Burying our head in the sand over Brown
The Party is satisfied by it’s auditors that we are within our legal rights not to repay any money donated to us by convicted fraudster Michael Brown. However, this is not an issue that only has legal dimensions; it must be considered from a political angle and within the context of our wider commitment to ‘clean-up’ politics. Many people have rightly cheered Nick Clegg’s policy initiatives, however on this issue; and let’s be honest what you do is more important than what you say, Nick’s position is less than awe-inspiring.
In some ways this party has become a victim of Brown’s mis-deeds in the sense that it now find’s itself and it’s reputation open to question due to receving monies I genuinely accept were taken in ‘good faith’. However, it is well-known that the road to hell is indeed paved with good intentions; especially in politics you very rarely get kudos for ‘good faith’ and our leadership should be aware of this and be simply seeking to address this issue much better than it currently is.
Sadly, for Brown’s true victims I would doubt the logistics of repayment being possible so in that context i accept that this won’t happen and am not calling for it; however, what grates here is the legalistic way this argument is being dealt with. While we cannot publicly accept fault without making us liable for repayment I think there are simply better ways to deal with this and an expression of sympathy for the victims of Brown can be made without conceding culpability.
It would also not harm us to promise to do better in the future; good points are made on Liberal Vision’s blog about the logistics of proper checks and balances but also they hint at possible solutions when they talk about the existence and roles of the various inner-party committees. I feel within these committees the capacity must exist to set-up better scrutiny mechanisms, calling on the expertise and dedication of our members, and this is something that should defiantly be addressed. If the capacity does not exist to do this then I am inclined to feel a little like Mark Littlewood on Liberal Vision that we need to have a long, hard think about how our party is structured.