Law than the Irish or French. In the excitement of the Bropwn implosion we have forgotten that even with a lead in the Polls his legitimacy in England was questionable with Holyrood up and running

Sandy Jamieson said...

Iain
First of all Wendy Alexander is an active participant is the cesspit of Labour Party Politics in West Central Scotland.
I quite agree that the amount of money involved was relatively small and indeed that her initial advice from the Parliament Officials was wrong. But it seems to me that when her actions came into the public domain she tried to cover it up. However Guido's publication on St.Andrew's Day last year of the letter she sent to the Jersey donor is clear and compelling evidence of a cover up and it is is for her subsequent statements that she should be condemned.

To draw a vague parallel with the Spelman case is equally valid. I can sympathise with the scenario painted of taking over from Iain Mills with a backlog of Constituency correspondence must have been a nightmare but it would have been far better had she come clean and that her initial explanations began to unravel. Sally Hammond is an honourable woman and her comments give credence to that fact that those early explanations of Ms Spelman's of the nanny's employment terms were opaque at least

Anonymous said...

Yes we should sack anyone with share options in Jersey (Ms Alexanders backers) or Zimbawie.

whos proping up Mugabe ???? now we find its the Conservative Party leadership

Anonymous said...

Most politicians of the main parties work hard

they try to be honsest and lawful

like everyone they will always try to get the best out of the system

and in all parties we have a very very very small group of MPs and councillors who are bending the rules or yes even corrupt

we need a cross party response from the leadership to the average card carrying party member

Britain is not Italy....and yes we must have the highest standards...but to not accept good politicians sometime make mistakes or errors is a joke

its up to us...to stand up and say yes this happens in all parties and we need to address this cross party

now can I have that round of gold Mr Salmond

bigrab said...

Ian I feel your sympathy for Wendy is rather misplaced. Why should politicians be permitted to make life unbearably complicated for everyone else and then expect sympathy when they are victims of complexity of rules?

http://bigrab.wordpress.com/2008/06/29/wendy-truth-is-told/

Anonymous said...

'What we are seeing is yet another politician deciding that political life is just not worth the candle any
longer'.

Err, I do not think so. She hung around for as long as possible and only resigned when her position became totally untenable.

She is either dishonest or incompetent or possibly both. Either way she should have gone much earlier.

Oscar Miller said...

I agree with you Iain. I have totally condemned the media witchunt against Caroline Spelman. The case against Wendy Alexander is equally not about corruption and all about politicking. On this I absoutely disagree with Guido, entertaining as he is (and to be fair to Guido he genuinely fights any corruption no matter the party). Sadly though the BBC play an entirely politically motivated game - if it's a Tory it's sleaze - if it's Labour they are wronged victims. The whole orientation is wrong. At this rate attempts to clean up politics will boomerang. These politically motivated smear campaigns about next to nothing run the risk of destroying the fabric of the nation's policial life.

Tim Bull of Northampton - I have no problem with putting a name to my opinion - is this detailed enough for you Iain ? said...

Iain - you have clearly lost the argument on this one, and your petulant comments are out of character - rather unlike you to be a sore loser.

The consistent view here is that all politicians should be judged to the same standard as the rest of us. No excuses ... no arguments about complexity of legislation accepted ... if I err, however innocently, in my tax return I am jumped on and pay the price. And I would suggest that nothing is more complex than Mr. Brown's tax rules.

You are perceived, by people here, to be closing the ranks of the 'political elite' / 'Westminster village' - offering the complexity defence on behalf of a fellow politico. In the real world this amounts to support for dual-standards.

IMHO your reputation as an independently minded blogger has taken a hit here. With the greatest of respect, may I suggest that you review your position ?

Anonymous said...

She got in trouble over funding rather than expense fiddling, but this was because Labour has no base of genuine popular support. So why the sympathy Iain? - do you buy the idea that Labour has a right to exist?

anoncosiwantto said...

Last time I really needed, and could afford, to take a taxi the driver told me he had to attend court that afternoon.

The driver told me he had a number of points on his licence and had been trying to make sure he drove entirely within the law (though the nature of the job made that almost impossible). He had again been caught marginally exceeding the speed limit. He expected the court to deprive him of his licence. The consequence would be him losing his job and being unable to provide for his family.

Perhaps he should have been even more careful. Perhaps the law should be changed. Perhaps exceptions/changes should be made for really important people like politicians.

Marek said...

"...or receive wrong advice from officials (as in Alexander's case)."

Have you seen the correspondence between Alexander and the parliamentary clerks? Strangely, it has not been published by Alexander. So on what authority do you write the above?

Travis Bickle said...

"If you create an unnecessarily complicated system no one should be surprised if people are tripped up by it"

That defence doesn't work with HMRC if we mere mortals make an honest mistake within the (deliberately) increasingly complicated tax system, so excuse me for not feeling sympathy for any politician who doesn't understand the rules.

Chris Paul said...

Iain: I did bend over backwards in my post to exonerate you from any wrong doing or indeed "technical error" you are there because you fell into a bad lot with Conway and Davis and not because of any wrong doing.

Isn't it funny though that Tory associations and MPs and so on tend to make "technical errors" whereas opponents are all "at it". this is where I agree with your post. It is refreshing indeed to see an eminent Tory commentator allowing the other side to make a "technical error".

But will you go further and do you agree with me that the errors and omissions of those I name - apart from your good self - are in a different order of magnitude to the mighty WA's? Five, ten, fifty, three hundred times more in amount and also in implied interest?

Unsworth said...

@ Chris Paul

What has 'magnitude' got to do with it?

Remember the story:

"Will you sleep with me for a hundred bucks?"

"No"

"OK, will you sleep with me for a million?"

"Well, yes."

"OK, will you sleep with me for a thousand?"

"No. What do you think I am, some kind of whore?"

"Honey, we've already established that. Now we're just haggling about the price."


Bendy Wendy has been caught bang to rights, no matter for how much and despite her vociferous denials. Do you believe that observance of self-imposed and designed rules should be only 'relative'? I think you probably do. Don't forget, it was she who chose to quit, no one made her.

Anonymous said...

"There are many MPs who are thoroughly hardworking and honorable, especially the younger ones. "

LOL!

What a dupe! The ruling class lines its pockets and grinds the faces of the poor as it always has.

Anonymous said...

Astro-Turf Lawnmower said...
"When that chap got fined for not closing his wheelie bin lid properly, Wendy Alexander did not jump to his defence on the grounds that he did not realise he was committing an offence."

A very poor example. The wheelie bin man was fully aware that he was committing an offence. He had been warned repeatedly by council staff.

Anonymous said...

MELANIE PHILLIPS: This epidemic of sleaze is a sign our democracy itself is decaying

The stench is becoming overpowering.

Political sleaze scandals are raining down upon us like the unstoppable effluent from a burst sewage pipe.

The leader of the Labour group in the Scottish Parliament, Wendy Alexander, resigned at the weekend over failing to declare donations to her leadership campaign, following a ruling by the Scottish Parliament's Standards Committee that she should be suspended from Holyrood for one day.

link

Hugh said...

Ian, well done, a feeling for natural justice is indispensable.
This is an area that Cameron must sort out as brown has bottled it.

machiavelli said...

She didn't misunderstand it Iain, she took illegal donations and then denied knowing about them - despite signing thank-you letters!

How is that the fault of a system too complex for dear Wendy to get her little head around?

kerdasi amaq said...

Politicians aren't very smart if they can't think of a way to fund their parties without needing donations!

hint: the National Debt!

David Lindsay said...

Like her Deputy and possible successor, Cathy Jamieson (a frequent Galloway warm-up act back in the day), Wendy Alexander is an old cog in the George Galloway machine.

She was his researcher and baby-sitter, and he refers to her as having "a brain the size of Hampden Park, but of common sense or the common touch she has none".

Indeed, so otherworldly is she that Galloway claims to have been present when she was first ever presented with a mobile phone and asked, in complete seriousness, where you put the money in.

Much is made of her having been a protege of Gordon Brown and Donald Dewar. What, at the same time as she was working for George Galloway? And then there is Jamieson, among others.

North no less than South of the Border, New Labour's sectarian Left roots are plain for all to see, yet remain oddly unremarked upon. Why?

Jules said...

Well I for one do take joy from her departure, not least as one more twist in the electoral noose for both Gordon Brown and this criminally negligent Zanu NuLabour government. The rules may be arcane but it isn't rocket science to stick to them. In the circumstances of a breach, that leaves either incompetence or flagrant, smug disregard.

Either way, she's yet another lousy career politico unfit for high, or any other office. And she's also an unbearably smug and evasive lefty congenitally unable to give a straight answer - another reason to cheer at pride going before a fall. May her equally unbearable, shifty and even smugger brother, Wee Dougie, follow suit.

Iain - you are clearly a civilised gentleman, a great commentator and I congratulate you on your 'kulturny', as the Russians say. But I'm not sure you have the measure of just how much significant parts of the thinking electorate would like to see these arrogant, inept and professional leeches humbled as part of something long overdue: The Great Cleaning Up Of British Politics.