That Michael Brown donation. Again. (Yawn).

by Stephen Tall on June 5, 2008

Michael Brown – as Lib Dem Voice readers won’t need reminding – gave the party £2.4m before the 2005 general election. His subsequent downfall amid fraud allegations has prompted many an innuendo that the Lib Dems were somehow dishonest in accepting the gift.

The news today that a date has been set (8th September) for Mr Brown’s trial on 16 separate charges is bound to attract the usual Labour and Tory smears, and media half-truths. So, for the nth time, can we take the opportunity to quote the verdict of the independent Electoral Commission on the Lib Dems’ probity in this matter:

The Electoral Commission has previously made clear its view that it was reasonable for the Liberal Democrats – based on the information available to them at the time – to regard the donations they received from 5th Avenue Partners Ltd in 2005, totalling just over £2.4m, as permissible.

“It remains the Commission’s view that the Liberal Democrats acted in good faith at that time, and the Commission is not re-opening the question of whether the party or its officers failed to carry out sufficient checks into the permissibility of the donations.”

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Of course it is till open to anyone who lost out by this fraudelent activity to pursue you through the courts.

A usual with the Lib Dems you also edit out the bits you don’t want to hear. The statement from which you have quoted goes on to say:

“Nevertheless, we have always said that if any additional information that has a bearing on the permissibility of the donations comes to light, for example as a result of the ongoing police investigation or legal proceedings relating to the affairs of 5th Avenue, we would consider the matter further.”

The matter is not closed until after the coirt case in September.

by Kevin Davis on June 5, 2008 at 11:13 pm. Reply #

Kevin, you know deep down that that is a bollocks way of dealing with anything. If someone knicked your wallet and spent the cash at Sainsbury and you eventually caught up with the thief and they were prosecuted, do you really think you would be able to sue Sainsbury to get the cash back? No, you wouldn’t.

And to say further that the EC might demand the money repaid (to them not the original owners) at any point in the future depending on things that nobody knows yet is a situation which no organization can operate under – otherwise we should be asking for Bob Maxwell and Jack Lyons money back too.

The only situation I can see where that caveat can possibly be activated would be if something comes out in court that proves that the party knowingly received stolen money, and it sounds to me, from things that Brown has himself said and the courts also, that he made very sure that his dealings were so opaque as to be beyond reasonable discovery, even from the police.

Still – it’s not as bad a situatino as having £30m of loans called in!

by Jock on June 6, 2008 at 12:13 am. Reply #

Sainsbury is a chain of retail shops that is not bound to check incoming payments it receives for their probity, their shoppers for eligibility including geographical base and scope, or for being on a register of shoppers.

They do not have to check the actual cash changing hands for its provenance.

Though probably even in those circumstances of little or no responsibility for checking funds if they knowingly took stolen money or drug money or laundered counterfeit money or whatever they would be in legal, moral and public relations doo doo.

The judgment is the judgment. I have never been convinced that remotely “due diligence” was carried out on these funds. For had it been they would have been found out.

by Chris Paul on June 6, 2008 at 12:23 am. Reply #

Jock, the law is what the law states, no matter what we might want it to say (and no matter whether we think the law sucks or not). That said, I don’t think we have much to worry about.

UKIP escaped a £360,000 fine last year (the Electoral Commission appealed against this but as far as I’m aware their appeal went nowhere), when the situation was much more black and white. On that basis, the chances of the Lib Dems having to pay back the £2.4m are minimal. But it is still possible and we should not be complacent about it.

by James Graham on June 6, 2008 at 12:30 am. Reply #

Much as I am loathe to agree with Chris Paul, the fact is no responsible political party accepts a £2.4m donation off of someone they don’t know – especially an ex-pat – regardless of whether they can’t find any evidence that that individual is a crook or not. It is simple common sense.

It simply isn’t good enough to say that we looked into him and couldn’t find any evidence that he was a crook. Even if the Lib Dems had had the full use of Interpol, MI5 and the FBI at their disposal, they’d have still struggled to find evidence because it would be like looking for a needle in a haystack. If it was that easy establishing whether someone is a criminal or not, we’d have a lot less bloody crime, wouldn’t we?

As I said above, I think we may well get away with this because the law as it stands appears to be unenforceable in practice. But we don’t have to be happy about that fact.

by James Graham on June 6, 2008 at 12:43 am. Reply #

I cannot conceive how the Liberal Democrats could possibly know that at the time the donation was made that this person was breaking the law. It is the job of the police to find these things out. Given the police were not taking proceedings at that time, why should the Lib Dems know any different?
Having received this donation in good faith, and given the party was not in any way responsible for the behavoir of this person, there is no reason why the party should refund this donation.
I think it is crazy that this whole thing was whipped up the way it was.
That said, it does reinforce the point I have made before; there should be state funding of political parties to put an end to this kind of petty politics, and ensure generally speaking that no party is corrupted by the vested interests of the business community and the trades unions.

by Geoffrey Payne on June 6, 2008 at 8:17 am. Reply #

When the Labour Party accepted money from Robert Maxwell they knew not only that he was a crook but that he was a thoroughly nasty piece of work all round.

The sound of stones hitting glass, anyone?

by Sesenco on June 6, 2008 at 8:55 am. Reply #

GP:”state funding of political parties”; please, no. This would just foster a self-interested political class and weaken the link between grassroots support and the representatives.

by passing tory on June 6, 2008 at 8:59 am. Reply #

I would like to say to the Tory; how is it the case that a donation from a bank like Robert Flemming doesn’t “weaken the link between grassroots support and the representatives” whilst state funding does?
There is no logic to that argument.

by Geoffrey Payne on June 6, 2008 at 4:53 pm. Reply #

Geoffrey: for the Conservative Party, the grass is always greener in Belize! 🙂

by James Graham on June 6, 2008 at 5:01 pm. Reply #

If it transpires this money was illegally acquired by Michael Brown and the owners can be clearly identified is it not morally incumbent on the Liberal Democrats to return it?

by Questioner on June 6, 2008 at 6:28 pm. Reply #

Questioner, I thought that right at the beginning. But frankly I can’t really feel terribly sorry for the likes of Magnier. Why take fifty quid off every member effectively – I certainly don’t have a string of racehorses to feed – if the party itself is shown to have acted properly

by Jock on June 6, 2008 at 6:33 pm. Reply #

Questioner:It has transpired that the money was illegally acquired by Asil Nadir of Polly Peck, the owners can be clearly identified, is it not morally incumbent on the Conservatives to return it?

by David on June 6, 2008 at 9:48 pm. Reply #

David, if the Conservatives behaviour is the benchmark for the Liberal Democrats to use as a defence then it doesn’t say much for being a fresh alternative.

No one is seriously saying that the Liberal Democrats were in on a scam. That is clear from the EC statement.

However if it transpires the money was not Michael Brown’s to donate and belongs to others then the moral question of whether the Liberal Democrats should repay it emerges.

How seriously will the LibDems be taken if they constantly deny that they have benefitted money that was not theirs? People will accept a decalaration that they were as taken in as everyone else and that they may not have the funds to repay it. But they won’t take seriously a defence that denies it was money from an illegal source.

There are still legal proceedings to establish this and it doesn’t do the Liberal Democrats credibility any favours to suggest it is in the past.

by Questioner on June 7, 2008 at 1:55 pm. Reply #

David…please….Asil Nadir?

Why don’t we have the police investigate the Lib Dems for allowing Lloyd George to handing out peerages for money?

by Kevin Davis on June 7, 2008 at 2:33 pm. Reply #

Kevin: Lloyd Geogre, sold the peerages when he was PM of coalition of Tories with a faction of the Liberal Party.
Name: Hi to you

by David on September 1, 2008 at 8:52 am. Reply #

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