While leafing through the Electoral Commission’s register of donations to political parties we find a most unusual couple of entries.
It seems that the Bristol Labour Group – an unincorporated association registered at the Council House – made two donations amounting to exactly £10,000 to the Bristol North West Constituency Labour Party this year.
Due to boundary changes, the Bristol North West seat, currently held by Labour’s Doug Naysmith, is likely to be a marginal seat at the next election and the Tories appear to be throwing considerable resources into the area for their well-connected parliamentary candidate Charlotte Leslie.
Now it seems the Labour Party are doing the same for their London-based Oxbridge lawyer candidate, Lambeth councillor Sam Townend (Blogger Passim). No problem there really. If the Tories have the mysterious Lord Ashcroft throwing money at marginals why shouldn’t Labour do the same?
Well the difference is, although we might not like it, at least we know who the Tories’ money has come from. We don’t with this Labour donation.
As an unincorporated association, the Bristol Labour Group – which presumably consists of Bristol’s Labour councillors – does not have to present any public accounts. We therefore have no way of knowing the origin of this £10,000. Hardly the best example of Helen’s Holland’s new “open and transparent” regime is it?
Moreover this is an awful lot of money to raise. Are Helen and Peter Hammond down at the Whitchurch Car Boot every Saturday? (Er, not any more. They shut it down last month! Ed) £10,00o works out at £400 per councillor, a considerable amount of money if they’ve donated it themselves, particularly for a group that has fought some tough and expensive local election campaigns themselves this year.
And are Helen and Peter aware that unincorporated associations are liable to Corporation Tax? So let’s hope the Inland Revenue have been fully informed about this Labour Party fund apparently awash with cash.
And while everything may well prove to be above board in this particular case, the process that Holland is running for donating money to Bristol’s Constituency Labour Parties is easily open to abuse. How do we know – given the current climate in the Labour Party – this unincorporated association isn’t being used as a conduit by an individual donor wishing to hide their identity?
We don’t. There’s no publicly available checks and balances in place. We have to instead rely on trust! The Blogger will be delving deeper into this . . .