Monday, October 19, 2009

One Rule for the LibDems, Another for UKIP

Michael Crick has an excellent blogpost pointing out the inconsistency of treatment of the LibDems and UKIP by the Electoral Commission.
Spot the difference(s)

Case A: Alan Bown gave a political party £363,697

1) It was his money
2) He had a business trading in this country, making him eligible to donate money
3) He was not on the electoral register when he donated although he was the year before, and also the year afterwards.

Case B: Michael Brown gave a political party £2.7m
1) It was not his money, he had defrauded it
2) His business was not trading in the UK, so therefore he was ineligible to donate money
3) He was not on the electoral register; neither was he the year afterwards, nor the year before.

Do you see the difference(s)?
Well the main difference is that the Electoral Commission has doggedly pursued the Alan Bown donation, and today won an appeal forcing the party to give up the money, despite a judge previously ruling that the political party that received it had acted in good faith.

In the Michael Brown case the Electoral Commission has always maintained the political party acted in good faith and need not repay money. Although following the criminal proceedings against Mr Brown they have re-opened an investigation, it has not had yet had any result and they have not managed to say when, if ever, it will.

Oh yes there is one other difference:

This year the Political Parties and Elections Act went through Parliament, and among other things it restructured the Electoral Commission and gave it new funding and powers.

The political party in Case A, UKIP, has no MPs and only three representatives in the House of Lords (where the government has no majority and is particularly vulnerable to amendments).

The political party in Case B, the Liberal Democrats, has 63 MPs and 71 members of the House of Lords (where the Government has no majority and is particularly vulnerable to amendments).

At least those are the difference that I can see. Perhaps you can you suggest others?

Feel free to help Michael. Buggered if I can...

UPDATE: LibDem Voice is chortling over UKIP's plight. Not sure they will be laughing so hard soon...


Jonathan Boyd Hunt said...

I haven't checked, but I'd hazard a guess that, like every quango in this country from the Arts Council to the BBC Trust to Ofcom and all the rest, the Electoral Commission is stuffed to the rafters with those of a liberal-Left persuasion. I could be wrong but I doubt it . . .

Sir Inglegram said...

I'm not a UKIP supporter, but this exemplifies exactly why I feel that this country's whole governance is totally broken and desperately needs to be fixed. It is yet another absurd outcome, and desperately unfair on UKIP, purely because of some minor error and "because the rules say so."

These bloody rule-makers. Bloody bloody rule-makers. Bloody bloody bloody rule-makers. I hate them. I really do. I bleeping hate them, and wish them all the ill-will I possibly can. A plague on all their houses.

James Higham said...

Clear case of wanting to hammer Farage. Hypocrisy is what we've come to expect from such like.

Anonymous said...

Pride comes before a fall, LDV...

Nich Starling said...

Isn't the difference that the Lib Dems asked the electoral commission in advance if they could use the money, and they said yes, and UKIp didn't ?

I think, it seems to me, that this is bloody obvious or is it just silly party political mud slinging Iain ?

Oh, that's what it is !


Ryan said...

I'm not sure why I am bothering but...
a) his donation was filed as acceptable due to him being on the Electoral Register, except he wasn't. It's a simple check and wasn't done.
b) his donation was filed as acceptable due to the company which the donation came via was "trading" at the time. Reasonable checks were made and as far as everyone could see they were perfectly fine, including those who continued to invest money with Michael Brown.

That said I'm still not happy we took the money, however the difference within the law is there between the two cases.

Robert Barnes said...

I am a Conservative supporter but cannot agree with the apparent high-handed treatment meted out to UKIP.
Grenville is right, governance in this country is broken.
The Electoral Commission has been Liberal with Democracy.

Jonny said...

This is something the Conservatives must fight to overturn, despite the electoral advantage to them if UKIP is forced to fold. It's another blatant attack on what little remains of or democracy.

Paul Halsall said...

Does Lord Ashcroft figure in here somehow?

And how does a party financed by trade unions come out looking worse than this.

Labour member said...

The electoral commission biased to the left? Don't make me laugh.

It's staffed by gutless idiots who are afraid of politics.

Ukip (whom I detest) are being picked on because they are small.

Anonymous said...

con's/lab/lib are all the same
and the people are starting to wake up to that fact now
(q) Pray tell: and how do we kill off the cancer of Labour/Tory's - once and for all
(a) vote for ukip

crewegwyn said...

I think NB and Ryan have made the point quite clearly.

Presumably we can look forward to a Conservative MP for ..... campaigning for various cricketers and cricketing organisations to repay Stanford money ?

Anonymous said...

It's about who is in the club and who isn't.
The quangos are just a way of ensuring impartiality and real governance are carried out.

RIP Democracy, fascism won.

ukipwebmaster said...

Thanks Iain

Anonymous said...

Could it be that his electoral roll form was lost in the post? Thus he finds he's disappeared from the roll and gets himself put back on? If that happened then UKIP should keep the money

Old Holborn said...



A word

Jabba the Cat said...

There is more than meets the eye in this whole affair as outlined by their fellow UKIP member here

It looks like Farage and his band of fellow pygmies are the architects of their own undoing.

Mark Pack said...

Whose chortling Iain? I fear you may be hearing voices/laughter in your head...!

It's true that I'm glad that a really strange magistrate ruling has been over-turned on appeal. That's good for the system.

I can also spot a difference between a case where the Electoral Commission criticises the lack of checks by a party and a case where the Electoral Commission doesn't find anything to criticise about the checks carried out by a party.

I'm sure if you look closely you can spot the difference too :-)

Tapestry said...

Lib Dems, being pro-Lisbon Treaty get free chocolates and blow jobs every time they land at Brussels.

UKIP, being anti-Lisbon Treaty, are a bunch of wankers, who have to assist themselves.

tory boys never grow up said...

While you and Michael are playing spot the difference perhaps you might wish to consider the case of Johann Eliasch:

a) Swedish born, not clear whether is on the UK Electroal Register or pays UK Taxes
b) Former Deputy Treasurer of the Conservative Party
c) Made £250,000 of donations to the Conservative Party through his company Milcentro (previously ECJ Investments) Also made loans in excess of £2.5m (all details can be verified on the Electroal Commission website)
d) Milcentro does not appear to have ever traded, it never filed accounts with Companies House and was wound up because it wasn't trading (see the London Gazette)

And yet these apparent abuses do not appear to have been addressed by either the Electoral Commission or the Press - who seem to be laying off the Conservative Party for some reason.

Perhaps given his links to CCHQ Iain may wish to comment - or at least recognise that it isn't only the LibDems that suffer from hypocrisy.

For those wanting further background see the following:

Anonymous said...

There has been no investigation as to why Bown dropped off the electoral register in the missing year.

I live in the same constituency and two years ago I filled in my electoral register online.

I got voter cards for a local election for someone who had moved from my address 4 years previously but I wasn't registered any longer.

This whole thing is double standards and an affront to democracy, I don't care which party you support ( inc LibDems) we must stop this kind of witch hunt

Anonymous said...

'that said I am not happy we took the money' -- you and Norfolk Blogger are a pair aren't you?

LibDems as hypocritical as ever. So so sweet and pure - until push comes to shove.

Anonymous said...

You don't have to like UKIP (and I sure don't, except as an irritant to the Tories of course!)to feel they've gotten a very raw deal in this case.

The powers that be may have their reasons, and they may have some merit. BUT the apparent discrepency is just too much.

Alex said...

"b) his donation was filed as acceptable due to the company which the donation came via was "trading" at the time."

except that judges in 2 cases have said that neither 5th Avenue Partners company ever traded, and the Lib Dems never looked at any management accounts, FSA registration or VAT registration, because there weren't any.

No judge has yet decided whether that was reasonable, but it is irrelevant because it is the facts that matter as far as the law is concerned, not whether anybody acted in good faith.

Arden Forester said...

It's totally preposterous, but then being totally preposterous is a top CV skill and attribute in many organisations today. That and an ability to shift blame, tell porkies and to read a crib sheet.

It is one law for UKIP and another for the LibDems. We've just got to keep pointing out that these undemocratic, autocratic quango queens (and kings!) can actually have their thrones removed.

I Squiggle said...

I carry no torch for UKIP, but absolutely agree with the point being made. How can it possibly be fair that they get penalised yet the LibDems don’t. I remember when it was announced that the Commission were going to appeal making exactly the point made by Crick. Remind me, and apropos your previous thread, who appoints the members of the ‘independent’ Electoral Commission?

Anonymous said...

The power's that be just don't want UKIP to stand at the the next GE
Well now there going to get a shock iv just made a donation to ukip and am going to get all the people i no to do the same.
Every Little Helps do the same my people Your Country Needs You

Anonymous said...

Ian you do not understand the history of UKIP and the Electoral Commission.

in 2001 Sir Jack Hayward made a £50,000 donation to the United Kingdom Independence Party from a joint bank account.

It was established by the Electoral Commission that one of the signatories was not on the electoral roll.

UKIP working with the Electoral Commssion the impermissible payment was returned by UKIP to the donor.

This incident has always acted as a reminder to UKIP Head Office that ensuring your donors are on the electoral register is vitally important. In this earlier case the donor's wife, Lady Hayward, replaced the shortfall a few months later.

John de Roeck a former UKIP Treasurer confirmed that he amended the forms supplied to the Party by the Electoral Commission and added a space for the Electoral Registration number on the forms against each donation.

He confirmed the reason was simply to have a reminder on the donation reporting form to avoid later problems that may have occurred if unavailable, and to avoid having to refer back to Treasurers.

Treasurers who had difficulties obtaining Electoral Registration numbers were recommended to obtain them from their local Returning Officers. The Electoral Commission would verify these roll numbers as a matter of course.

As regard to the current donation - the Electoral Commission wrote to UKIP numerous occiasions. UKIP ignored every letter

For all of Nigel Farage's whinging and moaning of 'establishment conspiracies' and blaming everyone else, he can't make any excuses.

The mess UKIP finds themselves in with the Electoral Commission is of their very own making due to their tardy book keeping and ignoring the Electoral Commission letters.

Keith Elliott said...

Yawn...Lord Ashcroft.

Oh and yes, the Lib Dems checked with the Electoral Commission in advance that it was okay to take the money...and the answer came back, yes. UKIP didn't.

That's the difference. Boring I know, but then facts are.

Yawn...Lord Ashcroft...

Anonymous said...

I think the duplicitous Liberal Democrats are exposed for the crooks and sleazy self interest pro-Labour group they are when we look at the £2.4 Million Michael Browne donation.

As we can see from the comments above the Liberal Democrat party and there members fail to see that taking stolen money is wrong and extreme and that they should return the money to the victims of crime who saw their money wasted by a ridiculous freak show of third rate politicians led by an alcoholic. No wonder the leader had a drink problem leading a duplicitous, nasty set of pompous egotistical maniacs who have such a vastly over-inflated opinion of themselves. They not just need cutting down to size but despatching in the Yellow Taxi come the next election.

The Liberal Democrats have had every opportunity to return Money that was not just stolen but impermissible under the PPERA rules. On the electoral registration – I actually laughed out loud when I saw one comment which said Browne was registered the year before! The Law is the Law and no doubt out, our pious little friends in the Liberal Democrats think they do not need to comply with the law.

I also find it a little strange the LibDem try justifying the Michael Browne Donation by pointing to Businessmen who have made money through successful business deals which have helped create wealth. In contrast the only large donation the Liberal Democrats have received was the proceeds of Crime. Yes, the £2.4 Million proceeds of crime donation does not look to be one the LibDems want to remind us all of now! If UKIP have to surrender their impermissible donation then the Liberal Democrat Party must be compelled to return the £2.4 Million proceeds of crime donation and interest to the victims of the fraud.

The Liberal Democrat party have recently shown further pious double standards on MPs expenses – It is time to punish this cancer in British politics that has been Labours silent partner. They have sort to make partisan points by devaluing political office and debate in this country. I have started an online campaign to advise the public on the £2.4 Million dodgy donation in all Liberal Democrat marginal seats or seats they wish to acquire. It is not right that the Liberal Democrat party pervert politics in the way they do as they simply allow Labour the chance to surrender further power to the EU and impose more socialist Stalinist measures on the people.

The biggest joke about the Liberal Democrats is their claim to support localism and campaign on local issues. It is strange then that the local issues are the same for each seat – Post office Closures, Railway stations/Public Transport/ Green areas and By-pass roads. Then of course there is that campaign for all seasons the extraction and removal of Dog Excrement! Interestingly I have developed a theory that the Liberal Democrats go round planting Dog Excrement strategically as a campaign tool. I recently read an article by Danny Finklestein that highlighted the LibDem rouse of the discarded mattress that one set of LibDems is alleged to have moved around areas of electoral interest several days before canvassing. I have transposed the theme to one where the LD target areas for Dog Excrement campaigns:

Jimmy said...

It's hard to draw conclusions from just two cases. I wonder if there have been any other cases in which a fraudster made a large donation to a UK political party?

Bishop Hill said...

The head of the Electoral Commission has made it quite clear that he is not fit to hold the office he does. He should resign now or be fired.

Anonymous said...

Talking about unintended consequencies, if UKIP folds as a result of this, how many votes will this give to the BNP?

Chad said...

The question is not what are the rules but what is the aim of the rules.

OK, what was the whole aim of the donor rules? The rules were created to prevent foreign donors.

Bown is not a foreign donor.

So clearly, the current rules to filter out foreign donors must be faulty.

UKIP should therefore sue the Electoral Commission as their British donor has clearly been judged to be 'foreign' by a process that is clearly not fit for purpose as it has resulted in a British donor being judged to be 'foreign'.

Anonymous said...

"At least those are the difference that I can see. Perhaps you can you suggest others?"

That's an easy one. Same thing as Hain and these generals poking their noses into politics.

The ruling elite sense that they are losing their grip on the throat of the British people so they squeal with fear and lash out at their tormentors. Much good may it do them. The entire rotten system is corrupt to the core and is ending whether these people like it or not.

Anonymous said...

Bullying and invincibly ignorant, the electoral commission, (who's remit is that no one who has any first hand knowledge of the political process is barred from employment), has to to go.

Lock stock and barrel.

Anonymous said...

Re: UKIP - Am I missing something? If they are returning funds to a donor, presumably that donor still supports UKIP and is now on the electoral register so can the money not be given straight back to UKIP as a new and now valid donation - hence they have no cash flow problems?

Anonymous said...

It is highkly unlikely the LibDems checked on the acceptability of the donations from Fifth Avenue Partners as recent FOI enquiries have discovered that the Electoral Commission DO NOT HAVE any guidelines on how to decide if a company is a permitted donor.

Those who think it is easy to determine if an individual donor is on the electoral register might like to find out if I am on the register in Epping Forest without actually driving there in office hours - well, show me how.

Andrew Smith

Anonymous said...

"Re: UKIP - Am I missing something? If they are returning funds to a donor, presumably that donor still supports UKIP and is now on the electoral register so can the money not be given straight back to UKIP as a new and now valid donation - hence they have no cash flow problems?"

Unfortunately, the word 'repayment' in this context means 'forfeit to the Treasury'. Now do you see how the game is played in the new Britain?

Mirtha Tidville said...

yet another reason, if any more were needed, not to vote for the Dum-Lubs....and the joy when Farrage beats Bercow will be all the sweeter next May...

Nich Starling said...

Iain, it seems whenever you have a political blow you take it out in the most outlandish ways on the Lib Dems.

The hypocrisy is that you fail to acknowledge when the Tories do the same thing (as has been pointed out in the comments). The differences, as you well know, between the Lib Dems and UKIP in this case are clear, but you choose to ignore them.

Your credibility takes a real knock when you assert such rubbish.

neil craig said...

Since LibDem Voice has decided, far from the first time, to censor any crtical posts I will put my reply to them here:

"By interpreting the rules in one way for UKIP, a radical & liberal party & another for the LibDems, a statist illiberal genocide supporting party the Electoral Commission have proven themselves corrupt.

I assume, as LibDems usually do to inconvenient truths, you will again censor me."

Anonymous said...

Andrew Smith wrote at October 20, 2009 2:45 PM

"Those who think it is easy to determine if an individual donor is on the electoral register might like to find out if I am on the register in Epping Forest without actually driving there in office hours - well, show me how."

I would open up the filing cabinet of electoral registers that political parties are entitled to free of charge and look up the name. It would probably take about 2 mins to do so. UKIP clearly didn't bother and broke the rules. Whether you agree with the rules is another thing but the Electoral Commission can allow follow the rules as they are written. If you don't like the rules then write to your MP.

Keith Elliott said...

I'd be interested to hear your answer to Norfolk Blogger, Mr Dale.

That's assuming you are able to, of course.

Anonymous said...

To clarify, hopefully, about the Liberal Democrats and the £2.4 million they accepted from Michael Brown before the 2005 election.

My reading of the legislation is that an impermissible donation is an impermissible donation, and therefore liable to forfeiture, even if the party checked and the donation appeared permissible at the time.

The law certainly requires the party to check, and by checking the party can be sure to avoid potential criminal penalties if the donation later turns out to have been impermissible; but there is nothing to say that the party will also be exempt from forfeiting the donation.

"58 Forfeiture of donations made by impermissible or unidentifiable donors

(1) This section applies to any donation received by a registered party -

(a) which, by virtue of section 54(1)(a) or (b), the party are prohibited from accepting, but

(b) which has been accepted by the party.

(2) The court may, on an application made by the Commission, order the forfeiture by the party of an amount equal to the value of the donation ... "

The key phrase being "on an application made by the Commission", and it seems that the Commission is in no hurry to put in an application about the £2.4 million accepted by the Liberal Democrats from Michael Brown which they should forfeit, even though the criminal proceedings against him were concluded in the spring.

Meanwhile, interest accrued on that £2.4 million since early 2005 is NOT regarded as an impermissible donation under the Act, and so the Liberal Democrats will be allowed to keep it.

Mark Wadsworth said...

Re the 5th Avenue Partners Limited donation.

That business was NOT trading in the UK and at the time the donation was made it had NOT filed any accounts at Companies House (fair do's, it was first incorporated in 2004).

In the end, it never filed accounts at Companies House (I checked again just now).

So what sort of evidence do the Lib Dems have that the business was
a) trading at all and
b) in the UK?

I suspect absolutely none whatsoever.

El Comm let the Lib Dems off the hook because they acted in 'good faith'.

Anonymous said...

Surely a better comparison is with the Conservatives. Just like Bown, Zac Goldsmith, the Conservative candidate for Richmond Park, apparently made donations whilst not being on the electoral register. I don’t know if it was the donation to Devon Green Party, or to Richmond Park Conservatives. It was all sorted out with the EC, without any money being forfeited. So Mr Crick and Mr Dale a better title might be ‘One Rule for Ukip, Another Rule for Tories’

Anonymous said...

Mark Wadsworth, as I recall the Commission were asked not to pursue the case while the police were investigating and then while there were criminal proceedings. But there's now no obvious reason why they can't apply to the court for the £2.4 million to be forfeited, whether or not it was accepted in good faith.

And on the basis on the UKIP case, it should be the whole sum which is forfeit.

Maybe the legislation should be amended to allow the court to impose a fine or order a partial forfeiture which it thinks would be proportionate, but as it stands the only discretion available to the court appears to be to either order the forfeiture of the whole sum, or not order any forfeiture:

"The court may, on an application made by the Commission, order the forfeiture by the party of an amount equal to the value of the donation ... "

It doesn't say anything like: "... or such lesser sum as the court deems appropriate, having regard to all the circumstances under which the donation was originally accepted".

Maybe that's a misinterpretation, but it seems to be yet another piece of badly drafted legislation pushed through by this government.

I don't know the details of the Bown case, but it does concern me that if the electoral register is in electronic form then somebody who was in fact registered when he made a donation could later be quietly deleted for the relevant period, and it could be very hard to prove that had happened.

The only sure way would be to make it possible for an elector to obtain a hardcopy certificate of his current registration, which large donors could provide to the party as protection against malicious tampering with the electronic register.

Anonymous said...

I thought the law was that if you were in receipt of monies which had come from a donor who had obtained them fraudulently then those monies should be traced and repaid no matter how honest the donee was.

How are the Lib_dems getting away with this?