Friday, 22 February 2008

Whitewash #2

And so this week, with little fanfare, no use of a parliamentary committee room and as little media coverage as they could manage, the Electoral Commission came to their second conclusion on Labour party donations in two weeks. Their verdict? No further action shall be taken against Charlie Gordon, Labour MSP for Cathcart – the man now infamously solicited the £950 donation from Jersey-based businessman Paul Green.

It has come as no surprise to me – or indeed anyone with any connection to politics in Scotland that this would be the case. Not because I don’t think there was merit in investigating the case, but because it was the Electoral Commission that was doing the investigating – and their conclusion on the Wendy case made a different conclusion in this case unlikely. I better explain that comment, lest I be accused of libelling the good name of the Electoral Commission.

I understand that the Electoral Commission is an independent organisation, and having them investigate the crime which was committed (potentially) prior to handing it over the fiscal was sensible given their (relative) expertise in the subject matter. I have to say, for the public looking on, having politicians effectively protected by a body which then decides if they should be investigated does appear a bit like one rule for the rulers and one rule for the ruled.

Putting that aside, did anyone believe that after the Electoral Commission’s verdict on Wendy (which, strangely, was investigated before Charlie Gordon’s case, despite the fact that it was his breach of the law which implicated Wendy) their findings would be any different on the Glasgow Cathcart MSP? I mean, once they’d declared Wendy had taken “significant steps” to mitigate her responsibility for breaking the law, how could they then recommend that Charlie Gordon face prosecution?

And that for me has been one of the many flaws in the process. Both ADMITTED they had broken the law. Yet they have the luxury of being investigated by an independent panel who then decide if they should face criminal prosecution, yet decide that it is not in the public interest to prosecute this breach of the law. I’m sorry, but the ‘common’ man who faces prosecution for an offence he inadvertently or unintentionally committed why is this different? Too much protection for elected representatives and not enough for the ‘McChattering’ Classes.

Maybe this is the sleaze that Nicol Stephen thought he could smell…

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