Just over two weeks ago, I took the bold step of forcing the issue of Lord Ashcroft's tax status, by issuing a potentially libellous allegation. Today, he coughs up the truth. He is a non-dom. He does not pay full British tax. His company does not conduct his business in the UK.
What happens next?
Page 10 of the Electoral Commission's Guidance to political parties states,
3.6 Parties can only accept a donation or loan (as defined in Chapter 2, ‘Defining
parties, donations and regulated transactions’) with a value of more than £200 if the
donor or lender is in the following categories:
• an individual registered in a UK electoral register (including bequests)
• a UK registered company which is incorporated within the EU and carries on
business in the UK
So Lord Ashcroft is not a "permissible donor". The Tories are now obliged to report the donations:
5.2 Parties are required to report details of any of the following relevant donations: [...]
• any donation of more than £200 received from an impermissible or unidentified
The Electoral Commission will require the Conservative Party to return Ashcroft's gifts.
Failure by a party to return a donation from an impermissible or unidentifiable source
Section 56(3) and (4) On summary conviction: statutory maximum fine or six months’
O dear. That would make Dave the first PM to govern the country from a cell in Wormwood Scrubs. He will have to return the donations. I believe he needs to write a cheque for a sum in the region of £3,000,000, which should not be too much of a problem.
Unless the Electoral Commission somehow loses the paperwork or lets the trail go cold.
The Electoral Commission can be reached at:
Great Peter Street
London SW1P 2HW
Tel: 020 7271 0500 (switchboard)
Jenny Watson is the chair of the Commissioners.
Their stated aim is "integrity and public confidence in the democratic process."
Be polite but firm in your communications with Jenny.
[update: sadly, the Electoral Commission is doing an impersonation of an ashtray on a motorbike, functionality-wise]