The dogs are out again sniffing around UKIP and Nigel Farage looking for any excuse to have a go. But what if the dogs have got this one wrong?
This time they’ve arrowed in on the property donations made by party supporter John Longhurst with at least one newspaper stating that Nigel Farage has broken electoral law, saying that he should have declared these donations to the Electoral Commission and could face a fine or even imprisonment.
The Electoral Commission for its part is said to be considering further action. As a result the UKIP leader has now also it seems declared the donations in full to the Electoral Commission.
Now, as far as I can see from reports, Mr Farage has consistently said that the property donation was made to him and he used it as his MEP base as well as declaring the arrangement properly to the EU. Well, so what? You may well ask.
The problem for me is that, although I am unqualified in either discipline, the claims of those looking to damage Nigel Farage seem to fly in the face of both the law and of accounting practice.
As I said above, Mr Farage said that the building was donated to him and he chose to use it as his MEP HQ so declared it to the EU, but saw no need to tell the UK Electoral Commission. So let’s take a look at what the ‘Political Parties, Elections and Referendums Act 2000’ actually says about donations:
50 Donations for purposes of Part IV.
(1) The following provisions have effect for the purposes of this Part.
(2) “Donation”, in relation to a registered party, means (subject to section 52)—
(a) any gift to the party of money or other property;
(b) any sponsorship provided in relation to the party (as defined by section 51);
(c) any subscription or other fee paid for affiliation to, or membership of, the party;
(d) any money spent (otherwise than by or on behalf of the party) in paying any expenses incurred directly or indirectly by the party;
(e) F1. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
(f) the provision otherwise than on commercial terms of any property, services or facilities for the use or benefit of the party (including the services of any person).
(a) any money or other property is transferred to a registered party pursuant to any transaction or arrangement involving the provision by or on behalf of the party of any property, services or facilities or other consideration of monetary value, and
(b) the total value in monetary terms of the consideration so provided by or on behalf of the party is less than the value of the money or (as the case may be) the market value of the property transferred,
the transfer of the money or property shall (subject to subsection (5)) constitute a gift to the party for the purposes of subsection (2)(a).
Now, forgive me for being pedantic (which is what lawyers do when going over these things), but the whole point here is that donations to the party have to be declared. But Nigel’s office was not donated to the party as far as I can see, it was donated to him and then used for the benefit of the EU and the MEP’s constituents, not for the benefit of UKIP. So why would he declare it to the UK Electoral Commission?
Secondly, on an accounting basis the building has a certain value in both sale and rent. How can its worth be donated in full to the EU as well as in full to the party? That’s surely a nonsense. In fact, if the building is declared to the electoral commission as being used in full for the party then why would Mr Farage have to declare it to the EU? Think in terms of a tax return and having two companies each claiming full tax relief on a building they share the rent, rates, power and water for – that would be fraud. They would have to share the relief or one would have to get it all. It’s the same concept.
It seems to me that Mr Farage has now been put in the position of wrongfully declaring his position to the Electoral Commission and that organisation should maybe need to review this situation (and others may need to look at the Defamation Act 2013).
Now, to all the anti-UKIP brigade, if what I am saying is correct and Mr Farage is doing nothing wrong, what else are you being misled about?
The only rider is that, if the property was used either physically or on a time share basis, in part for party matters, then perhaps that part only should be declared to the UK authority (with the declaration to the EU being reduced accordingly) – but not the whole amount. But then that might also apply to maybe Nos 10 and 11 Downing Street as well as Chequers etc.