Sunday, July 15, 2007

You say political donation, I say business transaction

The Ealing Southall by-election is getting rather funnier by the day. Allegations about possible lawsuits, and now we have "Tory candidates donates to Labour less than a month ago". Well that's the line Labour have pushed, which is understandable, elections and all.

It seems what has happened is that Tony Lit in his position as MD of Sunrise Radio, and his wife, attended an event which was celebrating diversity and was actually a Labour fund raiser with Blair and presumably other great and good Labour people too. They, that is Sunrise Radio had paid the Labour Party £4800 for a table at the event. Apparently the table also won an auction which it has yet to pay for with a winning bid of £4000.

There are of course some who would say this is evidence of shameless opportunism by Tony Lit. Weeks before he became the Tory candidate he was "donating" money to Labour. I think some perspective is needed on this though, after all, it was a business identity that was attending an event which, essentially, was a "here's a chance to lobby the Government" event as well as be seen in the local community and maintain a friendly business profile.

Whilst some people might call it a donation, anyone with a modicum of business understanding knows that the £4800 will be seen as a business transaction rather than an act of generosity. In fact, I would be surprised if it wasn't written off in the Sunrise books as part of a relationship building expenses ledger. One thing's for sure, personal political views won't have been a factor in the decision of whether to attend or not.

And to be fair, it sort of beggars belief that an event about diversity and the British Asian community would not have the nations largest Asian radio station in attendance in some way. The chances are they were probably contacted by the Labour Party and invited, rather than it being active participation the other way round. At which point a business decision was made to attend, because, funnily enough, from a business point of view it was absolutely the right thing to do.

Those of a more tribalistic persuasion might find this hard to stomach. Obviously a Labour tribalist won't buy such an argument because it (a) doesn't suit the situation to do so and (b) they're probably a public sector housing officer that doesn't understand the dispassionate nature of making a business decision. A Tory tribalist meanwhile will probably understand the point, but just see it as an excuse to blame Cameron some more I imagine.

There is one final thing to consider though. The Labour Party have (presumably thanks to Tom Watson and Joan Ryan who are dealing with their by-election strategy) just sent a message to businesses around the country that it will (a) breach a trust it may have with them and (b) use them as a political football if it's expedient to do so.

In the short term they've created a story on a Sunday when the polls look horrible for Tories, a double whammy, and politically a great hit (even though the story is devoid of any sanity really). But, in the long term, they've probably just ensured that they're not going to get a decent hearing on the largest Asian broadcaster in the country for some time to come.

17 comments:

Chris Paul said...
15 Jul 2007 13:17:00  

Well, £4800 is not the correct price for a Labour seat in parliament, not in either chamber. How much has Sunrise/Lit/Gang given or promised to DC? If anything I must add, naturally.

Anonymous said...
15 Jul 2007 14:09:00  

You write a lot of sense, Dizzy. I sincerely hope that Mr Lit gives Labour (and the Lib Dems) a good kicking on Thursday. The chances of winning are remote, but any Labour majority less than 2,000 would be crap for them.

Back again, Chris Paul?

Bob Piper said...
15 Jul 2007 16:18:00  

Are your grapes even more sour than usual this morning, dizzy? This is a tremendous story and... we should thank you for printing it at a time when most Tory bloggers are just too embarrassed. Of course, everyone knows that the Tory bloggers wouldn't have said anything at all if a Labour candidate had bunged 'Dave' the best part of ten grand in a corporate donation, but really, your defence, known in chess circles as The Iain Dale defence (i.e. Labour will be worse off whatever happens) is pathetic but still funny.

Have a nice holiday.

dizzy said...
15 Jul 2007 17:03:00  

Bob it's not a defence. I'm just saying that were I a businessman I would probably attend a Labour fundraiser if it was clearly in my businesses interests to do so like this event appears to have been for Sunrise.

Also, I'm willing to bet money that the cost of the table is written off under some sort corporate relationship expenses system rather than as a donations to political funds - that's not to say the as yet to be paid money won't be of course.

However, if you can get past your tribalism, plus your trade union addled anti-business mindset, you'd realise that in the real world this sort of stuff goes on all the time. In fact, I bet if every single penny was accounted for in all party political funding streams you would see a number businesses donating to more than one party and thus hedging their bets.

You're right to say it's tremendous story, certainly from a political campaign point of view. But from an intellectually honest view it's not so much a story as just what happens when large businesses play the corporate networking political power crossover game.

The idiot politicos who see everything in terms of politics see it as endorsement; whilst the businessmen see it as business and part of transaction. When Mrs Mop down the street donates a tenner to a local party, THAT is a donation. When a large businessmen starts splashing the cash to a political party (any political party) you don't think he's doing it because of altruism to the cause do you? You're surely not that naive Bob.

Anonymous said...
15 Jul 2007 18:30:00  

There is something underhand here though. As with this week's Wembley love-in with sports people that was a Labour fund-raiser (apparently this was not known by some of the sponsors), people are sucked into supporting an event to show their interest in the feel-good cause espoused but then can be characterised as Labour Party supporters - and are definitely made into Labour Party donors whether they support that party or not.

Bob Piper said...
15 Jul 2007 23:01:00  

But when a man who claims to be a 'liflong Conservative' not only attends the function, giving Labour a much needed £4,800, and then his business pays another £4,000 to Labour in the raffle, don't you think he would mention it to his pal Dave who got him selected?

And you've got the brass neck to suggest I'm naive... well, I certainly ain't that naive!

Anonymous said...
16 Jul 2007 02:17:00  

His Dad was also present and the family was sharing table with Ealing North Labour MP Steve Pound.

Sunny said...
16 Jul 2007 03:05:00  

Of course this kind of stuff goes on all the time. I don't think anyone can argue against that.

You're also right in saying it boosts Lit's profile enormously.

I do however think its interesting that he was at a Labour dinner and I'd ask whether he has donated any money to the Conservatives in the past. Because it would then indicate whether this is all shameless opportunism or is he actually dedicated and passionate about the Tory party cause.

Do you really want the Tory party to be populated by opportunists in search of a seat, or people who will add to the party intellectually and mentally because they sincerely believe in it? Not that I'm saying Tony is an opportunist, just asking whether this piece of news puts his loyalties in doubt.

Mike Wood said...
16 Jul 2007 06:58:00  

If this is a political donation then maybe we should be looking at the two donations - worth a total of £17,500 - in 2002/3 by Birmingham International Airport to the Labour Party.
http://tinyurl.com/29dyu3

The 7 local authorities in the West Midlands hold (and held then) a 49% share in Birmingham Airport. At the time, Labour controlled 5 out of the 7 local authorities (including Sandwell) and was the largest party on another.

Surely someone should be surcharged if local authorities were authorising large donations to the Labour Party. As a council tax payer in the West Midlands, I'm not happy that public funds should be used to fund the governing party.

Phil Taylor said...
16 Jul 2007 08:17:00  

I suspect that this will backfire on Labour’s drive to restore its shakey finances. Whilst political donations should be public who would be a Labour donor? Whilst someone has obscured the sorting numbers on the bottom of the cheque most donors would be horrified to see that an organisation they had supported revealing their banker and account name to the public along with the signature of one of their authorised signatories.

Tony said...
16 Jul 2007 10:23:00  

I think the whole matter shows the deliberate lack of clarity on the part of Labour.

Tony Lit - opportunist or naive

Like Phil, I think this story will backfire on Labour in the long term.

Bob Piper said...
16 Jul 2007 10:49:00  

Mike, were they donations... or the sum paid for the Airport's stand at the Labour Party Conference?

If the latter, was there a similar stand at the Conservative Party Conference?

Not trick questions.... I really don't know.

Croydonian said...
16 Jul 2007 10:58:00  

In my role as Dizzy's night watchman, I've gone for a sniff around the electoral commission's website and can find no reference to donations by BIA other than to Labour. It is described as 'cash'.

Newmania said...
16 Jul 2007 11:07:00  

Dizzy is about right on this. I can`t see why its such a big deal myself the timing and the way it can be presented is awkward but the the original event was not in a political context.
Its certainly not something I woud hold against anyone and I wouldn`t expect anyone in the real world to.
Tony Lit strikes me an an excellent fellow actually and it will be shame if this goes against him . I doubt it will.

Mike Wood said...
16 Jul 2007 11:21:00  

They were two payments in December 2002 and January 2003. There are no similar payments from BIA to any other party.

There don't appear to have been any donations since January 2003 and so, unless Labour treasurers were being overly-efficient in registering everything but then decided that such fees didn't need to be declared, I would not have thought that these were for a conference stand.

Interestingly, between May 2002 and January 2003, Manchester Airport / East Midland Airport Group (which is owned by the 10 local authorities in Greater Manchester) donated a total of £78,000 to the Labour Party. They had earlier given £6,748.02 to the Lib Dems, which sounds as though it could have been for a stand or similar but I would want a pretty big conference stand for £78k

Maybe they were just paying for a table at a fund-raising event?

tapestry said...
16 Jul 2007 12:43:00  

My experience of attending fund-raising political events with local businessmen is that it becomes a matter of pride to be seen to be rich enough to chuck the most stuff about. It's a kind of status auction, where you show what a big shot you are in that you can throw £10,000, when your pals down the road only throw £1000.

In terms of personal PR I doubt any £4800 has ever bought so much publicity for a business in history. Sunrise Radio have certainly had their money's worth.

As regards local voters I don't think they will see much of a problem with it. They are more influenced by how well the Conservative Council is doing since they kicked out Labour last year. The £4800 is not a local issue.

Nationally the media are desperate to boost the Brown mini-bounce - publishing a dodgy ICM poll over the weekend, and trying to create embarrassment for Cameron over Lit. If he wins the seat, the embarrassmnet will land firmly in the Clunking Fist camp.

Schlieffen Plan said...
16 Jul 2007 15:14:00  

Phil,

Surely the point here is judgement.

What was a man who was in the process of being considered as a Conservative parliamentary candidate doing at a Labour fundraiser AND being snapped with the country's most unpopular politician just THREE days before his candidacy was confirmed by the party???

Surely it would have been better to have stayed away or just sent Dad with strict instructions to keep a low profile (AND not enter the raffle)???

In the remaining three days, our opponents will just hammer on relentlessly that whatever undoubted qualifications Lit has for the job...his judgement is suspect. I predict a Lab/LibDem close call for first...we will come a poor third.


 

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