Thursday, January 17, 2008

More Tory Funding Opacity: The Boy Mann Done Good


Eighty, count 'em, Tory MPs up for slapped wrists and perhaps even confiscated donations as my Man Uni contemporary John Mann MP rattles their cages.

The Boy Mann Done Good. LOL still feel that Labour and the media are missing a trick on the GOOey mess that is George Osborne's money laundering.

The exonerating emails were no such thing. From the last post on the subject:

First observation. Source. The correspondence was with the Chief Whip's office, not Osborne.

Second observation. Timing. This comes months after donations became news. Approximately 11 months after this passporting of funds is known to have begun. And as Hain chase begins to wind up.

Third observation. Overlap Concept. The basic email covers "overlap" but from the perspective of EFFECTS THAT ARE DECLARED TO RMI and which must also be declared to the EC.

Fourth observation. NOT THE OTHER WAY ROUND.

Fifth observation. This gets no-one off any hooks.

Finally I'd observe that while these monies have apparently been declared to the Electoral Commission by the CCHQ they haven't been declared by Osborne have they? If Manchester Labour or one of our constituencies gets some cash donated the appropriate accounting unit(s) will declare these. If monies are then given to a candidate's campaign the candidate will put these in their declaration of expenses and if they are bound by RMI in that too.

Nothing in the advice suggests that the payments should not have been declared to the RMI. That was assumed as a given by the Commissioner. Because of the question that was apparently asked.

The Tories are not representing that these are the only exchanges in writing between themselves and the EC and RMI over the rules in the last 12 months or so. Let's see the whole lot! Can we do a Freedom of Information Act enquiry and obtain them?

Perhaps I'm wrong. But it seems to me these donations have been declared ONCE. But they should have been declared THRICE.

First, by Tory Central Laundry with Electoral Commission shortly after their receipt. Tick, very good.

Second and third, by the Office of Sir George GO Osborne MP with the EC when received from CCHQ, identifying the original donors as passported to him. And obviously this needed to go on the RMI too. Cross, could do better.

As Miranda stage whispered: "Oh, Brave New World that has such Mooncalfs in it". Well something like that. Seriously, Caliban himself - in the eye of the storm - would have done better than Osborne on this.

My regular correspondent Evan protested recently that I hold that Hain is a clown but that Osborne, Cameron and Co are "at it". I am willing to change that view to make them all clowns, you know incompetent, slapdash, unreliable, maverick. But I cannot concede that Hain was "at it". Clearly a cock up. There being no conceivable benefit for anyone from his inactions.

So are the highest reaches of the Tory Party confessing to be as clownish as Hain? But for many more months? And for at least one order of magnitude more wonga? Or are they going to continue to try to be neither nor? Neither incompetents nor conspirators. That simply won't wash.

11 comments:

Evan Price said...

If the BBC report us correct, all Kevan Jones and John Mann are doing is 'slinging mud'. There is no requirement for donors to be registered with the Electoral Commission anymore (so far as I can tell) and the members of 'unincorporated associations' as defined by PPRA do not need to be identified or even, under the law, permissible donors themselves.

Chris Paul said...

They do not need to be permissible donors themselves? Are you sure Evan? This would drive a coach and horses through everything surely?

Evan Price said...

Provided that the 'unincorporated association' otherwise complies with the requirement that its business is in the UK and provided that it is not simply an agent for a principal, there appears in the Act no requirement for the 'two or more persons' who form the unincorporated association to be identified or even for them to be 'permissible donors' themselves.

Chris Paul said...

But surely such an unincorporated association which laundered donations from people who were not permissible donors would de facto be agents? Is there a situation when they are not agents for their members? Do they have to be carrying on any activity other than political support?

In my view they should be concentrating on the Osborne matters but if it is the case that many of these associations are acting as intermediaries for people or organisations that are not themselves impermissible donors I think that would go down like a lead balloon with the electorate.

Hain is clearly a clown. This Tory stuff all seems pretty deliberate stretching of the rules or laws to avoid disclosure or lever in "grey imports".

tory boys never grow up said...

Evan what you are saying is right - but what you are missing is that if the unincorporated body (or a company for that matter) is acting as an agent for the person providing the donation - then that person has to be a permissible donor and the disclosed donor to the Electoral Commission and the Register of Members interest.

The interesting think about the Hain case is that, presumably on legal advice and apparently against the wish of the donors, the registered donor was not company (PPF) but the ultimate donors. My guess is that Hain was only doing things properly after the proverbial hit the fan - and that if nothing had come to light the intention (by Hain/Morgan or whoever) was to hide the donations behind a "front" as appears to be common practice for c£10m+ of Tory funding. I agree with Chris that what Hain did was stupid and I think he should fall on his sword - and I don't believe the admin defence either - reporting of donations was clearly a political issue, and any politicians who say that they don't care about such matters are not telling the truth.

All of this demonstrates my earlier point that a company can an agent of a borrower - and really raises the case as to whether the same applies to the Bearwood and IIR donations. Ashcroft does talk about my donations and IIR actually said to the Sunday Telegraph that they were making their donations on behalf of Laidlaw, who is not on the UK electoral register.

Evan Price said...

I agree that there would be a problem is it were shown that an 'unincorporated association' was being used as an agent of a principal donor - see s.54 (6) and (7) - there would be a problem. But it would be necessary to show that it was an agent - something that would not be easy to show in practice.

An unincorporated association can have activities or business in the UK to comply with s.54(h).

The law is an ass!

My view is that this, politically motivated piece of legislation, is now causing more problems than the perceived unfairness that it was intended to deal with. It's all nonsense.

Of course, Labour and the Liberal Democrats have used unincorporated associations too ... and all of them have had difficulty on occasion.

This whole row started because one clown was too busy to sort himself out and one of the parties, despite receiving over £500,000 to pay for training on this issue, appears to accept that it did not know of the law it passed when in Government. All of the parties have, to some extent or another, sought to use the letter of the law to justify some activity or another. All of them have used similar techniques to avoid what is euphamistically called 'transparency' - and where those are lawful, they have and will, unless and until the law is changed, continue to do so.

Beyond that, it's the fluff that demonstrates more about Westminster point scoring than anything else!

tory boys never grow up said...

The Labour donations (c£2m vs c£5m for the Tories)are in the main from Labour Groups (of councillors)or lotteries. The Tories are from other bodies where the source of the funding is not known. Tory bloggers keep referring to them as patron clubs - the question is who are the patrons.

Re being able to prove that companies/unincorporated associations are acting as agents - I would have thought IIR's quote to the Sunday Telegraph (24 Nov 2004) that it was acting on behalf of Laidlaw would be pretty compelling evidence.

"All the donations made to the Party have been personal donations, made by our chairman, Lord Laidlaw of Rothiemay," said an IIR spokesman.

I agree that the law is in a mess - but the underlying principals of transparency and UK funding of UK politics are being undermined by these structures - Labour is wrong to use them and the Tories who use them to an even greater extent and for a longer period are even more wrong. And then to try and make political capital out of them (remember Conservative Head Office was filing FOI requests on Abrahams before the story was broken by the Forgers Gazette)is just pure hypocrisy.

Iain Lindley said...

Chris,

A quick tally on the Electoral Commission site lists £33k worth of donations to Manchester Labour from incorporated associations.

Do you think that this money should be investigated too?

Chris Paul said...

I think you mean Unincorporated? And specifically the Manchester Labour Group?

Yes, let's investigate. There are about 65 individuals involved. They all give pro rata to their allowances. It is not a case of one or two large donors and others providing cover. They are named with contact details on the Council website. They are all clearly permissible donors. They are actually in this case an association with rules and officers and a wider purpose. In the UK. Investigation over.

Let's do it now for your 80 MPs and their various secretive "bundling" vehicles.

I know we have a small number of these ourselves. But if you can provide similar details as I have for just one of yours to be going on with, to show good faith, I'd be impressed.

Iain Lindley said...

You expect me to take you at your word that all donors to Labour's unincorporated associations are permissable, but are unwilling to take the same assurances about those associated with the Conservatives.

For all I know, Manchester Labour Group might receive donations from people other than local Councillors. I could ask for an investigation into it, but that would be childish, pathetic and designed to draw attention away from a real story - which is exactly what your two MP stooges have done in this case.

Alex said...

As Evan Price said, the membership of the unincorporated association is irrelevant - the only thing that counts is that it has activities in the UK. The law isn't an ass. If it has "activities" in the UK (e.g. unions) then it is affected by UK laws, and should be allowed to fund or support politicians who can change those laws.

Likewise the fuss about Tory tax exiles is equally irrelevant - the only factor in deciding who can vote or fund a party is whether they are registered to voite. If payment of tax was necessary to be registered to vote, then half of the pensioners and all of the unwaged would be disenfranchised.

The Osborne fuss is equally a waste of time. The money was donated to the Conservative Party who paid for the people in Osbornes office, but they were in Osbornes office because they were put there to do party work under his control. That doesn't make it a donation to Osborne. Other MP's have donations made to hem personally to pay for staff. That *is* declared on the register of members' interests, but the dobations to pay for Osborne's staff are not registrable by Osborne, in just the same way that a manager in an organistion doesn't pay tax on the salaries paid to his staff.


The Tory patrons clubs are linked to each association parties and just pay higher subscriptions - typically £150 - to get two dinners a year withe their MP and a guest speaker, typically Tory front bench. Since they are subsets of the membership they are all on the electoral register for the constituency. Not only is this a storm in a teacup, it mokes the MP's who reported look inept to everybody except their most partisan supporters. They should be taken aside by the whips and told that they are a disgrace to the Labour Party.