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Sunday, November 30, 2008


The Sunday Times reports that Scotland Yard is in turmoil after senior police officials criticised temporary Metropolitan Police Chief, Sir Paul Stephenson and admitted its handling of the arrest of a Tory MP had been “catastrophic”. In fact most of the Sunday papers are full of articles questioning Police tactics and in particular the decision to allow officers to raid the Commons office of Damien Green.

Peddling back just a little bit from my initial reaction on Friday I think that Matt Withers is right in his efforts to put this incident into context in this morning's Wales on Sunday. He points out that for all the hyperbole on the part of opposition politicians Britain cannot be compared to Robert Mugabe's Zimbabwe or Josef Stalin's USSR as some have attempted to do:

Mugabe has rigged elections, attacked civil society, killed and maimed opponents and suspended the rule of law. Opponents of his regime are routinely arrested and many have been tortured and burnt alive by his personal militia.

In the Soviet Union under Stalin millions of people who were suspected of being such a threat were executed or exiled to Gulag labour camps in remote areas of Siberia or Central Asia, where many more died of disease, malnutrition and exposure. Estimates of the number of deaths associated with his Great Purge run from the official figure of 681,692 to nearly two million.

In Britain, an obscure shadow minister was arrested, questioned and released without charge.

A commentor on my last post on this blog was right in saying that the issue here is the use of the Official Secrets Act and the way it is used to suppress information that should be in the public domain. Some poor judgement has been shown by the Metropolitan Police, by the Home Office Official who started the inquiry off and by the House of Commons authorities but the biggest losers in this whole affair are those who believe in British democracy.

There may be a Freedom of Information Act but compared to its American cousin it is not fit for purpose. If opposition spokespeople need to rely on illicit leaks to reveal poor government decisions and mismanagement then our Parliamentary system and the scrutiny it supports needs to be overhauled. Perhaps when all the dust has settled over the arrest of Damian Green those shouting the loudest will turn their attention to tackling that problem.
Lots of blogging this weekend peter but you don't seem to have mentioned the fact that your largest ever donor has been convicted of fraud. Michael Brown gave over £2.4m to your party for the 2005 election but it turns out this money was gained through fraud. In Wales you spent £258,000 on the 2005 campaign. That is £150,000 more than you spent in 2001. Most of this money will have come from Brown. Surely the Welsh Liberal Democrats should do the decent thing and return this money?
I am sure we will abide with the decision of the Electoral Commission once they have concluded their investigation.
To respond for a moment on a trivial level, New Labour *have* rigged elections: their Birmingham branch (no, not just individual candidates) got convicted of tampering with postal ballots in an East Birmingham warehouse a few years ago. And the judge made some quip about banana republics. And there have been no resignations there.

But seriously, Brown's administration obviously isn't literally as bad as any of the regimes that have become a by-word for brutal maladministration. Still, "Mr Mugabe's worse" isn't much of a defence.
I sometimes wonder at the hipocrasy of the Lib Dems. When other parties set a bad example or show any inconsistency then you are more than willing to condemn (a quick look through your posts gives numerous examples) but when your own party accepts stolen money you try and worm out of giving the money back.

It is clear that this money did not belong to Michael Brown and therefore he had no right to give it to you. If I am in posession of a stolen hifi then "...having made all the correct checks.." at the time might get me out of a conviction for handling stolen goods but it won't mean I get to keep the hifi.

I am not going to take the petty route of arguing that candidates who gained their seats with the help of these funds should stand down. What is done is done and they did not know the source of the money at the time. But surely the only honest thing is to give this money to the treasury, where it belongs. Failing to do this (whatever the electoral commission say) proves that you are morally bankrupt as a party.
The whole point of letting the Electoral Commission decide what to do is (a) they are the regulatory body and (b) they will have all the facts at their disposal and will be able to determine where the money came from. £2.4m is a lot of money to be spending on the hearsay say-so of a few anti-Lib Dem newspapers and Plaid Cymru bloggers. Let's not jump the gun. Let due process take its course or are you opposed to that too in your attempt to make cheap political capital out of people who acted in good faith?
Give it a chance and I sure Labour will have us all on lists uneducated educated Tory Labour communist thick disabled death camps.

I've always taken a great interest in politic going to meetings joining a Union working my way up and enjoying life, not anymore I left Labour left the Union because you could see where things are going, and it's not the world or country I want.

I watch the Welsh Assembly and to be honest if I had the chance to vote again it would be no thanks not while a bunch of Wally's run this country, Jesus my AM lost her seat, we are all disappointed to be told oh it's OK she is now a regional AM where they hell did that come from and who voted her in.
I agree that £2.4m is a lot of money. That is why you should have properly checked this man's background. He had no history of supporting your party and had no clear reason that I can recall to do so.

I am not asking you to give the money back on the "hearsay say-so" of plaid bloggers. I'm saying that since the man has been convicted of fraud by a jury (and has also broken bail and fled the country) and it was the proceeds of that fraud that funded your party then you should give the money to the treasury.

Whether the electoral commission decide you have a legal obligation to return the money or not you can not get away from the fact that you have a moral obligation to return it.
Hardly surprising that Plaid is sticking up for their Lords and Masters the Labour Party.

I'm sure that Plaid have a few skeletons in the cupboard; Victoria Dock for example.

Its unfortunate that people vote for Plaid out of a sense of patriotism when in fact they are voting for a Nationalistic Party, there’s a world of difference between nationalism and patriotism.

If you want another Balkans – Vote Plaid.
The Electoral Commission has already determined that we did all the checks that were possible and that we were not negligent in that regard. Short of a crystal ball we could not have done more.

As I have said if the Electoral Commission determines that the money we received was stolen and that we should return it then I am sure that we will. I do not see why we should pre-empt that decision though. Until they determine that however neither you nor I can say for certain that the money came from the proceeds of fraud. The chances are that it did but let the process take its course so that we know it is right.

I half agree with you. We should wait to see if the electoral commission confirms that the donation comes from fraudulent income.

My issue is what happens if the electoral commission confirms the source but say's you don't need to repay? The Liberal Democrats led the call for Labour to return the Bernie Eccletone money and they did so. Surely this is a precedent for your party to follow?
There you go with that crystal ball again. Shall we wait and see before jumping to conclusions.
As a socialist and a radical I find Matt Wither's comments to be unbelievable. Damian Green was held for 9 hours for doing his job as an opposition spokesperson. If the operation was not ordered by a minister then those police officers who were involved should be suspended . It is the most sinister attack on our democracy in my life time. Perhaps Matt Withers should spend some time reading either either Ian Kershaw or R J Evans excellent books on Nazi Germany. As Kershaw quite rightly points out what happened in Nazi Germany was policing gone mad. Most of those who operated and controlled the Nazi police system were before 1933 ordinary policemen. All of us of what ever political party we belong to on the Democratic Left should condemn what has happened to Damian Green. I might disagree with his ideas but I recognise a throughly decent man when I see one. If they were alive today both Lloyd George and Aneurin Bevan would be appalled by the events of the last few days.
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Assembly Members do not have the same protection and privileges as MPs.
JJ's posting at 9:00

It's going to get worse before it gets better.

Why don't you answer the question? I'm not asking you to predict whether or not the money comes from fraud. I'm asking if it does should you pay it back?

The truth is that if this was either Labour or the Tories it would be a huge scandal and there would be pressure on people to resign. Because it's the lib dems your still debating whether or not to refund the money. If you want to be treated like a proper party you should start acting like one.
Twm, if I were being flippant I might point out that both the major parties have had funding scandals and that this seems to qualify them to be a 'proper party'. However, I will not do that.

On the money, the decision is not mine and I am not going to pre-empt the decision of the Electoral Commission as to whether the money is legitimate or not by setting hares running at this stage.
Twm wrote:In Wales you spent £258,000 on the 2005 campaign. That is £150,000 more than you spent in 2001. Most of this money will have come from Brown.

In fact, it didn't. The irony is that the Michael Brown money (for various reasons) was used virtually entirely on the poster campaign whose electoral value was questionable.
Proper Party - like Plaid you mean?

Laugh, I haven't laughed so much since I heard Dafydd Ewan lost his seat to someone who throws potatoes into hot lard!
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