Electoral Commission accused of “deliberate plan to damage Ulster Unionism”

In the Sunday Times, Liam Clark adds some of the missing detail on the secret UUP account which, as noted here on Friday, led the Electoral Commission to ask the police to investigate the UUP’s finances [actually he adds it twice – Ed]. The account seems to have been in the United States and contained $21,000 (£11,362) from a New York fundraising dinner in December 2004. Also noted in the report is the current suspension, on full pay for undisclosed reasons, of the UUP Chief Executive, Will Corry, and that there is an executive meeting scheduled for Friday. Meanwhile the UUP’s treasurer, Ken Maginnis, has reacted angrily to the decision to ask police to investigate, accusing the Commission of “bully-boy tactics”.From the Sunday Times report:

In a letter to Hillary Mundella, the commission’s director of operations, he[Maginnis] expresses outrage at “the grossly unfair and profoundly vindictive approach of the Electoral Commission on this matter”.

A party spokesman said last night that Corry was in Spain attending his daughter’s wedding, and that no further comment would be made on the subject of his suspension.

Corry’s predecessor, Lyle Rea, had left his post after complaining on two occasions about the party’s financial records and accountability. Some party sources say that Corry had also expressed similar reservations.

The Ulster Unionist leadership points out that the sum of money involved in the second account is small and that it was not used for electoral purposes. It believes that the commission’s action is excessive. Maginnis has accused the body of a “deliberate plan to damage Ulster Unionism”.

Maginnis has also asked for a meeting with Peter Wardle, the commission’s chief executive, and Sam Younger, its executive chairman.

Maginnis’s letter, which was posted yesterday, warns Mundella: “I will not stop short of referring to the matter on the floor of the House unless I get a full explanation as to why the UUP has been singled out, its financial prospects undermined and its decent members humiliated.”

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  • eddie

    No doubt yet another Industrial Tribunal awaits the UUP and hit the already depleted financial resources.

  • Crataegus

    No one needs a plan to damage the UUP they are good enough at inflicting self wounds.

  • BooBoo

    1: Corry will not go down without a fight and he will drag the UUP through the mire to protect his own reputation. My understanding is that he knows where all the bodies are buried.

    2: At long last the Party Executive and the grassroots may begin to ask the really crucial questions—not least of which is why their party now has debts in the region of £500,000 and counting. Some of them may even take the chance to visit the Electoral Commission’s site and note that the UUP’s own auditors raised a “fundamental concern” about the true state of the party’s finances.

    3: The Commission may also take the opportunity to ask the PSNI to follow a paper trail which may lead to the shining of some light on the possibility that Blair back-channelled money to the UUP at the time of the 1998 referendum.

    4: There is a possibility that if three of the UUP’s Officer team resigns (in protest against the Corry suspension) it could force an emergency meeting of the UUC—as required by their constitution. That, in turn, could spill over into the Ervine business.

    5: At an event last night (some of you may know that I am in communications and PR) I had a very long chat with a UUP member. He believes that Reg (or Surreal Empty as he refers to him)has absolutely no authority anymore within the party–a hostage to Maginnis in the Officer Team, and a hostage to Kennedy/Cobain/Copeland in the Assembly Group. He (the UUP member) refers to Hermon as “The Queen Over The Water” but claims she doesn’t want the leadership and nor does she want it to go to McFarland. He wouldn’t be drawn (or maybe she wouldn’t tell him)on whom she would endorse.

    To be honest, I’m not sure that the UUP is salvageable:

    It has huge financial problems

    It has huge image problems

    It has no obvious (if you restrict the list to MLAs, MP, MEP and Councillors)leader in waiting.

    The PUP/UVF business has done lasting damage and still hasn’t gone away after five weeks.

    It is dying on its feet.

    It could be looking at losing three chief executives in as many years.

    The Electoral Commission stuff will open the floodgates at local level.

    It no longer looks like a credible political party.

    It looks like some sort of intra-unionist realignment is the only available option and maybe that is the only way of keeping the spirt/legacy of the UUP alive.

    BooBoo

  • Garibaldy

    BooBoo,

    Your list could mostly have applied to both Labour and the Tories over the last decade and a half. Perhaps a bit early to write off the UUP altogether. But it does need to sharpen up and act more coherently, and with s stronger vision. A bit of democratic centralism might well be the key.

  • BooBoo

    Garibaldy—the difference is that even in their darkest days the Labour and Tory parties were always taken seriously by the media!

    The UUP is just incapable of grasping the nettle of reform and modernisation. It has very little discernable talent among its key players.

    BooBoo

  • Garibaldy

    BooBoo,

    The modernisation question was fudged during Trimble’s reign. he should have made that his first priority after he took over, then many of the post-GFA problems within the UUP with the incessant UUC meetings etc and the consequent deepening sense of crisis could have been avoided.
    I agree that few visible people of talent are around, but the same can be said of the Tories, in my opinion. They may emerge from somewhere, though the decline of political membership, and the further withdrawal of the unionist bourgeoisie does make the situation more difficult.

  • Sean Fear

    Unlike the UUP, the Tories are now by far the biggest party in British local government, and have more members than Labour and the Lib Dems combined.

    I wouldn’t deny that much of the Conservative front bench is pretty flakey though.

  • Garibaldy

    Sean,

    The UUP mightn’t be the biggest, but they’re far from insignificant. They remain a very significant political force at all levels (save perhaps Westminister), and it’s much too early to say they should disband. Why surrender to the DUP? It looked finished not that long ago.

  • Elvis Parker

    Garibaldy
    Was Sean saying surrender to the DUP?
    It could eb time for a realignment though.
    Time for the Conservatives?

  • Garibaldy

    Elvis,

    Sean wasn’t saying it. BooBoo hinted at something similar earlier.

    On the conservatives, they would certainly like to think so, but I can’t see it and I hope not. I don’t think we need people subordinate to Westminister any more than we have already.

  • Oilbhéar Chromaill

    There’s more to this story than meets the eye.

    According to today’s edition of Lá, an English translation of which is carried in Daily Ireland, there may be more than previously thought at stake here.

    The Sunday Times report referred to a sum of some $21,000 which had been raised at a fund raising event in New York on 29 September 2004. This event was organised by a group calling itself the Friends of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, which had as its figurehead one Ronald S. Lauder of Estee Lauder fame. The Department of Justice in the US confirmed to Lá that the group hadn’t been registered, a requirement of US law.

    According to Lá, this event raised a total of more than $100,000, a good enough figure given there had been some controversy about literature issued in advance of the event and the claims contained within.

    Where did this money end up, one wonders?

    One also wonders whether the PSNI investigation will include this in its ambit or whether it will turn a blind eye, given it’s not SF being investigated in this instance.

    The PSNI and the Electoral Commission, no doubt, need no reminding of the provisions of the relevant legislation in this matter:

    3.       A person commits an offence under section 44(4) of PPERA if they knowingly or recklessly make a statement to an appointed auditor which conveys or purports to convey any information or explanation to which the auditor is entitled and is misleading, false or deceptive in a material particular.

  • Harry

    Is that Lauder who just paid $135 million on Klimt’s painting? Obviously he likes to involve himself in both the sublime and the ridiculous.