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Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Show us the money

Have Plaid Cymru run out of policy ideas? I only ask because all they seem to want to talk about at the moment is how they and other parties are paying for the election campaign.

Actually, the whole tone of Adam Price and his cronies in this little PR stunt is one of annoying smugness. They had a £300,000 legacy from somebody in London, paid off all their debts and invested in new campaign techniques. They are alright so they feel that they can taunt the others by asking why they have not had the same good fortune. It is playground politics on a bigger scale.

The suggestion that parties should not take donations from outside Wales is pretty ludicrous when you think about it, especially coming from a party that dare not utter the 'independence' word any more for fear of offending swing voters. Wales is part of the United Kingdom and even after May we will be dependent on Westminster largesse to get many of our legislative changes through. Plaid can receive donations from London, so why can't we? The SNP get money from a tax exile. How ethical is that?

All of the nationalists' rhetoric on this issue is pretty empty. By all means argue for state funding or for the better regulation of private donations. They are legitimate issues. But Plaid should not pretend that they are better than other parties, because they are not.

Can we go back to talking about education, health, crime and disorder, the environment and housing now? I am sure those issues are what voters are really interested in.
People are concerned though at how all parties raise cash which they use to campaign with.

Indeed, some AMs are reportedly using funds, set aside to publicise their surgeries, to place adverts in, and therefore subsidise, their own party political leaflets in the run up to the election campaign.

Surely this cannot be justified as the best use of public money, can it?
Well, at least if the £300K Plaid donation came in the form of a legacy, they can hardly be accused of taking cash in exchange for influence.

Can the UK Lib Dems and their imprisoned sugar-daddy say the same? And since your party is refusing to pay it back, how much of that cash will be used to bankroll your campaign in Wales?
Yes, we can categorically say that. Michael Brown received no privileges nor was he offered anything in exchange for his donation. In fact it was made very clear to him that he should not expect anything and he accepted that.

The money was in fact all spent in the General Election so it will not be used in the Assembly campaign. Equally we have not paid it back because the Electoral Commission have ruled that it was accepted legitimately. If that changes then obviously the party will reconsider.
Peter - the Electoral Commission ruling you cite dates from 2005, which predates Brown's conviction. It is now known that 5th Avenue Partners has never traded in the UK and was therefore never allowed to make donations to a UK political party. Your party may have acted in good faith, but surely its only a matter of time now before the Electoral Commission tell you to get the chequebook out.

But back to your point about the nats - it doesn't say much for the Welsh Lib Dems if you're going to need subventions from London to finance your campaign - haven't you got enough support in Wales? Time to decide whether you are a serious party in your own right, or just an accounting unit of Cowley Street...
I am not going to allow this comments thread to degenerate into a discussion on Michael Brown but it is worth pointing out that the electoral commission ruling still stands and has not been superceded. As far as we are concerned the donation was within the rules and until the Commission says otherwise that remains the case. Further speculation is pointless on either side without all the facts.

To the best of my knowledge although the Welsh Liberal Democrats are part of a Federal Party we are not getting money from London to finance our Assembly campaign. We have our own resources and a large match-funding donation. I do not accept the argument that we have to demonstrate our independence from the Federal Party or from the rest of the UK. At least we still remain a separate accounting unit unlike other parties.
Ceredigion Lib-dems received £15,000 from central office in 2005 - which, i'm sure wouldn't have been received if it wasn't for the Michael Browns donation. Therefore, it is perfectly true to say that the campaign was bank-rolled not only from outside Wales, but from outside the UK. Bythe way - other sponsors of the Lib-dems over the last 5 years - McDonalds, Tesco Superstore, Manchester airport... very Green and sustainable.
To date the Michael Brown donation has been considered perfectly legal by the electoral commission. The Welsh Liberal Democrats have not pretended that we can constrain our activities to within Wales. We are part of a Federal Party and we are funded accordingly. Unfortunately, whilst the system is as it is you have to take funding where you can get it. The key issue is that we do not do favours in return. Those who give us money do so on the basis that they will gain nothing for it.
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