Today’s newspapers brings a bumper crop of new allegations, defences and updates relating to MPs and money.
On the Labour side, it is Wendy Alexander and Gordon Brown who are in the spotlight.
Wendy Alexander has been under investigation because her campaign for Labour Scottish leader accepted an illegal overseas donation. This has already forced one Labour frontbencher in the Scottish Parliament to quit that post. Now, as the Sunday Herald reports:
WENDY ALEXANDER has been reported to the procurator fiscal for failing to register her leadership campaign donations. Dr Jim Dyer, the standards commissioner, has sent a report to the area fiscal in Lothian and Borders after concluding there was evidence the Labour leader broke the rules on declaring gifts. She now faces a police investigation and possible charges if the fiscal concludes the offence warrants a criminal sanction.
It’s not clear if Gordon Brown is in hot water, although he has been reported for the sub-letting of an office. You might think this is straight-forward, as these sorts of sub-lets have been banned for several years now; however he may have a good defence:
A source in Mr Brown’s constituency office said: “We checked this leasing arrangement twice with the [parliamentary] fees office. “The second time, they advised us it should be changed and we were happy to do so straight away. There was no question at any stage of taxpayers’ money being misused, and indeed we took painstaking steps to ensure that was impossible, including changing the leasing arrangement.”
If the first time around the Parliamentary authorities said the arrangement was all ok, that would be a very strong defence. But that isn’t quite what the source quoted said, and there are some loose ends here (such as, why ask twice?).
There is a parallel here with George Osborne, who defended himself against a failure to declare almost £500,000 in donations to the Parliamentary authorities with a similar, ‘we were told it was ok’ defence. In his case, closer examination revealed that wasn’t really the full story.