01 December 2007

Wendy in Trouble

While we now know that Wendy Alexander managed to spend about £15 grand on a campaign that wasn't needed, and that SNP Leadership Candidates fund their own campaigns even when they have challengers, the revelation has come that Wendy wrote a personal thank you note to Paul Green. She did not write it to the company, who were the official donors, so she wrote to a man based in Jersey thanking him for a donation. That would, I'm sure, be acceptable evidence in any court that wished to prosecute her.

Further, Labour have put out their own statement, separate of anything said or done by Wendy Alexander, saying that they refused money from Green precisely because he was not a permissable donor. Therefore, Wendy does not have Harriet Harman's excuse that the Party took the money, and if the cash is good enough for the Party, it's good enough for her.

So, you have Wendy writing a personal thank you note to someone who by law, she should not have had any reason to thank, and Labour now issuing its own statements, separate of its Leader. The word that springs to mind is 'doomed'.

By the way, the man behind the donations that have got UK Labour in trouble has dismissed it as "cock-up, not conspiracy".

This sounds eerily like "a muddle not a fiddle".

And we know what happened to the man who uttered that phrase.


Scott at loveandgarbage said...

I'm not a Labour supporter, but have a couple of thoughts on this.

The personal letter appears to condemn, but if I look at letters I receive at work a number are now framed as "Dear Scott" even from people I've never encountered. The personal tone (which some papers went heavy on this morning) is I think indicative of letter writing culture in general now (a side-effect of the use of e-mail and the web, where even if you never meet you feel like you know the person well). And in a political context - where someone has given you flipping great wadges of cash - a personal tone may simply be courteous and not indicative of prior knowledge.

However, as you note I think the issue is that it's addressed to Jersey. The excuse that thinking the donation came from a company (and a courteous letter has to be sent to an individual rather than "dear company") not the individual doesn't really stand up. Legally, if a company payment (such as a cheque) does not clearly identify the company then the individual is personally liable (IIRC s 349 Companies Act 1985 which is I think still in force although various parts of the new Companies ACt have kicked in). Accordingly, any company representative would make damned sure they got it right (because cheques or payments from companies can be for millions not just £950). Any recipient would then know if it was a company donation or a personal one. This one obviously was from the individual - and his address is a bit of a giveaway.

Best wishes


PS I think this is the first time I've posted a comment here. I've been a longstanding reader and greatly enjoy your posts (although my politics differ). As this is my first direct contact with youI just wanted to thank you for a really interesting blog and look forward to reading much more in future.

Will said...

Cheers for the comment, Scott, and I'm not just saying that about the very nice postscript - thanks for that and having read L&G can I just say, "Right back at you!"

On reflection, what you said got me thinking about letter-writing and how it was actually produced and sent out. I think she's shot herself in the foot by saying she wrote the letter and addresed it to him. She could have said it was a mail merge to all her supporters - though anyone who gave money but didn't get a letter would then come out - as then she could say she didn't actually look at the address or the recipient. Then the issue would be the signature: did she actually sign it - in which case she would still have been in trouble - or was it stamped/printed? If it's the latter, she could have said she never even saw it. Problem is, she's not even thought to say that, so the excuse can't be played now as she admitted addressing the letter herself.

And even then, legally, as the donee, she's still liable under PPERA, and even if the cheque had been from his company, as the money would have come from him, the rules that have been broken in the Abrahams scandal would still have been broken. It doesn't look good for her.