Tuesday, 12 February 2008

zzzzz....

Recess is quiet. Too quiet. You can almost hear Wendy Alexander's anguish at yet another donation scandal all the way from Paisley. Almost.

One thing I want cleared up on the Wendy front. I'll forget for a minute that she (intentionally or not) broke the law, did not declare the donations to the Electoral Commission and used a front organisation to raise funds for her 2003 election campaign. I want to know why Wendy's press conference last week was allowed to proceed in a committee room of the Scottish Parliament.

Section 7 of the MSP Code of Conduct states that:

7.5 Use of Services of Staff of the Parliament

7.5.1 Staff of the Parliament are employed by the SPCB to provide an impartial service to the Parliament and its Members. Members should not ask Parliamentary staff to act in any way which would conflict with or call into question their political impartiality, or which could give rise to criticisms that people paid from public funds are being used for party political purposes.

Now, by those principles, wouldn't those people involved in setting up the press conference be seen to be used for "party political purposes"?

The Electoral Commission can argue that it wasn't in the public interest to prosecute in this case (I disagree, you won't be surprised to know) but there is no way that anyone from any party can argue that it was in the interests of the Parliament to hold a press conference in which an MSP gleefully accepted the Electoral Commission's findings on their own premises. That was a party political event.

As it was hosted by the Labour party, have we any reason to expect the Electoral Commission - or any other public body for that matter - to investigate?

Unlikely.

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