Wendy Alexander resignation

June 29, 2008

Well she finally did the decent thing and resigned.

It was seven months ago the Sunday Herald broke the story about her dodgy campaign pledges.

Seven months since campaign manager Tom McCabe admitted live on television that she had broke the law in obtaining an illegal donation from businessman Paul Green.

Six months since we learned that she also broke the law when not registering these ‘gifts’ in the MSPs register of interests in due course. Jim Dyer, the Standards Comissioner, refers the matter to the Procurator Fiscal in February.

The Electoral Comission also decide in February that although Alexander broke the law over donations they would not refer the matter to the Procurator Fiscal as it was “not in the public interest”!

The Procurator Fiscal also announces that it would not be pursuing further action to the Standards Comissioner’s complaint in March.

The Standards Comissioner hands his report to the Scottish Parliament’s Standards Committee in June. They agree with the conclusions of the report which indicate that Wendy Alexander broke the law. As a consequence they ban Wendy Alexander from the Scottish Parliament for one day.

Wendy resigns. “It is with deep regret that I write today to tender my resignation following the decisions of the Standards Committee this week.”

It was a resignation speech which lacked grace and one which tried to blame her situation on nationalists citing “SNP inspired complaints and investigations”.

That is laughable. She broke the law, and the Standards Commitee has punished her by giving her a one day ban of the Scottish Parliament. In my book, that’s getting off lightly.

The Sunday Herald today quotes : “Seven months after the Sunday Herald revealed her dodgy donation… Wendy Alexander finally resigns.” and largely takes credit for instigating her demise. Hardly an SNP investigation or complaint – or did the Sunday Herald’s unionist editorial policy suddenly shift whilst I was on holiday?

There were nationalist supporters who complained about her illegal conduct. Rightly as it turns out – so what’s wrong with that? Alexander’s comments could be likened to a Scooby Doo villain complaining that they only got caught because of pesky kids.

Finally, the claim that she had asked clerks for advice on registration, and they told her she need not register the donations…

This was a quick email, an afterthought by Wendy Alexander. She had already not declared most of her donations in the thirty days grace period. She had already broke this law.

The advice given to her by the clerks may have been inaccurate, but since the law was already broken I suspect they had little incentive to check its validity. Besides, the rule for all donations and gifts they most often quote is ‘If in doubt, declare it’.

The email afterthought shows that Wendy Alexander had doubts; otherwise why ask their advice in the first place?

As the legally responsible person she could have just registered the donations anyway.

Blaming the Standards Comissioner is just a cop-out. He needs to be independent and seek independent legal advice. Otherwise he would just be investigating procedures and cases where he has a clear conflict of interest.

I’ll leave the last words to the Sunday Herald: “Her defence against the verdicts of the comissioner and the Standards Committee – that was told by the parliament’s clerks that registration was not unnecessary – was as weak as it was irrelevant.

“Alexander had asked for advice from the clerks in November last year on the status of her donations, 60 days after some of the campaign cheques had been banked, despite the law clearing stating that MSPs have 30 days to declare gifts.

“Put simply, Alexander asked for advice on registration well after she had broken the rules, a fact that rendered any feedback from the Standards Commitee as worthless.”

Much like her time as leader.

David Davis resignation

June 13, 2008

Its a win – win situation.

David Davis has made one of the shrewdest political gambles of his career.

In resigning from Parliament after such a contentious Labour win aided by the Democratic Unionist Party, and fighting as a candidate in the subsequent by-election, he now appears as a man of principle.

As Shadow Home Secretary you may have fought that he was in the right job to influence people’s minds on the 42 day detention, but although he may have won the moral argument in the Commons the vote still went against him.

Labour have been arguing that the public are behind them but as David Cameron said that doesn’t make it right.

Now standing on a civil liberties platform in the coming by-election he can give Labour a public vote that might just change the popular views in the UK, and destroy Labour’s public argument.

I fully expect David Davis to win his seat.

His closest rivals last time were the Liberal Democrats and as they support David Davis’ stance on civil liberties Nick Clegg has refused to put a candidate up against him.

Now it is up to Labour whether they will stand.

If they refuse, it will look as though they have been scared to test public opinion.

If they accept, odds are they will be humilated.

Its win – win for David Davis.

The public like politicans of principle. You may not always agree with them but at least they stand a corner and fight for their beliefs.

That’s why people like Tony Benn are so respected. His socialist views may be a thing of the past for New Labour but his views give us a true distance of how far this New Labour Government has travelled to the right.

You could argue that democracy needs this shading to work well.

The talk is that Labour won’t stand in the by-election and try to marginalise David Davis.

If that is the case then Kelvin Mackenzie, former editor of The Sun, has said that he will probably run, backed by Rupert Murdoch’s money and press.

Now a News International campaign against David Davis will certainly make the by-election more interesting.

I suspect though that Davis will still win against Mackenzie. It would take some sleaze or corruption angle by News International to make it a close race. Something which they will no doubt be looking into just now.

Much as I’d love Kelvin Mackenzie to win the seat and become an MP – everytime he speaks his anti-Scottish diatribe, the nationalist vote in Scotland soars. He’s a one-man Recruiting Sergeant for the SNP, SSP and Greens. In a political war he could be even described as a fifth-columist for Scottish independence! – the vote has got to go with Davis.

We have too few principled politicans in Westminster to afford to lose him.

Speaking of lack of principles let us turn to the Labour Party. They have bullied, dealt and perhaps bribed their way to win this vote.

There was media talk today of Gordon Brown offering would-be rebels: ‘What do you want in your constituency?’ and offering Labour MPs sitting on marginals safer seats come election time. One radio report said one Labour MP was offered the Governorship of Bermuda! Even bribes were suggested!

But it is the deal offered to the DUP that is the most interesting. The SNP will be watching with interest to see if Northern Ireland accrues any benefit from this deal, as this negates the Government policy of acting in the interests of the UK over a devolved administration. Labour couldn’t use that argument to argue against a Scottish oil fund for instance.

The Lord Advocate of Scotland, Elish Angelini, has said that she sees no circumstances where this law to come into effect in Scotland. The previous Lord Advocate, Colin Boyd, a Labour Peer no less, has agreed with her.

Given that any such extension to 42 days detention without charge in Scotland would need to be granted by the Lord Advocate then it can be seen that the law will be operationally defunct here in Scotland in any case.

If it comes into statute at all. There is enough opposition in the Lords to suggest that this bill will never make it to law. It will also be challenged on Human Rights laws if need be.

Which makes Gordon Brown’s posturing on this all the more remarkable.

He seems to have lost his leadership of the party somewhere over the Bermuda Triangle.

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