The LDV Saturday Open Thread (20 Jun ‘09): what’s on your mind?

by Stephen Tall on June 20, 2009

We don’t do an LDV Daily View 2 x 2 round-up on Saturdays, so instead here’s an open thread. What stories have caught your eye? What issues are on your mind? Have you been scrutinising Lib Dem MPs’ expenses? Who do you think should be the next Commons Speaker? Have you read the Government’s Digital Britain report yet? Do you have suggestions for the next LDV party members’ survey? Discuss away in the comments below…

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Hywel

I think in reality you do realise that – while there would be nothing odd suspicious in a one-man window-cleaning business, for example, not having a website or a listed phone number or its own offices – there was something extremely suspicious about a company that was supposedly in a position to give a multi-million pound political donation not having any of those things.

And in a way I think the discussion is in danger of completely parting company with reality. After all, everyone was already aware that this was effectively a way of legitimising a donation from someone who wasn’t eligible to give one personally. So it’s not as though the question of whether it was a bona fide company or just a “front” organisation wouldn’t already have been uppermost in their minds.

But, as I said previously, I realise party loyalists have to find a way of justifying whjat happened, because they have no alternative.

by Herbert Brown on June 22, 2009 at 10:18 pm. Reply #

I don’t understand why it should be thought so improbable that a man who successfully cons millionaire investors out of their money was able to convince party officers that he was conducting a genuine business; and of course nobody believes now that his company was genuinely conducting business in the UK. That’s just irrelevant toth e question of whether the party acted properly in 2005.
Should we have refused this donation then? Well, in an ideal world, yes. I don’t think political donations of this size should be legal regardless of their source. They distort democracy and push politics and politicians into the hands of the rich. But in a situation where both Labour and Tories are receiving enormous donations from individuals, companies, and trade unions, it’s entirely unreasonable to demand that we turn our backs on a rare gift-horse, even if it turns out to be less than thoroughbred.
As for paying it “back” now, that’s just ridiculous. We simply can’t afford it, of course – everybody knows we can’t, and repeatedly demanding that we do is just using it as a stick to beat us with. It’s not a real argument.
But in any case, there’s no moral case for doing it. If someone steals money from your wallet, then when you find out about it you can of course demand that they pay you back. But if you can’t get it back from the thief, do you then think you can go to the pub where he buys his beer, the supermarket where he buys his food, and so on, demanding that THEY “pay you back”, because the thief was really spending your money? Of course not. We didn’t rob anybody. Unless and until the Electoral Commission declares the donation unpermissible (which would in any case be a questionable declaration for it to make after such a long delay – justice delayed and all that), there is no claim against us, either in law or in ethics.

by Malcolm Todd on June 22, 2009 at 11:06 pm. Reply #

Mark

I’m sorry, but I don’t have the time to waste going round and round this for ever.

The simple fact is that the Commission simply didn’t say “the party did its checks properly, end of story” as you claimed.

On the contrary, as far as I have seen, they did not reach any conclusion about whether the party “failed to carry out sufficient checks”, but specifically left open the possibility that the question could be considered further if more evidence emerged.

Now, I don’t suppose there’s any point at all trying to get you to answer my question, but I will try once more, and maybe it will be third time lucky:
Are you really still arguing, in the light of everything we now know, that Fifth Avenue Partners Ltd was carrying on a legitimate business in the UK?

by Herbert Brown on June 23, 2009 at 12:13 am. Reply #

And what we now know is frankly irrelevant.

by cogload on June 23, 2009 at 6:58 am. Reply #

“And what we now know is frankly irrelevant.”

How so?

If we now know that the company was not really carrying on business, then we now know that the donation was impermissible. As I understand it, if the Electoral Commission decided that was the case, the normal course would be for it to rule that the money should be forfeited.

I see Mark Littlewood reckons that if that happened, the federal party would have to be wound up and somehow started again from scratch.

If I understand correctly, the Electoral Commission would have some discretion in the matter, and if it still thought the party acted in good faith and made adequate checks, presumably it might be merciful and not order the money to be forfeited.

If you think you can safely rely on that happening, then all this is “frankly irrelevant”. Otherwise it’s very relevant indeed.

by Herbert Brown on June 23, 2009 at 7:59 am. Reply #

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