Sunday, December 02, 2007


Dodgy Donors: Your Cut-Out-And-Keep Guide to Spotting the Difference

Labour spin doctors seem confused as to what differentiates their many crooks from our one crook from a few years ago. Here’s a handy guide to spotting the difference.

One donor approached the Liberal Democrats – not the other way round – and offered a large donation. We never offered any favours. He never asked for any. He never received any. Watchdog the Electoral Commission says we made all the right checks, and he looked all right. After months of investigation with nothing to do with the Liberal Democrats, police and fraud inspectors found out he was actually a crook. The donation to the Liberal Democrats was fully, openly declared and no-one, including the Electoral Commission, could spot anything dodgy in it at the time. Many months later, the man himself turned out to be dodgy, but that was all his finances, with nothing special about the political ones.

As people who deal in large-scale financial irregularity cover their traces rather well, it was impossible for the Liberal Democrats to have known better than the months of official investigation. Impossible under the current law, that is. Even Labour’s disregard for the Rule of Law and grievous misuse of state power has yet to result in them making it legal for political parties to have paramilitary forces authorised to march in and demand details from any private individual that takes their fancy. We have to rely on the legal process, and absolutely no-one knew at the time there was anything dodgy about the man. Not the Liberal Democrats, not his business partners, not any of the other people to whom he donated or with whom he spent money. And not the police or fraud investigators who had to put in so much effort to catch him.

It’s been a PR disaster for the Lib Dems, and if we were rolling in it I’m sure we’d have given the same amount away somewhere to make a small dent in the man’s debts and make ourselves look better. Unlike Labour, we don’t have unions to bail us out, so £2.4 million – about as much as we usually get every couple of years – would be an incredibly expensive and self-indulgent spin-doctoring gesture. He was a millionaire. He spent lots of money, some of it given to us. His finances went under and left some people in the lurch. It’s natural they go after who’ll get them the most publicity rather than his tailor, his yacht merchant or the people he got his mansion from. But shifting the money around would just create a different set of victims of a man pretending he had more money than he really did and make a different set of people out of pocket, rather than making things ‘right’. The crook is not any of the people he conned: it’s the con-man.

Labour – Many Dodgy Finances Rather Than a Single Dodgy Financier

Several donors approached the Labour Party, but many others were approached by Labour fundraisers. Labour had made huge political capital in the ’90s by exploiting Tory sleaze. To pose as cleaner than clean, they brought in new laws to stop the Tories getting funding in the same dodgy ways they used to. But, short of financial capital, Labour also exploited the sleazy loopholes they’d mysteriously left in their own legislation. At least the Tories were up-front about being greedy bastards and didn’t lecture the rest of us about probity while stuffing their pockets with used fivers! So, Labour are hypocrites. Well, we all know that. It’s evident Labour didn’t bring in these laws to ‘clean up politics’ at all. They just brought them in to attack the Tories. As ever, they see law as a political weapon for the Labour Party and not anything to do with the public good.

There was nothing hidden about the Liberal Democrat donation – none of the checks we could make gave us any hint of anything dodgy, so we had no reason to hide anything. But everything is hidden about Labour’s donors. Because they brought in strict controls on ‘donations’, the Labour Party came up with ‘loans’ as crooked way to avoid the law. The people who gave Labour ‘loans’ could stay secret, even if they were never to be repaid and the ‘creditors’ were then mysteriously offered peerages. In contrast, the few people who loaned money to the Liberal Democrats were always fully declared (the letter of the law said they didn’t have to be; the Liberal Democrats felt the spirit of the law meant we should), and interests paid. We were the only party to do that but, really, how hard can it be?

Pop fact: every single person who’s given over a million pounds to the Labour Party has received either a knighthood or a peerage. No, the police couldn’t find enough evidence to charge a particular individual, but we all know what was going on there. As a stranded Miss Piggy exclaims when a motorbike falls off the back of the lorry right next to her:
“What an unbelievable coincidence!”
So, then, are Labour crooks, or Muppets? Well, just look at their other scheme to avoid the law – well, I should say their other scheme that’s so far come to light; who knows how many more they’ve come up with – which is to have a rich donor give money to a friend or employee, who then gives it to Labour. This ‘loophole’ was such a blindingly obvious bit of fraud that even Labour’s full-of-possibly-deliberate-holes legislation plugged it. It’s explicitly illegal, and the Electoral Commission made that absolutely clear to every political party. It’s only Labour, who made up the law, who’ve been caught red-handed breaking it. Now they want us to believe it’s because they were too stupid and incompetent rather than too crooked. So, you decide: crooks or Muppets? I don’t really want either running the country.

Coincidentally, Labour donor-by-crooked-proxy Mr Abrahams needed planning permission for his new business park and Labour gave it. Well, makes a change from a peerage. Like the ‘cash for coronets’ scandal, this one means Labour are to be investigated by the police, again, going right up to the Prime Minister, again, though this time the new one. Unlike the last Prime Minister, the scandal the new one’s presiding over is so blatantly illegal that even Mr Brown has admitted it was all against the law. Mr Abrahams, meanwhile, has whined that he’s been treated like a criminal. How shocking, in this day and age, that a criminal should be called a criminal. It shouldn’t happen to a member of the Labour Party, as they all no doubt believe!

The Final Difference

The donation to the Liberal Democrats was – as well as fully and openly declared – a one-off. It didn’t try to evade the law, but simply came from what turned out much later to be the wrong man, and we know there aren’t any other large donations to us lurking.

The donations to the Labour Party – as well as trying several different sleazy and hypocritical ways to get around Labour’s own laws – have all been going on well into this year, and precisely because they’ve been hidden all along we have no idea if they’re still happening. That’s the trouble with under-the-counter dealings. We know that Labour officials have come up with illegal schemes to get untraceable money. So how do we know Ray Ruddick Mickey Mouse Janet Kidd Jon Mendelsohn John McCarthy Peter Watt Janet Dunn John Poulson David Abrahams is the only one?

Mind you, at least the Liberal Democrats now have a dodgy donor in our history in this century. Yes, it’s from a few years back unlike the still-ongoing Labour ones, but I’d got tired of desperate Labour spin doctors squeaking “Lloyd George!” at us in pretend shock (their previous laughable soundbite), so by comparison they’re almost bang up to date. Funny that they never mention Robert Maxwell when they go into history like this, the man who put millions upon millions into supporting the Labour Party, when the Labour Party’s never paid a penny to his victims. Must have slipped their minds. They can’t claim that no-one knew he was a crook, after all; it didn’t take months of official investigation to send the danger signals, when brave journalists like, oh, one Chris Huhne were busy exposing him while Labour were proud to be in receipt of Mr Maxwell’s largesse. I wish we’d never had any bad apples, but according to the smears of Labour’s own apologists we have one every eighty years. At the moment, a Labour crook seems to be surfacing every eighty minutes. Saying ‘every party does it’ is a desperate, desperate attempt by an institutionally corrupt party headed by crooks and hypocrites to divert attention from their own lawbreaking. Shameful.

What’s the difference, then, in the end? Someone approached the Liberal Democrats and offered us money and, naïvely, we took it. Much later, months of police investigation exposed him as a crook. What Labour did was go out themselves to approach lots of people and conspire with them in several ways to get money by deliberately avoiding or deliberately breaking the law. They then coincidentally got favours from the Labour Party.

There is all the difference in the world.

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Well said Alex. But like with most issues, the nuanced and detailed analysis isn't very snappy compared to the quick'n'easy smear. Our opponents are able to say "look at those dodgy Lib Dems, they accepted £2.4m from a fraudster and never paid the money back" - we, on the other hand, have to give a 5-minute discourse to explain why it isn't so.

Thanks, Jonny! And you’re quite right – a smear is almost always faster than the rebuttal. I admit I was irritated yesterday by Derek Draper on Broadcasting House yesterday morning, a disgraced Labour ex-spin doctor who clearly wants the same job back – hurling abuse at Vince (without any actual wit to make it stick) and shouting at him about the £2.4 million to try and distract attention from what Labour was still doing. So I spent much of the day thinking about how we should rebut this line of attack, and I hope it’s all useful for people to bear in mind as background; Lib Dems have a tendency to get flustered and hope it’ll all just go away. Well, it won’t, so here’s something more aggressive (and look to Stephen Tall for the watchdog’s actual ruling).

One other thing about my piece – it’s one of the few which I’ve posted with a number of lines in bold as, pre-empting your comment, I hoped to encourage people to lift them out as soundbites! Hopefully some of those emboldened lines are snappy enough to be come-backs (if not as snappy as your “Bastards!”). Feel free to borrow, anyone ;-)
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