So, I've just read the report that was published regarding the whole furor over the post on Anna Raccoon's blog about Andrew P Withers. It's in a few places on the web, but the version I read was here:
It does come across as a bit of a hand-wave. Take point 7 for example, which is I think the thing that most people are worried about. There's no consideration of whether the accounts have been suitably managed, and the fact that it's taken over four months since a new treasurer was appointed and the books still haven't been handed over is "far from ideal and must not be allowed to happen again." This is something that crops up a few times in the report - things aren't ideal, mustn't happen again, but there's nothing to worry about.
The thing that really got me about point 7 was the complete indifference to the contents of the financial records. Apparently there are two options, either "The NCC may take the view that as the Electoral Commission has given the accounts submitted to them a clean bill of health (A1 in Andrew's words), there is no more to be said and we should consider the matter closed" or they could have someone carry out audits of the accounts over a number of years (which would be costly). The thing is, the Electoral Commission will sign off the accounts as long as they look ok, but they have no real idea what they're looking at. If someone puts down that they took thousands of pounds of expenses that sound legitimate (which is what worries people), the Electoral Commission will likely take them at their word - they're not going to request receipts or go over the accounts with a fine-toothed comb.
At the very least, whoever did the report should have looked at the accounts. Money in should be donations, membership subs and loans, and money out should be payments on loans and genuine expenses (and the expenses should ideally be documented with receipts on file). Furthermore, we're always campaigning for more transparency on expenses from MPs, at the very least we should do the same with the party - is there any valid reason not to publish the money in and out?
The rest of the points in the report don't seem to actually say a lot. For example, point 8 says something was done wrong and "should be regretted". Point 9 says that the matter should be investigated thoroughly, "... and, if true, not allowed to be repeated. It is the antithesis of libertarianism." Similar phrases can be found throughout.
Point 10 rather misses the point. Yes, the party should ideally have it's own address, but if the person who runs the website is the same person that deals with the post, then we'll still have the same problem. Ideally, the whole of the NCC should have their email addresses on the site as a minimum so that people can raise concerns. I know that people are busy, but we can't afford for one person or a small group to have a stranglehold on the communication channels.
The party is in dire need of some help. Right now it's falling apart, and without transparency, honesty and good communication I think it's days are over.
I was a member - My membership lapsed last year. I was planning to renew once I had a bit more money (I got married a little after becoming a member and money has been rather tight ever since) but now I don't know if I'm going to bother.
I really want there to be a Libertarian Party - problem is that the more I hear from some of the people involved in this fiasco, the less sure I am that this ever was a Libertarian party...
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