Farage is right when he says that the legislation was drafted to catch illicit foreign donations. He alleges it is all down to a simple clerical error. Well, up to a point. It is actually illegal not to put yourself on the electoral register, and we should not ignore the fact it was down to UKIP to ensure he was actually on it. This partly explains why UKIP's accounts are so late. It is clear that UKIP knew this was going to be an issue and have spent the last six months attempting to persuade the Electoral Commission to give them nothing more than a rap on the knuckles.There is also the issue of fair play here. It was quite right to fine them for the late submission of their accounts, but it is certainly arguable that the punishment of losing £367,000 was far worse than the crime. Their was no attempt to deceive, the donor was British and it was fully declared, albeit late. The question for UKIP now is whether they can afford a Judicial Review. I am no lawyer, but it is certainly a case that is ripe for one I would have thought.
Today the High Court found in UKIP's favour and against the Electoral Commission. UKIP have to forfeit only £18,000 of the original donation. The Electoral Commission has responded by saying it was "disappointed" that UKIP wouldn't have to fordeit all the money. "This is the first time that the law on donations has been tested in court. We will study the judgment carefully and will consider whether to appeal. Public confidence in our democracy depends on political parties abiding by the rules. The commission will continue to intervene where necessary to make sure those rules are followed."
As readers know, I hold no brief for UKIP but there has to be fair play here. The High Court made the right decision today.