Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Welcome Home! Come on in and close the door....

A warm welcome back to these shores to Michael Brown, the expat businessman who single-handedly funded half the Liberal Democrats' general election campaign. Sadly, he returns by EasyJet to meet HSBC, his former bankers, and their lawyers, who are now out for blood, rather than by the corporate jet that he loaned to Charlie K. Intriguingly, although Mr Brown claims never to have been a member of the party, he decided to attend their spring conference last year - which was why Chatshow was able to cadge a lift (rather better than trying to get a lift with Lembit Opik).

Meanwhile, of course, the Liberal Democrats are quaking in their sandals at the thought that they might have to repay the money, because they've already spent it. Not only do they face a continued challenge from the Electoral Commission - who still aren't convinced as to whether the company used to funnel money to Cowley Street was genuinely trading in the UK, no matter what spin the LDs try to put on it - they are also facing a legal challenge from several millionaires, who think that some of that dough may be theirs. Even worse, given the legal structure of the party, every member may be liable to find £30 to cover the cost. (Hat tip to Yellow Peril).

The company, 5th Avenue Partners UK, was created just after the 2004 local elections and maintained a small office in the City. Back then, Mr Brown's word was enough to satisfy Lord Razzall that the donation was legal, but procedures have since been tightened - were the LibDems just so desperate for the cash?

Last October, Ming Campbell (who?) was asked if he would accept more money from Mr Brown:
'Well, now everything is out in the open, then the answer is probably yes. Why not?'
When Mr Brown was arrested, the tune changed slightly:

'We are not aware that this (arrest) has any connection whatsoever with the Liberal Democrats. Any further action is a matter for the police and the relevant authorities.'
Fairweather friends? Or just muppets?

And before visitors complain about me not covering the travails of the Labour Party, I'll get to them as well.

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