Not Saussure

February 22, 2007

Electoral Commission to bankrupt UKIP?

Filed under: Politics, UK — notsaussure @ 11:16 pm

Whatever you think of UKIP, this seems a bit harsh:

The UK Independence Party faces a crippling demand from election watchdogs to forfeit over £360,000 of donations, The Daily Telegraph has learnt.The Electoral Commission is due to announce tomorrow that it is launching legal action to recover 68 separate donations made to the anti-Brussels party by one of its main backers.

Alan Bown, a retired bookmaker, gave the cash between Dec 2004 and Jan 2006.

But election watchdogs have apparently discovered that Mr Bown, who also runs a bath-robe company, was not on the electoral register during that period.

Under the Political Parties, Elections and Referendums Act 2000, individual donations are invalid if the donor is not registered as a UK voter when the money is given.

In a letter sent to Bruce Lawson, the Ukip treasurer, the commission confirmed that it “will be proceeding to apply to court for the forfeiture of £363,697 in respect of 68 donations from Mr Bown made during the period December 2004 to January 2006”.

A separate donation of £4,000 from a company called Nightech Ltd in May 2005 is also being pursued.

Under the law, any forfeited donations go to the Treasury and are not returned to the donor in question.

The threat has stunned Ukip leadership which admitted that forfeiting a third of a million pounds would effectively leave the party penniless.

John Whittaker, the party chairman, said: “Have we got this sort of money? Of course, we haven’t.”

They’re blaming it on a ‘simple clerical error,’ whatever that means, which maybe doesn’t say much for their ability to run things but putting a political party out of business over a cock-up — there seems to be no doubt that Mr Bown was a UK resident at the time, who could have registered to vote if only he’d thought to.

Mind you, it seems distinctly strange that someone should give all that money to a party and then not bother to get himself registered so he can vote for their candidates, but I suppose that’s his business.
Update:   Mr Eugenides makes the very fair point that

If UKIP are to be taken to the cleaners over what everyone agrees is nothing more than a technicality, then I see no reason why the Electoral Commission should not be lubing itself up to give the Lib Dems a brutal reaming, either

over the £2.4 million they received from Michael Brown.   The Times, I see,  reported back at the end of October that the Electoral Commission, following a High Court ruling, were considering demanding the money ‘within weeks’ which, since the Lib Dems don’t have that sort of money, would apparently make their party members liable for the sum.   I suppose it’s somewhat complicated by the fact that the Electoral Commission have, at least according to the Lib Dems, conceded that they had been misled by Mr Brown and

it was reasonable for the party to regard the donations from 5th Avenue Partners as permissible on the basis of the evidence available

that is, that he’d effectively made fraudulent representations to them that 5th Avenue was a bona fide company and they’d been taken in, but it does seem to be taking the Commission rather a lot of weeks to decide what to do.

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  1. I don’t know the full details of the laws on this kind of thing, but it sounds to me like what’s needed is to impose an audit to get this all sorted out. If it’s a clerical error, fine, but if it’s not then UKIP must be dealt with in accordance with the law.

    Comment by rainmanlite — February 23, 2007 @ 12:53 pm

  2. I don’t know the details of the law on this, either, but it rather looks as if it’s an all or nothing exercise; I could well be wrong, but I think the Electoral Commission have the discretion whether to go after the money in the first place, but I think all they can go after is the full sum and the Courts can’t vary the amount.

    This is what happens when you have, in effect, fixed penalties; I’m ready to bet that no one voting for this legislation envisaged a situation in which a political party risked bankruptcy because of a bona fide mistake.

    Comment by notsaussure — February 23, 2007 @ 7:01 pm

  3. Thanks for clearing that up. And personally, I wouldn’t be surprised if several persons voting for this legislation not only anticipated it but rubbed their hands with glee at the thought of eliminating some inconvenient competition…

    Comment by rainmanlite — February 24, 2007 @ 5:10 pm

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