Tuesday, August 07, 2007

UKIP Relief as High Court Finds Against Electoral Commission

In February the Electoral Commission ordered UKIP to forefeit a £350,000 donation after it was disclosed that the donor, Alan Bown, was not on the electoral roll at the time of the donation. I argued HERE at the time that the fine was disproportionate, saying...
Farage is right when he says that the legislation was drafted to catch illicit foreign donations. He alleges it is all down to a simple clerical error. Well, up to a point. It is actually illegal not to put yourself on the electoral register, and we should not ignore the fact it was down to UKIP to ensure he was actually on it. This partly explains why UKIP's accounts are so late. It is clear that UKIP knew this was going to be an issue and have spent the last six months attempting to persuade the Electoral Commission to give them nothing more than a rap on the knuckles.There is also the issue of fair play here. It was quite right to fine them for the late submission of their accounts, but it is certainly arguable that the punishment of losing £367,000 was far worse than the crime. Their was no attempt to deceive, the donor was British and it was fully declared, albeit late. The question for UKIP now is whether they can afford a Judicial Review. I am no lawyer, but it is certainly a case that is ripe for one I would have thought.

Today the High Court found in UKIP's favour and against the Electoral Commission. UKIP have to forfeit only £18,000 of the original donation. The Electoral Commission has responded by saying it was "disappointed" that UKIP wouldn't have to fordeit all the money. "This is the first time that the law on donations has been tested in court. We will study the judgment carefully and will consider whether to appeal. Public confidence in our democracy depends on political parties abiding by the rules. The commission will continue to intervene where necessary to make sure those rules are followed."

As readers know, I hold no brief for UKIP but there has to be fair play here. The High Court made the right decision today.

48 comments:

Teesbridge said...

So that's the LDs off the hook as well then.

Still, if anything goes on party finances, we might at least be spared state funding.

C4' said...

A triumph for libertarianism

Stuart said...

Yet again, UKIP get away with it on the grounds that they are a young party and don't know the rules.

What is the point of having laws and rules in the first place

Jim said...

SSSShhhhhhhh Dont mention Conservative donor who has accused David Cameron of an "arrogant, Old Etonian" style of leadership and said he would give the party no more money.
Sir Tom Cowie, who has paid £630,000 to the Tories over the past six years, said he had become "disillusioned". SSSSHHhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh

Iain Dale said...

Jim, what a timely intervention. I am in the middle of writing a piece of Comment is Free on this, which will be published this afternoon. Patience is a virtue.

Jim said...

Why are you all so jumpy about UKIP. Could it be that the demise of UKIP could see their brethren return to the Tory fold. The fruit cakes returning to the Bakers shop.

C4' said...

In terms of political pragmatism, the original fine against UKIP would have been a boon for the Toriess.

However, as a principaled libetarian, I'm glad that UKIP got off with a lighter fine as they do provide the Tories with some credible (yes, UKIP are credible) competition for the all-important libertarian vote.

Liberal Republican said...

"What is the point of having laws and rules in the first place"

So, they can be broken?

jimbo said...

On a different note, does anyone know why Nick Herbert seems to be appointing an entire new staff on w4mp?? Was it a walk out or mass culling??

Stephen Newton said...

Now they can back to work splitting what's left of the Tory vote. Hurrah!

Iain Dale said...

Jimbo, had you noticed he has just been appointed to the Shadow Cabinet?! A Shadow Cabinet member gets at least three extra staff. His secretary is still there, but his longtime researcher was already leaving. Hope that clears up any conspiracy theories which you may have wished to start!

no longer anonymous said...

"However, as a principaled libetarian, I'm glad that UKIP got off with a lighter fine as they do provide the Tories with some credible (yes, UKIP are credible) competition for the all-important libertarian vote."

Except that UKIP are generally seen (rightly or wrongly) as authoritarian conservatives. I know they're trying to promote a more libertarian image but to many people they're still the "BNP in blazers" brigade.

jimbo said...

haha, thank you Iain. I didnt know short money went that far!! I like to
keep a tab on things on w4mp-funny which members seem to go through staff and why though.

aardvark said...

Jim 1.49 PM
Conservative donor ...said he would give the party no more money.
Sir Tom Cowie, who has paid £630,000 to the Tories over the past six years, said he had become "disillusioned".


Probably miffed because £630,000 should have bought him a peerage, not a mere knighthood.

Lord Trafalgar Rock Pigeon said...

Fair comment, Iain.

David Lindsay said...

Ardvark, Sir Tom Cowie lives in a stately home on the outskirts of the country town where I am a longstanding Parish Councillor and have just given up two school governorships after two terms. He is an immensely generous benefactor of the local community, especially in the field of education. So don't be cheap, because he certainly isn't.

Liberal Republican said...

"A triumph for libertarianism"

Are you suggesting UKIP are a libertarian party?

C4' said...

More libertarian than the rest.

Hughes Views said...

This is hugely disappointing. Three hours gone and not one commenter has suggested it's all a NuLab plot to keep UKIP viable in order to steal a few Tory votes...

PS When do you think that commenters will start to realise that typing 'NuLab' "was quite amusing when [it was done for] the first time [about a decade ago]. Now it is getting a bit monotonous...”. I'm surprised that you haven't mentioned it Iain. Hasn't anyone put you up to it as yet?

Stuart said...

Iain,

A Shadow Cabinet member might get an additional advisor from the Short money, but there is no money for three additional staff.

Iain Dale said...

Stuart,
I think Nick Herbert is the best person to judge how many staff he needs, don't you? It's nothing to do with Short Money. For all you or I know he may have raised funds himself.

Jim said...

aardvark said...

Probably miffed because £630,000 should have bought him a peerage, not a mere knighthood.

August 07, 2007 3:46 PM

Oh dear... do you not read the news, "Cash for Honours" was thrown out.

If your man can only expect a mere knighthood under a Camera On government, are you admitting that Cash for Knighhoods is OK during a Tory term

jimbo said...

I'm sorry Iain, I was happy with your answer that as part of the shadow cabinet he gets extra staff-but if its not from short money and can't b e all from HoC expenses I find it hard to believe that an MP could raise over 60k and for staff, that and it doesnt and seem to be related to his Justice portfolio? I just hope he has enough parliamentary passes to give out and space in his office...

David Lindsay said...

Good God, you Tories should listen to yourselves! Wasn't this thread originally about another party? You're like a student union! In this as in several other regards...

David Lindsay said...

UKIP is saved, so the Lib Dems are saved, despite their much bigger, much dodgier donor. The Lib Dems are, after all, part of the junta; more so now than ever, in fact, with Ministers in all but name.

No wonder the Creepy Electoral Commission is put out. It was told to kill off UKIP, it dutifully constructed a thoroughly passable case for doing so, and then it turned up to find that someone higher up had worked out the consequences and changed the script.

Still, UKIP will carry on killing itself off anyway, without any need for outside help. As will the Lib Dems.

Sea Shanty Irish said...

Getting back to the principle of the thing, I agreed with Iain at the time that the Electoral Commission ruling against UKIP was excessive, and am glad that it has been significantly reversed in the courts . . . which nevertheless are forcing UKIP to cough up a substantial sum of coin.

My chief concern was the prospect of massive financial penalties being used to stifle small political parties. Also the fact that the actual infraction appeared rather technical in nature. In such a case, seems to me that a less onerous penalty would be a fairer outcome. Think that's Iain's position, and likely why the court decided as it did.

NOTE that the judiciary is quite rightly regulating both UKIP and the Electoral Commission. My guess is, if the offense had been more deliberate and serious, that in turn the ultimate penalty imposed would have been much harsher. Leastways that’s the way I'd like to think the British courts still operate most of the time . . . when not confronted by a Fenian outrage or an outrageous Fenian.

OF COURSE humbly acknowledge the total absurdity of a US citizen commenting on UK political financing!

As for practical impact upon next election, really doubt there's much there there. The UKIP vote is unlikely to cost the Tories more than a handful of seats, which won't be enough to make much of a difference one way or the other.

wonkotsane said...

Glad they've seen sense. Amazing how the collaborators at the Illiberal Dimwit party can get away with blatantly dodgy donations with barely a batted eyelid from the Electoral Commission but when UKIP makes a genuine mistake they roll out the big guns and try and bankrupt them. Regardless of whether they'd found against UKIP or not it wouldn't have worked because a supporter had pledged to pay the fine, cover the lost donation and pay any costs.

tapestry said...

Why would the government try to kill off UKIP? Without UKIP's 2%, Labour would not have a majority in the House of Commons (assuming UKIPPERS are 90% once-Conservative voters) or would have a majority in single figures.

The BBC always trot out Nigel Farage for a comment on European affairs - and ignore Conservative spokesmen hoping to filch a few more Conservative votes.

Labour have done very well out of UKIP fracturing the eurosceptic vote. The last thing they want is to bring UKIP down.

Newmania said...

Tapestry that is certainly what I have read that in fact the existence of UKIP is a disaster for the Conservative Party as it tips so many marginals against them.
Now the Conservatuve Party is solidly sceptical I really cannot see the justification for UKIP at all and you remark about the BBC is a revelation.

Of course they would like the right to be balkanised

Geezer said...

"OF COURSE humbly acknowledge the total absurdity of a US citizen commenting on UK political financing!"

Or anything else for that matter! Another long and pointless post from another waste of cyber-space, who hastily looks stuff up on Wikipedia and then hope it makes sense!
This blog is getting to be a refuge for cyber-space's waifs and strays, however irrelevant they are to the subject matter.


UKIP are electoral detritus, feeding off a handful of idiots who can't get it through their thick heads, that it is merely helping Labour, who are a lot more Europhile than the Conservatives. Funny how most of UKRAP's attention and resources seem to be targeting Conservative marginals/targets, and so help the Lib Dums and NULAB (just for Spew's Views) win more seats even though the Conservatives are the most Eurosceptic of the main parties!! Wonder what UKRAP's real intentions are? because it seems a funny way to go about halting European integration. What a bunch of Tossers!

Jeremy Jacobs said...

Common sense prevailed.

Jeremy Jacobs said...

Newmania

You posted "Now the Conservatuve Party is solidly sceptical I really cannot see the justification for UKIP at all and you remark about the BBC is a revelation".

It might be in Kettering but not elsewhere.

tapestry said...

ahem yes Geezer. Especially now Nigel Farage has signed up UKIP to a cross party grouping in the Euro Parliament which is committed to Subsidiarity.

If UKIP are about Withdrawal, how can they claim to believe in subsidiarity? It's bonkers.

This move has split the party even further than it was split before, with Nattrass (former Chairman) and Knapman (the previous leader) furious with Farage for breaking away from the original Party principle of UKIP - viz. withdrawal from the EU.

Of course the BBC never mention this when they interview Farage. You only find such things on the UKIP website.

But UKIP does not believe in the 'I' or the 'UK' any more. It might as well just be the P.
UKIP are being targeted by the BNP now, but at least Cameron need not worry too much about the BNP.

The BNP policy profile and culture is far more appealing to left wing voters.

Many UKIPPers should return to the Conservatives now that Cameron is putting up a fight against the Constitution. He is pushing for the Referendum every day as is Hague.

If Cameron would add to that that Conservatives will be campaigning for a NO vote, he'd be the best eurosceptic ticket in town by a long way.

The question is 'will hague permit Cameron to take the final step?'

Johnny Norfolk said...

The attraction of UKIP is that they would give us a referendum on thr EU. ( I see Mr Slope is under investigation again )

What is the Conservative position on a referendum ?

Newmania said...

GEEZER-This blog is getting to be a refuge for cyber-space's waifs and strays, however irrelevant they are to the subject matter.

I was just thinking that and have just posted as below .Not that there aren`t some really tremendous contributors as well ( and I do talk balls myself sometimes ahem...)


BTW Am I the only English person commenting.? I seem to be the only Conservative and I am getting a bit fed up with nothing to look at but attempts to sabotage Iains blog with gibberish.
It used to be that we had a solid basis of discussion with a bit of moon-bat brown sauce on the side .Now its all brown sauce and bugger all nourishment. I`m queasy

Jeremy Jacobs said...

"Many UKIPPers should return to the Conservatives now that Cameron is putting up a fight against the Constitution. He is pushing for the Referendum every day as is Hague".

Nonsense.

and what will the question on the referendum say?

Hague, who in 2001 said , In Europe but not run by Europe" - as another commentator said, it's a bit like being in Wormwood Scrubs without being run by Wormwood Scrubs.

Matt said...

So that's the Electoral Commission and the Standards Board both rendered toothless, if not neutered, by the Courts then.

Thank god for our independent judiciary in the face of the most authoritarian, repressive and anti-democratic Government of the modern era.

Newmania said...

Jeremy - The fact is that UKIP can only deliver us the Brown Reich. adn it cannot take us out of Europe.

I understand and somewhat sympathise with its aims but to actually hand the country over to the socialists ?

Jeremy Jacobs said...

How can you blame UKIP for the failings of the Conservative Party. You've brought it on yourselves.

If you want UKIPpers to return to the Conservatives (many UKIPers were formerly Labour supporters) I suggest you get your party to adopt candidates who wish to see the removal of Britain from it's EU membership.

BTW, a UKIP government would repeal the 1972 European Communities Act, Maastricht et al.

Jeremy Jacobs said...

Tapestry

What do you want Farage to do?
Continue to ally himself to groupings seen as "too right wing"

Newmania said...

How can you blame UKIP for the failings of the Conservative Party? You've brought it on yourselves

Jeremy there are many things about the Conservative Party with which I am" conflicted" but I recognise that it is by far the least bad with many good instincts.
Your claim that UKIP has support from Labour is not born out form my meetings with members and attendance of various events .It is the BNP that is Labours Nationalist Achilles heel.
The Conservative Party has to pull together a broad coalition to defeat the Labour Parry which has become interested only in Power by any means chiefly disinformation and a new level of cynicism in trying to manipulate the media .
That has to stretch from Liberals who distrust the state and like the "conservation" aspect of Conservatism to the large C Conservatives which is basically what UKIP are.
I do not doubt that the Conservative Party and UKIP could cooperate but we have a first past the post system and at the moment a vote UKIP is a vote . If this means any more to you than football team support you must see there is a problem and a hard question for UKIPERS to answer. All of this is made far harder by Brown the lying Scotsman producing a raft of fraudulent initiatives designed to confuse the centre.
Meanwhile the Left and Unions lick their lips at the cream shortly to come their way. Against such low uncompromising amoral anti democratic opposition ,compromises must be made on the right. You have to negotiate with your values. They have none

Newmania said...

a vote UKIP is a vote Labour I mean

tapestry said...

jeremy jacobs. if UKIP stands for withdrawal, it cannot also stand for subsidiarity. I'm not asking NF to do anything. His inconsistency of principle is losing him credibility.

tapestry said...

jeremy jacobs writes - 'I suggest you get your party to adopt candidates who wish to see the removal of Britain from it's EU membership.'

Problem is, jeremy that UKIP espouse different values to that now by joining the subsidiarity bloc.

If NF was principled he would stand alone, give up all the EU's money but stick to his beliefs to the last.

The Conservative Party is strengthening in its euroscepticism as much as UKIP is weakining. NF has muddied his own waters.

Chris Paul said...

I agree Iain. This is the right decision. If this man wants to waste his money on backing UKIP let him do it.

The Electoral Commission should start doing their job properly in other areas. For example policing the spending during the live period at elections so that parties do not get away with exceeding these - in some cases by an order of magnitude and more.

This is done in collusion between the warring parties but particularly in by-elections, in marginals and in far fetched attacks that become surprise wins for the party shifting unfeasible amounts of paper.

At Brighton conference 2005 I asked the representatives of the EC whether they carried out the most fundamental analysis of the norms of a general election budget.

How much per leaflet by quality.

How much 'phone time.

How much for temporary offices.

And so on.

Serious anomalies should then be investigated.

Parties should also be required to submit examples of every single print item they produce (or tardily distribute) in the course of the live period.

There should be a clamp down on fibbing. Fibs repeated after they have been identified should attract serious fines - perhaps even enough to allow all other parties to finance an extra leaflet.

And so called parliamentary reports should be tied to a few weeks either side of a particular date which should be suitably distant from known election timings e.g. Euro, LG and parliament/assembly elections.

These are paid for by the tax payer
and so should not have an ounce of party political leverage in them.

Elected reps should not be able to place paid for adverts in their party's literature.

And all individual donations above a certain proportion of someone's wealth or income should require a process of independent legal advice to prevent the exploitation of weakness and the application of duress to supporters.

From a lawyer or an accountant. Yes, this person can afford this amount; yes, their family are in agreement; yes, they understand what they are doing; and yes, it is clear whether the contribution is a gift, a loan or a combination.

Chris Paul said...

PS Is it really an offence not to register to vote? If so is it ever enforced?

James said...

Iain,

The ruling by the High Court was not that the 'fine' was disproportionate - it was about the permissibility of specific donations; impermissible donations had to be repaid and the High Court did not challenge that.

What it did was narrow the period in which the fines were to be regarded as impermissible, down to the three month period between Alan Bown learning he wasn't on the register and him getting back on it.

What the Court has ruled is basically that ignorance is a legitimate defence in party funding law. Without the law now being revised, that leaves a massive potential loophole in the legislation which is open to abuse.

The problem with the ruling is that it has rendered a black and white rule into shades of gray. Now, I might agree that the system as it stands is crap - the Commission ought to have a role in determining the permissibility of major donations BEFORE they enter party coffers. But the High Court ruling was poor. Hopefully, it will lead to a change in the legislation, but only by fatally muddying the waters. The point of judicial rulings is to provide clarity, not the opposite.

David Lindsay said...

Half of UKIP's vote at the last Euros must have come from Labour people.

Look at several of the areas where they did well (London, the North West, Yorkshire and the Humber, the two Midland regions) and add their totals to the Tory ones. You'd get a very improbably high figure if that would ordinarily be the level of Tory support in those regions. But it wouldn't be.

If it hadn't been for Neil Herron, UKIP might well also have won a seat in the North East.

Incidentally, all the people on here saying that the Tories are Eurosceptical, keep taking the tablets. Not that they seem to be doing you any good.

Just be grateful that Brown has ruled out a referendum, so you won't get the spectacle of your "Leader", Michael Heseltine's mini-me, campaigning for a Yes vote against Frank Field and Kate Hoey on the No side.