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Saturday, July 14, 2007

Musical Chairs

I am not going to have a chance to get to the Ealing Southall or Sedgefield by-elections as I am too busy with a key local Council by-election in Swansea. However, the twists and turns in Southall have been absolutely astonishing, in turn throwing the Labour and the Conservative camps into disarray.

I don't think that I can even begin to sum up events, except to say that they make attempts to form a Welsh Assemby Government appear to be routine and humdrum in comparison. It started off with Mr Brij Mohan Gupta, Deputy Chair (Political) of Ealing Southall Conservatives and Vice-Chair of Southall Green and Southall Broadway Conservative ward parties, joining the Liberal Democrats and backing the Liberal Democrat candidate Nigel Bakhai.

Then five Labour Councillors joined the Conservatives, though it later transpired that at least one of these individuals could prove to be a divisive choice for the Tories. A sixth Councillor was allegedly lined up to defect but remained with the Labour Party, leaving the Tories with egg on their face. On Friday, Mr Cameron visited the seat and declared that two more Labour councillors had defected to the Tories. In fact, they were former Labour councillors who had been independent for some time. Meanwhile, there has been all sorts of shenanigans on the internet reported here and here.

Now the blogosphere is buzzing with the news that Tory candidate, Tony Lit, is a Labour donor who posed just weeks ago for photographs at a fundraiser with Tony Blair. The Daily Telegraph reports that just a week before he became a member of the Conservative Party and was unveiled as their surprise choice to fight the vacant seat of Ealing Southall, Mr. Lit donated £4,800 to the Labour Party and attended a glittering Labour fundraising dinner at the Riverbank Plaza on London's Albert Embankment.

To be precise, Mr Lit's company, Sunrise Radio, paid £4,800 for a table at the event in a cheque made out to the Labour Party five days earlier and signed by his father Avtar Lit, chairman of Sunrise. The paper reports that during an auction, the Sunrise table successfully bid £4,000 for a weekend trip to Atlanta, the highlight of which was two places at a fundraising dinner for Hillary Clinton;

Labour insiders said Mr Lit's company had not yet paid the £4,000. If they had, in addition to the £4,800 for the table, it would have put them over the £5,000 limit requiring Labour to declare them as a donor.

You could not make it up if you tried. As Liberal Democrat Chief Executive, Chris Rennard, commented, "this news is yet another blow to a beleaguered Conservative campaign. Their candidate has been revealed as a Labour donor. Perhaps the Conservatives will be relieved that he cannot win the by-election. One has to wonder just what questions were asked before the Conservatives invited Mr Lit to become 'David Cameron's Conservative candidate'."
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