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Transparently still in trouble

Nick Robinson | 10:07 UK time, Monday, 14 January 2008

A simple principle would, we were told, clean up politics. That principle was "transparency". In other words if voters can see who gives a politician or party substantial sums of money we can judge for ourselves whether the donor's got anything for his money. Sounds simple although, in practice, has proved anything but.

George OsborneThe story about the half a million pounds in donations given to George Osborne rests, in part, on the fact that transparency is policed in two different ways. It's the job of the Electoral Commission to publish and police the list of donations for elections - both internal party contests and those between parties. It's the job of the Register of Members’ Interests to publish the lists of donations - cash or in kind - to individual Members of Parliament.

The Tories registered the half a million with the Commission but not with the Register. Why? They say that this was because the money was given to the party centrally and, even though the donors asked for the money to be channelled to Mr Osborne's office, it was spent by party HQ and not by him directly. Now the Tories have asked the parliamentary authorities to clear up what they claim is confusion about how the Register works. Critics will say that he should have registered the money - if only on the precautionary principle.

Peter HainPeter Hain's problem is very different. He did not give the Commission or the Register any details of the over £100,000 in donations to his deputy leadership campaign until last week and admits that he only looked into his own accounts after the row about Labour's secret donations from David Abrahams. His defence is that his campaign was incompetent and that he's now been open about that and apologised for producing his accounts late. What he won't do, however, is answer questions about why thousands of pounds were channelled to his campaign via a think tank that's never done any thinking. The suspicion must be that, until the Abrahams affair broke, the intention was to use the think tank to channel some funds anonymously. A suspicion, however, is not a fact.

So, all now rests on what the Electoral Commission and parliamentary authorities say or do. Gordon Brown made that clear in an interview with The Sun this morning. The prime minister praised his minister - "Peter has done a great job and it would be a great loss if he had to leave the government. He took his eye off the ball and he has apologised" - before preparing the ground to bury him if necessary - "The matter must rest with the authorities, who will look at these matters. It would be my expectation that he will carry on in government."

PS. The principle of transparency may be simple but the operation of the rules is anything but. If politicians want fewer alleged scandals in a system which they insist is better than most they'd be well advised to simplify them fast. I investigated this in the radio documentary that I made about party funding which was broadcast just before Christmas. Unfortunately it's no longer available to listen to but you can read about it here.

Comments

  • 1.
  • At 11:06 AM on 14 Jan 2008,
  • Kendrick Curtis wrote:

No-one in this government seems to take responsibility for their own actions anymore. We need recall votes so that politicians can be thrown out if they refuse to leave.

  • 2.
  • At 11:15 AM on 14 Jan 2008,
  • Oliver wrote:

The George Osborne problem raises a very interesting issue - should perhaps there be one body involved with all party funding to simpify the system - that would mean simple mistakes like that will simply not happen.

Peter Hain however, is bang to rights - just like the others. Simply enough he (his campaign - which he is resposible for) has broken electoral rules and therefore surely has to resign?

Politicians are supposed to set an example for the rest of us, yet this is seemingly more and more like the Tory collapse of the 90's; from which it has taken time to recover!

  • 3.
  • At 11:16 AM on 14 Jan 2008,
  • Bill wrote:

Thank you for acknowledging my (unpublished) request for "balance" about Hain and Cameron/Osborne. What your blog shows that despite individual donors requesting that the money should go to GO's office it was spent by Tory HQ! It also shows that all the officials at Tory HQ didn't know (or didn't care?) what the rules were, neither did GO and presumably DC - it beggars belief he didn't know about the donation.
Now about balance. Despite writing about GO/DC - which you try to explain away - you then bring PH back into the article. You didn't mention that both the Mail and Mirror are alleging other shadow ministers are in similar problems with donations. May I suggest that rename Nick Robinson's Newslog to Nick Robinson's New Slog.

  • 4.
  • At 11:21 AM on 14 Jan 2008,
  • Philip Bannister wrote:

I think the only reason a person gives money to a political party is because that person wants something more in return; eventually.
Couldn't we give our M.P.'s each the same amount of money to spend, then they could buy what they want, or swap it between themselves for special occasions.

  • 5.
  • At 11:26 AM on 14 Jan 2008,
  • Anthony J wrote:

What has been uncovered so far about the Conservative Party donations and Mr George Osborne seems to be far more serious than they make out. It seems to be a scheme set up by the political leaders and officials of a major party to deliberately avoid transparency.

Take for example that a rich and powerful busnessman wanted direct access to an ecomonic minister, and hence his economic policies. Under this scam he just makes a large donation the party HQ (declared) then its passed on to the minister(undeclared). No direct link, no transparency.

I understand that it's the member of parlament's responsibility, and no one else, to declare all money, good and services in kind he receives and In the same circunstances Mr Willets declared Mr Osbourne did not, I ask what did he have to hide. Why not declare then get a ruling.

My concern is that the media and press will buy into the woolly explaination by the Conservative Party and not investigate fully. We can see the beginings of this on the Today programme this morning, and Robinson's newslog.

  • 6.
  • At 11:34 AM on 14 Jan 2008,
  • David Ginsberg wrote:

I think that the prime minister has actually played this one very well. He needs to be seen as running the country rather than sorting out the Labour party. He has given Peter Hain support in his capacity as a minister but not endorsed his political judgement. If it turns out Hain has messed up, Gordon Brown can wash his hands of him without too much fall out. He will be seen as having been fair as he has let the relevant authority judge him rather than make a rash politically expedient sacking. I don't think it will bother too many in Labour party if Hain goes as if the Sunday papers are to be believed he is a far from popular figure.

  • 7.
  • At 11:53 AM on 14 Jan 2008,
  • MarkC wrote:

We'll have State - dammit, I mean taxpayer - funding of political parties yet. Then how much will the greedy and unprincipled who're too incompetent to look after £100k here and a few grand there, decide to vote themselves?

After all, there'll be the big new office, commensurate in quality with the dignity of the Party, then there'll be the staffing, then there'll be several senior posts paying, ooohh, let's see, say £150K a year for disgraced politicians to languish in whilst their career is "Mandelson-ed" following some disgrace. The budget could be millions..... but there's plenty more money where that came from, eh?

If Hain could be shuffled off to some Party sinecure at the taxpayer's expense, I suspect he'd be gone by now.

  • 8.
  • At 11:55 AM on 14 Jan 2008,
  • Roland Howe wrote:

It's very simple. All politicians' offices should record and publish ALL DETAILS of their accounts every year, just as small businesses have to.

I have to keep a detailed record of all my income, expenditure and expenses, and must be able to justify and document EVERY item if called upon to do so by the Inland Revenue. Why do politicians not have to do the same? They are public servants, so the requirement for transparency is in fact far more relevant than for small businesses.

What's really doing damage to Hain in my opinion is his evasiveness. Just a single statement on the matter, with no questions allowed, is not really enough to stop people thinking he's hiding something. In the last few years government figures have become less and less prepared to make themselves available for interviews when they're in trouble, but sooner or latter the constant barrage of "no minister was available for comment" will mount up in the public's mind.

  • 10.
  • At 11:59 AM on 14 Jan 2008,
  • Jay, London wrote:

Hang on, any second now you'll have lots of NuLabour supporters foaming at the mouth about the Tories' reverting to old ways, hypocrisy etc.

Fact is, Conservative HQ sought a ruling from the authority they thought relevant. Clearly a mistake has been made, but not by the Conservatives. Did any of the NuLabour set approach the authorities for a ruling?

But it won't stop the rabid masses. Since when did facts have any influence or importance?

  • 11.
  • At 12:03 PM on 14 Jan 2008,
  • L Kelly wrote:

The general public cannot understand why politicians seem to be a rule unto themselves. What Mr Hain has done (he has admitted it) is a criminal offence. Poor Joe Public is never given any leeway (35mph in a 30 limit and you are guilty), so why the debate about pressures, and the rules are complicated?? It would help if commentators were a little more clear about the law of the land and behaviour of our politicians. (Do not make excuses for them).

  • 12.
  • At 12:21 PM on 14 Jan 2008,
  • Michael, Geneva wrote:

From what I have read elsewhere, you do not seem to have not fully explained the case with George Osborne.

According to these explanations, he did not register it because the officials at the Register of Members's Interests told him it was not necessary to do so. Your article suggests that he made this decision himself. Do you write in this way because you question his explanation? If so, why do you do so? Do you think this is a bigger scandal then immediately appears to be the case? From my initial understanding it seems to be a very minor matter, as the initial donations were registered and the Conservative Party were simply funding the activities of one of their senior officials.

Peter Hain's would initially seem to be the victim of his own incompetence - although it is quite an admission for a cabinent member to make. However, the way the funds were channelled is very dubious.

The next question will be...

Who's going to pay back the £25,000 loan on behalf of Peter Hain? I can't see him putting his hand in his own pocket. Not even MPs have £25k worth of loose change.

  • 14.
  • At 12:44 PM on 14 Jan 2008,
  • Robert wrote:

It stinks if people who run this country cannot or do not know the rules god help us all.

It looks like plain old fashioned greed to me.

  • 15.
  • At 12:48 PM on 14 Jan 2008,
  • David Evans wrote:

Nick, I thought you did a good job putting this in perspective on the Today programme. As is often the case, this is not as simple as people believe, and the assumption that all politicians are crooked and dirty is institiutionally useful, but not true!

  • 16.
  • At 12:52 PM on 14 Jan 2008,
  • Stephen wrote:

Nick,

The BBC needs to be consistent when reporting the Osborne angle to this story. I listened with great care to a BBC report over the weekend that stated quite clearly the Conservatives had contacted the relevant authority concerning the registration or otherwise in the Register of Members Interests. The report stated that the Conservatives have an email from the relevant person confirming that registration was not required. In other words they sought advice and acted on that advice.

Are you saying that this did not happen, in which case the earlier report was wrong? If the report is correct, why does your blog not clarify this point? Transparency, that is all I am looking for!!!

  • 17.
  • At 12:53 PM on 14 Jan 2008,
  • Tom Melly wrote:

I remain "confused" by politicians. Is it really that complicated? Declare all monies and all donors to all bodies, and let the bodies decide which declarations belong in which category.

The constant whining of politicians about these funding scandals seems to amount to "I thought I was allowed to bend the rules in this way".

That said, Hain seems to be falling back on the old "I'm incompetent and stupid" (always seems a bit of a lose-lose tactic that one, since you are either seen as trying to hide something dodgy or you really are a twit).

Some advice to MPs - if either the donor or the arrangement of a particular sum of money is something you feel tempted to hide, then take that as a good indication that you should probably not accept the money.

  • 18.
  • At 12:55 PM on 14 Jan 2008,
  • Tim Jones wrote:

According to Robert Peston's blog today US Bank JP Morgan are paying Tony Blair US$5 million a year for his advisory services. Robert Peston says that he has found this out (ie it wasn't declared by Tony Blair). This during a banking crises which may have been lessened if tougher regulation on the banks had been in place.

Whatwever the intention of the bank which was probaly just to get hold of Mr Blair's contact list rather than to influence current government policy, what message does this send out to G Brown and other top officials about pots of gold on retirement and looking after banks?

Is there a register where former cabinet ministers have to disclose such things? If not, there should be. Even if Tony Blair's new job has no influence whatsoever of government policy during this banking crisis - and it shouldn't, are we ever going to believe that it hasn't?

Surely this is more important that Mr Osbourne and Mr Hain's current troubles - even though they should not be brushed under the carpet either?

  • 19.
  • At 01:00 PM on 14 Jan 2008,
  • Adam Williams wrote:

The only way we will get transparency is if there is public funding of political parties.
Take the money away from the parties have an independent body provinding the money.
This could then remove the malign influence of rich vested interests who have held back politics in this country for far too long.
But, of course, I am sure both parties would even then try and bend the rules and make it dark once again.

  • 20.
  • At 01:07 PM on 14 Jan 2008,
  • Pete Crockett wrote:

The radio programme you did was excellent and highlighted how party funding is a problematic issue for all political parties. Your highlighting the need to simplify the system is spot on. Stephen Pound's analogy that "people in glass mansions" should not throw stones seems particularly apt after the George Osborne affair. Finally, it would be nice to see our leader of the opposition showing a greater eagerness to engage in a bi-partisan approach to solving this problem.

Agreed. Why didn't Osbourne just play it safe and register the donations everywhere he could?

There is a desire here on the part of politicians and their advisors to give away the least possible amount of information to the public, rather than be genuinely open.

The question that will always arise, because of this, is 'what do they have t to hide?'.

  • 22.
  • At 01:28 PM on 14 Jan 2008,
  • Des FitzGerald wrote:

Both of them are a disgrace.

On one hand the worry is that Peter Hain is either too stupid or too lazy to take the time to find out who exactly gave his campaign money. Not to mention that he needs to explain what on earth cost over £180k and if it cost him that much how much did it cost the others and who footed their campaign bills?

As for Osbourne - the very fact that he asked anyone if he needed to declare donations says it all.

Every single penny donated, given, loaned to any politician or political party should be declared in fully audited accounts.

The idea that someone can claim they do not want anyone to know they gave money to a party is unacceptable.

The only way to resolve this is for state funding and a cap on expenditure. Also the parties still have sizeable membership bases so why doesn't each memberp ay a monthly fee and that way each party can pay off it's debt and secure funding.

Labour claims to have about 160,000 members so if they all pay at least £10 a month that's £1.6 million a month income or £19.2 million a year so over a 4 year term that is a whopping £76.8 million - so it begs the question of why any party needs donations and what on earth they spend their money on?

The same applies to every other party.

Any party reforms also need to include reforms to MP pay and expenses and their pensions and the way they finance constituency matters as well.

Politicians have shown that none of
them can be trusted to be honest about the money they receive or claim until pushed into a corner.

Peter Hain only came clean when cornered and while the Eton Toffs were laying into Labour they knew they had issues but kept stum until that was discovered.

Enough is enough. State funding will cost a few million - it's a small price to pay so that the few honest politicians might get a chance at getting to the top.

  • 23.
  • At 01:47 PM on 14 Jan 2008,
  • Neil Small wrote:

I don't think George Osbourne's failure is really down to his fault, but a fault of the system.

However......Peter Hain is an absolute disgrace. He holds a senior position in Government yet is "distracted" by his job. He is obviously not up to the role if that is the case. If he is unaware of funding used for his campaign, how can we be sure is aware of what happens in his department?

His failure to resign is shocking. What sort of image of western democracy does this project to the rest of the world? had he any honour he would have resigned immediately. I'm quite sure he can survive financially.

  • 24.
  • At 01:55 PM on 14 Jan 2008,
  • Sam Brown wrote:

Sam Coates (http://timesonline.typepad.com/politics/2008/01/the-osborne-e-m.html) has e-mails that suggest Osborne's innocence. Perhaps an update of your blog is in order Nick...the case against Hain is solid and hardly in league with this weak case about Osborne.

  • 25.
  • At 01:56 PM on 14 Jan 2008,
  • John Constable wrote:

In a perverse way, I'm glad that the Tories are having their own 'difficulties' with this matter because it supports my notion that it is the 'party system' itself which is at the root of these problems.

Maybe one day, the English people will wake up and smell the proverbial coffee.

  • 26.
  • At 02:41 PM on 14 Jan 2008,
  • Justin wrote:

The Tories are so hypocritical it beggers belief.

The key point here is why didn't they just register the money (almost half a million squid!) if only as a precaution? Why did'nt Andrew Marr put this to David Cameron yesterday? Surely you'd regiser the money just as a precaution... unless you've got something to hide.

What did they think? "Oh, the guidelines aren't very clear so let's not bother worrying about registering this colossal donation."

They lecture the Labour Party about transparency and the need to to be careful yet the Tories fair no better.

There is no excuse for this. The Conservative Party should be banned. They can't be trusted to do anything. Their hypocrites. They all look shifty. They all come across as patronising. They're all mean, greedy, money grabbing snobs who think there's rules for them and different rules for everyone else.

Next time the Tories ask Peter Hain about a "dodgy" donation he should say "You are having a giraffe aren't you?" and proceed to explain why they are in no position to judge him or hold him to account.

  • 27.
  • At 03:00 PM on 14 Jan 2008,
  • Eddie wrote:

It is quite clear that George Osbournes donation was given to the Conservative Party, and was fully declared. The question arises as to whether the fact that the money was earmarked for George Osbourne, then meant he had to separately declare it, and, it appears the authorities were unclear on that matter themselves.

Hain was totally different. In September the Labour party disclosed a donation from Hain (the 15% tithe that he had to pass from his fundraising). As the donation must be disclosed within 30 days of receipt it suggests that the donation was given in August / September.

How did he pay this tithe?

Well, it would appear from all that he has said, that it was paid for out of new fundraising, after the Deputy Leadership election finished, where he realised there was a massive overspend.

Hain, it has been reported, has admitted that he solicited the donations.

So, far from being distracted by Northern Ireland and Wales, in July / August (a time that Parliament was in recess) Hain was raising funds and meeting his obligations to Labour, it was only his legal obligations to disclose the gifts that were overlooked.

  • 28.
  • At 03:10 PM on 14 Jan 2008,
  • David wrote:

Let's see. George Osbourne sought advice from the relevant authorities, acted on that advice, and published the details.

Peter Hain did nothing and kept it covered up until forced to break cover.

Why is the BBC persisting with the Osbourne story and trying to equate it with what Hain did?

I agree with L Kelly above that if Hain has broken the law he should be punished. If I don't declare the majority of my income to the tax man I'll go to jail or at least face heavy fines. Politicians assume that they are part of a ruling class that is above the law.

BBC news pundits and commentators are afraid to directly challenge politicians effectively because they're worried they'll lose favour and wont get juicy morsels of news in the future. The whole thing is a sham and the BBC is an office of government soft sale to the public.

He's guilty, and so, unfit to serve in public office.

  • 30.
  • At 04:32 PM on 14 Jan 2008,
  • DK wrote:

Osborne did use the precautionary principle!!! He told the Registrar of Members interests and they said it shouldn't been declared because it was central office money used to pay for Osborne's central office staff. The Registrar's office said they were only concerned with constituency office money. What is Osborne to do? Follow the instructions of the Registrar or follow his own set or rules! Isn't this how we want politicians to behave?

  • 31.
  • At 04:37 PM on 14 Jan 2008,
  • Ian wrote:

Nick

Its not like you to let FACTS get in the way of a good story. Please feel free to correct me but this is my understanding of the FACTS:

The Conservative party received money and declared this to the relevant body. George Osbourne asked the relevant body if he needed to declare this money once he had received it and acted on that advice.

Peter Hain didnt declare over £100k to anyone until forced to do so. Most of the money came through a Think Tank that no one has heard of and has never produced anything.

and what do the BBC do? They try to link the two stories together. Whats wrong Nick, worried the Conservative Party might actually win the next election?

  • 32.
  • At 04:46 PM on 14 Jan 2008,
  • Anthony J wrote:

Further to my earlier message
It seems that some e-mails between the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards and the Conservative Party were released to the press yesterday (13th) My first question is, are these all the exchanges between the two parties, or just what the Conservatives want us to see? Secondly why have the BBC not published these in full?

It was most interested to note that the first e-mail was sent on the 6th Dec 2007, the subject being overlap, even though Mr Osborne had been in receipt of the funds from at least the begining of 07. Why the delay in questioning overlap? If there was nothing to hide, why not declare all and let officials resolve the overlap question.? Simple.

The commissioner aso make it quite clear that their e-mails 'does not absolve Members from responsibility for being aware of, and complying with their obligations under the Act. Nor can this office advise, expect ingeneral terms, about the requirements of the Act' Its quite clear, declaration or not, is the sole resonsibility of the MP and no one else.

All I hope is that the BBC and the rest of the media do not take the Conservatives at face value, and allow Mr Cameron to brush off this most serious matter. It not only effects Mr Osborne but other members of the Conservative front bench. Mr Cameron needs to come clean. What is good for NuLab. LibDems is good enough for the Conservative Party.

  • 33.
  • At 04:51 PM on 14 Jan 2008,
  • Krishn Shah wrote:

Good piece Nick. You're absolutely correct to say that the two situations are completely different.

However this whole debacle does show the lengths MPs appear to be prepared to go to in order to maintain the anonimity of their donors.

I sincerely hope that we don't end up with a state funded system because I don't want to think my taxes are funding
the BNP etc.

There should be a limit on individual donations and an annual limit on the amount a party can raise. This would hopefully eliminate attempts by wealthy individuals to influence the "likely winner" in an election year.

  • 34.
  • At 05:50 PM on 14 Jan 2008,
  • George wrote:

This government wrote most of the current rules on political fundraising. Given that so many of the intelligent people involved in fundraising seem to have failed to understand the full ramifications of the rules then we are lead to one of two conclusions - either the entire political class is deeply dishonest or the rules themselves were poorly written.

Complex though the funding rules are, my guess is that they are no more complicated to follow than, say the rules governing tax credits or any other means tested benefit. Only when this Government tries to follow its own rules does it seem to realise just how bad it is at writing legislation.

Take any recent initiative you like - tax credits, reform of the NHS, single farm payments, PFI, ID cards or even the ban on fox hunting, the theme that unites them all is that the rules governing them have been accused of being so complex as to be almost impossible to follow.

The really damning truth is not that Peter Hain is incompetent nor even dishonest. The truth is that the entire government is very bad at making up the rules. (Keen students of government bungling in this regard will recall the Legislative and Regulatory Reform act which would have made it possible for ministers to amend and tinker with any piece of legislation they liked on their own authority and without parliamentary scrutiny.)

  • 35.
  • At 07:30 PM on 14 Jan 2008,
  • Andy wrote:

Nick

The attempt to equate the Hain and Osborne situation is absurd.

Osborne's failing,if any,was to put the fact of the same donations into the public domain once instead of twice - and that as a result of following guidance from the appropriate source. The donations to Hain's campaign went entirely undeclared.

This Labour government are like Newcastle United in reverse. Expectations of the standards to be met by NUFC are have been raised so high that no manager can last very long before resigning or being sacked.

In the case of New Labour, the stadards expected are so low that it is has become increasingly difficult to conceive of any situation which would result in the resignation or sacking of a minister.

  • 36.
  • At 10:37 PM on 14 Jan 2008,
  • Ralph wrote:

I'm a little confused about the entire sorry saga

It is against the law to fail to declare donations to the electoral commision. By his own admission (albeit dragged out unwillingly), Hain has broken the law. Why is he still in his post?

In any other profession, a word best used with caution when describing politicians, at the very least a person under suspicion would be suspended until their name was cleared through a court of law. I am also unclear if there is a criminal investigation already under way. Surely this is one that could bump up the conviction stats, he's already said he is guilty. Even the worst of our coppers couldn't fail to gather enough evidence.

My final point is that there seems to be a general feeling of "it's a bad law anyway". This may or may not be the case but it doesn't make it optional to comply with. I happen to think that 70mph on a motorway is a bad law but still abide by it. Let's not forget that both NuLab and the Tory's managed to extort £130K each from us poor taxpayers to teach themselves how to compy with their new law.

Truly, you couldn't make this stuff up. What happened to "whiter than white"?

We should decide in Britain to pay a certain amount of tax for election money equally divided and then watch the parties try to come up with the best campaign like Alan Sugar on The Apprentice.
Seriously we should say you all get 1 million pounds each now make your campaign. At least they wouldn't hire some silly designer or guru who has a portfolio of losses with one victory behind them.
People may snigger but until we agree to scrict explicict rules we shouldn't moan when these stories come up.
I used to pinch paper clips and A4 paper from the office and it's just a matter of scale really.

  • 38.
  • At 04:56 AM on 15 Jan 2008,
  • Robin Hunter wrote:

Perhaps instead of Deep Cleaning the dirty hospitals around the country Mr. Brown should consider "Very Deep Cleaning" his own party to get rid of the dirt however it might need more drastic action as the dirt seems to be in the DNA.

Labour bloggers have tried to paint Osborne in a similar colour to Hain, but as you rightly pointed out Nick the two situations are worlds apart.

I'm confident Osborne can shake this off, while Hain is in serious trouble.

http://lettersfromatory.wordpress.com

  • 40.
  • At 08:11 AM on 15 Jan 2008,
  • Terry wrote:


Blog writers do seem to be getting themselves in all kinds of twists in trying to match the Osbourne saga with that of Peter Hain. You don't have to be a brain surgeon to see that on the one hand, Osbourne's donations were declared, althopugh should have been declared "more"; and Hain's were not. Full stop. In point of fact, the convoluted route by which Hain received his donations was always going to be a source of trouble and it'll be interesting to learn exactly who decided on that way of dealing. And the inference of blame on "administration" is a pretty poor show, actually. For someone in high office seeking to spend loads of money you'd have thought that two things would have been at the top of the agenda: 1. How is the money going to be raised for the campaign? and 2. How is that money to be accounted for? It stretches credulity a little too far to suggest that proper accounting was simply forgotten about. I also think it's been pretty insincere of the Beeb to link the Osbourne/Hain events in the way that it has. The early news reports almost made the two events sound exactly the same to the casual listener or veiwer. Do you remember when Labour were once up in arms because a Tory once didn't register the free use of Lord Archer's gym? If that's the measure of a story for Auntie, then the Hain thing surely has a lot further to go.

  • 41.
  • At 10:58 AM on 15 Jan 2008,
  • Robin wrote:

Quite obvious now that the only thing lacking a 'best practice deep clean' is the government itself.

  • 42.
  • At 11:24 AM on 15 Jan 2008,
  • Phil wrote:

"but the operation of the rules is anything but"

Yes, wasn't it being said that whilst it's the Party Chairman who has to sign off on accounts of donations it would be hard to prosecute under the electoral legislation as he could just plead ignorance of any illegalities later found in those accounts. Thus making the whole legislation singularly pointless I would have thought!

They *do* have lawyers involved when they make new laws, don't they? Or is that the problem?

  • 43.
  • At 01:54 PM on 15 Jan 2008,
  • Malcolm wrote:

Given that even the irrepressible Charles E Hardwidge has failed to make an appearance on this thread to offer support for Peter Hain, he must really be in trouble, or as one labout backbencher is quoted as saying; "Toast".

  • 44.
  • At 03:21 PM on 17 Jan 2008,
  • gavin wrote:

The only thing that IS transparent is that Labour HQ's strategy on this is to muddy the waters to make it look like it's all politicians so the man in the street doesnt see the specific link to the Labour Party.

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