Sunday, 10 February 2008

Wendy Alexander and the dodgy fundraising

The Scottish Industry Forum - what larks, eh?
As reported on the front page of today's Sunday Times, Wendy Alexander has been at the naughties (read it here). Excellent piece of investigative journalism.

Naughty as in "This way sir, table for two? Yes, it's a very worthy cause, it's perfectly alright, I'll look after your wallet for you. Pardon? Oh, yes, all about improving the local area. Thanks very much."

Slip to the hip and nothing left behind. If you're far too busy to read the article (written by Tom Gordon who will no doubt have a stalker by now), what she was up to was this - she had a Labour front organisation known as the Scottish Industry Forum (it used to come up with cracking wheezes like organising surveys which showed that nine out of ten unionists opposed Independence) and she used the SIF to organise a couple of fund-raising dinners. The dinners were fund-raisers for Wendibles but the guests never knew - the guests thought they were attending fund-raising dinners to help fund the regeneration of their area rather than slip £12,000 into Wendy's pocket. That's why members of the Conservative party and members of the SNP were there as well as others who don't support Labour. I'll have to check with m'learned friend but I believe that this is slightly outwith the usual run of fund-raising activities.
There are the usual question about why an MSP was in need of a £12k bung, but let's leave that on one side for a while (left side or right side, I don't really care, I'm not sure it matters) and take une petite peek at something that was mentioned only in passing in the Sunday Times article - Ashflame.

Actually, Ashflame was only in the paper edition rather than in the online edition. Here's what it says (in its entirety):
In 2004 Alexander's office received £1,000 from Ashflame, a local property developer in her constituency, but did not declare it. As the threshold is "more than £1,000", the donation was a penny below the wire.
Who or what is Ashflame? Well, let's zoom in a bit. Ashflame has six planning applications into Renfrewshire Council - applications to build on Phoenix Retail Park - some of the applications seem a little dated. Lovely development, I'm sure - 8.37 hectares I think, thousands and thousands of square metres of retail units.

How much will it be worth? Well, Ashflame paid almost £28 million for the place in 2005 - before any development, and the bits already leased out bring in rental income of £709,280 a year - so far. I do hope that all donations will be properly declared before the applications are considered or were properly declared before the applications were considered.

You would think, though, that a politician who had a development of this size in their patch and got a wee bung from the developer would want to declare it even though it was a penny under the threshold, wouldn't you? Just for the avoidance of any doubt and the desire to maintain a reputation for honesty, you understand ... How do I know all this? That would be telling, wouldn't it? Anyone who wants to unburden themselves about Wendy's doings and movings should feel free to drop a line or two to - nothing to do with me, but I'm assured he'll do what he can to sort out politics in that area of the country.

A proper Renfrewshire Renaissance.


Anonymous said...

Is this the bunch you were hinting about last week?

Did you know all this?

Anseo said...

I read the piece in the Sunday Times, Foulkes was saying it was a Labour organisation yet Labour were syaing it was independent and nothing to do with them.

Bit of a concern seeing as Foulkes was in charge of the Forum at some point. Was Foulke in charge when ther cheques were signed?

Megz said...

i think some investigative journalism is required re the ashflame donation. In the case of SIF it will take more than that as i cannot find a trace of the existence of them, with the exception of the mori poll they commissioned.

PC Jones from St. Leonards said...

Was the donation a penny below the limit?

It surely should have been declared as a gift in the register of member's interests as The Scotland Act 1998 (Transitory and Transitional Provisions) (Members' Interests) Order 1999 says 250 squid not 1000?

Does that mean that an offence has been caused under section 39(6) of the Scotland Act 1998 by Ms. Alexander taking part in proceedings of Parliament?

I think I will have to investigate this further.

Calum Cashley said...

I knew a tiny bit about SIF - nowhere near the detail that was in the article.

I wasn't aware that Lord George was a heid bummer of this organisation at any point - must have a wee look at that.

SIF has gone to the big dubious poll in the sky as far as I'm aware. I believe it began as part of the prawn cocktail offensive and outlived its usefulness when Labour no longer felt a need to reach out to anyone at all (except in terms of tapping them for cash). Not being a journalist means I don't have the abilities those fine fellows do, but the name appeared in the article, so I imagine there's a watch being kept on it.

I seem to remember that she did lodge a note in the register of interests (it gets wiped at every election), but it referred to dinners being held in her name if I remember rightly.

megz said...

wendy seems to get alot of donations from companies and devolopers doesn't she. I noticed tesco and porcelanosa are among those. I also noted that tesco has two new shops proposed for paisley. What i did find odd though was that renfrewshire council had been trying to evict certain types of companies from hillington (specifically tile companies) around the time we see the new swanky tile shop porcelanosa came onto the scene. Could just be a freak coincedence.

Calum Cashley said...

I think you're probably referring to the list of 'look at me, I declare everything' donations on Ms Alexander's Register of Interests, but I think that any politician who was prepared to beg would get these small donations.

I don't think the actions of Renfrewshire Council will have a direct connection, she appears to think of herself as being above getting involved in local politics. Perhaps someone in the area will be looking into the to-and-fro of the councillors to ensure that all of these dealings are above board. I'm sure they will be, of course.