LPUK is getting through press officers

The Libertarian Party has appointed a new Press Officer named David Parry, a poet and wiccan, effective this Thursday.

Strangely, the website lists someone called Sean Clarke as in charge of “Press & Promotion”, but that was not David’s predecessor. The guy who wore that badge at Liberty League looked very different indeed.

So many press people in so little time is a sign of trouble at the mill.

Strangely David Parry is a (politically incorrect, or worse) “National Anarchist”. National Anarchism is a new one on me, but regardless anarchists, capitalist ones, did not used to be welcome as members of the Libertarian Party. That makes this a very peculiar appointment.

The UK Libertarian Party mislaid four times it’s current revenue

A further dramatic aspect of the General election was when Andrew Withers – once treasurer of LPUK – resigned his role of leader within 24 hours of the polls opening, effective at the next AGM. This sounds mad, but for someone with such a toxic history it made electoral and practical sense. In fact it is the best thing he ever did.

With Andrew Withers set to go there is a possibility that his party may become a useful institution, one to be approached with caution at first but ultimately supportable and one day, I hope, electable. Whether that happens will depend on bright diligent people taking the helm and moving things forward. Part of moving forward will to be reconcile with the past and to make amends to the activists who were mistreated. However, I had given up on all that and now I have some catching up to do.

It seems that one of the ways to reconcile with the past would be to make a statement in the public accounts, acknowledging that prior statements of income and expenditure implied a cash position that was materially different from the real position. In fact, that short sentence – above a signature – would be a real help as it would be an official acknowledgment that expenditure had not been accounted for (which it had not). Before banging the drum for such a statement, I thought it wise to check one had not already been made. The answer? Well it has and it hasn’t.

The documents LPUK uploaded did not make any comment on the problem. They did not even state a bank balance, but lo! What is this? In the metadata attached to the documents for 2012 and 2013 someone has supplied a value for “cash at bank and in hand”, would it be possible to trace through all the filings and find out how large the accounting discrepancy had been? Since there has not been a restatement it made sense that it would.

This is the data I collected, I have not tried to account for loans but the party only declared £580 of loans:

lpuk-accounts-rec-2015-v2

My formulas are highlighted yellow, white cells contain transcribed values. The Calculated Balance is simply the sum of money earned and spent. In the two years where a bank balance is declared the discrepancy is a steady £4098.44. So, finally, the party has essentially admitted – by stating contradictory numbers – that it’s accounts do not contain all the transactions that occurred, or else contain incorrect ones. The problem will have occurred between 2007 and 2010, a period in which Andrew Withers was, for the largest part, the treasurer.

The amount is small in national terms, but relative to the individual contributor it is huge, and of great importance. It was 27.9% of peak income and it is now equivalent to four times current income, after members fled. This is important because in order to continue trading the LPUK must attract a steady flow of donations. If you were donating £100 now, what percentage of that money is at risk? If as an activist, you attract 100 new members to the party, how many will end up angry frustrated and betrayed, rather than represented empowered and enabled? Why should anyone pay LPUK cash, or even any attention, unless and until it acknowledges the seriousness of the problem faced by its supporters?

But who do we expect to acknowledge it? The way this information was disclosed matches exactly the controversial loan that landed Andrew in hot water in the first place. That loan was mentioned to the chairman Nic Coome within earshot of half the NCC and a cluster of activists, myself included. But it was skipped over lightly and Andrew ploughed on with the conversation, not giving anyone time to digest what they heard – keeping the NCC informed but effectively ignorant. Placing the bank balance on an obscure website while the only careful critic of the party had moved onto getting married and having babies is directly from that playbook. So expecting Andrew Withers to redeem himself is false hope.

What about the now-treasurer Nic Coome? It would (should) have been him who uploaded the data to the Electoral Commission. I can only assume that he has done so honestly and accurately with respect to the current figures and the forms in front of him. The strange pivot table format of his documents show a keeness to reconcile practical reality with the priorities of the Electoral Commission, this is the behavior of an honest actor. But what of the Treasurer’s duty to the members and to the public? The figures lodged with the Electoral Commission, over time, have contradicted each other. Nic was well aware of the potential for that since he was involved in my prior investigation into the balances and he had a duty to publicly acknowledge the discrepancy. Imagine if Tesco, who recently restated their finances, had simply announced contradictory numbers and left the contradiction to be discovered by journalists? As it is the Serious Fraud Office are investigating Tesco.

Nic is a close ally of Andrew Withers and he has let that closeness affect his judgement. The accounts 2012 accounts should have been accompanied with an apology. Instead he resorted to the kind of tactics libertarians criticise in others, of trying to bury bad news. The original problem which allowed four thousand pounds to be mislaid was a resigning matter for Andrew Withers, now Nic Coome has added a further shameful chapter to that story yet both are still in office.

The sooner libertarians in the UK give up on LPUK, and take their Facebook likes elsewhere, the sooner the impersonal cruelty of our current political system will end. The figures currently bed-blocking at the top of this party are a part of the nation’s problem.

A Regrettable Aggravation

I have not been keeping up with the old LIbertarian Party because I lack the motivation to do so. I regard them as a pointless distraction which is frustratingly still ongoing. It is impressive what Guy Montrose has done with the Facebook page – it’s full of energy – but that energy is being wasted.

That wastage became apparent when last week the Party officially turned down an invitation to appear on television, an opportunity which would have justified all the efforts of the party’s new tranche of supporters. The party had been invited by Andrew Neil’s team to be interviewed on the Daily Politics and they said no. The Backbencher picked up the story and described the reaction of Facebook users on it’s page: they were incandescent.

In my view, the Facebook thread and Backbencher article are both wrong, this has little to do with Chris Mounsey’s prior performance on the same program and more to do with the prior performance of the party’s leader and its former Treasurer Andrew Peter Withers who has not resolved the issue of a £4300 accounting discrepancy. To be clear, that amounted to about third of donations in a good year, i.e. a third of members’ money.

Here is my analysis, as posted on 4Liberty some years previously:

As for LPUK, yes, it trades, but it isn’t going anywhere. It has meetings and takes money, and has a pulpit from which to “note” it’s detractors. On this point James is wrong, LPUK has many detractors but zero dissenters because they have all formally left and formed the ILN up North and the PLP down South. LPUK is therefore united under the leadership of Andrew Peter Withers, who I believe will never step down, and this is why his party will not rise.

Any TV or Newspaper wishing to cover the libertarian parties will google Andrew Peter Withers and give him a worse bashing than Devils Kitchen ever got. In contrast, the backstory of the Pro Liberty Party and Independant Libertarian Network will show how completely intolerant of sleeze they are, which will be an asset for them.

The only thing going for LPUK is, frankly, Guy Montrose, but he is driving down a dead end.

I wish this was not so predictable. Sadly the ILN and PLP have fizzled out since the time of that posting, they may not have done so had the energy dedicated to LPUK been diverted their way. Withers is impressively stubborn and Guy Montrose impressively effective, but so long as those two are bound together success for either of them – and I mean success at national scale – will have to wait.

It is past the time for the LPUK to change it’s leadership or disappear. With the way clear of embarrassing tales, a Libertarian Party may eventually achieve prominence.

UK Libertarian Party’s 2011 Accounts

I have received a PDF copy of LPUK’s 2011 accounts from a former member*, and can provide an updated calculation of the LPUK’s bank balance. Assuming they are authentic the balance as at 31st Dec 2011 should have been £4307.32. I would encourage anyone with an acknowledged membership* of that party to request sight of the three relevant bank and paypal statements to confirm the total of their balances match £4307.32.

The statements acknowledge the receipt of a loan, presumably the loan from Nic Coome which he mentioned at the meeting last October. This loan from Nic was apparently given to keep the party solvent, but the accounts do not include any explaination as to why the loan of £414 was required when the cash position at the end of the period was ten times that figure.

I maintain my position that accounts filed do not accurately reflect the parties real transactions, and strongly suggest members and donors demand a detailed explaination. Ideally that explaination should be made public in order to clear the air and make LPUK an organisation that people can be comfortable dealing with. The launch of the Independent Libertarian Network this week is welcome, but there is a role for a tightly co-ordinated team taking part in elections and if LPUK is not it, then it should leave the field.

My last update on this topic, covered the basic maths involved in calculating the bank balance figure based on the published data.

I was not able to verify the accounts I received on the EC website, which said they have not been filed yet.

An excerpt showing the 2011 income net of expenses (centre left), and part of the leaders’ signatures which were redacted at source.

* I’m uncertain, but anyone who was a member in April 2011 might still be a member to this day, or were at least until March 2012, but the current leadership deny this is the case and life is too short to argue.

LPUK’s accounts investigation update

Back in October people were looking to me to work with Nic Coome to establish some transparency in the LPUK accounts, the idea was to try to heal the rift by establishing what had happened, if anything, to all the money. Recall that various accusations had destroyed trust in the leadership and caused a bust up. I am now going to report on how that investigation went, though I am sorry I did not get far.

At our meeting in October, there was anger and concern at what had occurred when the NCC and then the membership were both refused access to the accounts back in April 2011. This time Nic promised that “the bulk of it” (that’s the expenditure) could be accounted for and we left with the impression we would now see some detail from the ledgers. We had agreed a reasonable and mature standard that it was okay if some of it could not be fully explained.

After that, I corresponded with Nic and received copies of the NI and GB statements, which were already available online at the Electoral Commission. Rather than complaining that I had received nothing new, I set about doing what I do to my own accounts every year – checking the bank balance was correctly reflected.

Theory and Maths

Care should be taken never to mislead by giving incorrect data in financial statements because they are used to judge the overall financial state of an enterprise. Diligent firms will check the statements before extending significant credit to a company and they expect them to be a true guide. The cash flow statement, which the LPUK accounts strongly resemble, is there specifically as a guide to whether short term cash might be found to pay a bill.

Knowing the bank balance is an important check on the accounts. Statements of account for a commercial company would contain a cash at bank value that should match exactly to the bank statement. You might have judged that the cash flow out of the enterprise is manageable but what if the real rate of spending was higher? The bank balance check tells you if it could have been higher. Also, a large current account balance tells you how much money was physically there in the bank account at year end, making it easy to judge whether your bill might be paid.

LPUK’s statements don’t include a balance but luckily there is a direct relationship between cash flow and the final balance and you can calculate the latter:

If we that assume an enterprise:

a) starts with £0,

b) has annual income of £2, and

c) expenses of £1

then over three years (2-1)+(2-1)+(2-1)=3 is what you expect to see in the bank at the end.

It’s also worth knowing that (2-1) on it’s own is called your “net annual income”, £1 in this example.

1+1+1 also equals 3 proving the sum of net income is a handy shortcut to the balance.

LPUK’s figures

In 2007 Patrick Vessey filed a nil return for the annual accounts. Zero in and zero out. The rest of the information you need is all given for comparison purposes in the 2010 accounts for GB and NI parties, which are accounted for separately.

I added up all the net annual income values and got £4307.03, here are the same figures excerpted from the public documents.

Click through for the full PDF version downloaded from the Electoral Commission:

GB Accounts, 2010

NI accounts, 2010

It is now neccesary to speculate what the bank balance was supposed to be on 31st December 2010. That’s the value for comparison and unfortunately Nic Coome’s co-operation ended when I asked for it by email in October 2011. I did chase for this again in December 2011, on 12th March 2012 (Monday last), and again via Facebook. No acknowledgement of any kind was received.

The balance figures I have seen relate to a single bank account and average around £100 in November 2010 and about £60 in April 2011. I had to get those from NCC members on this side of the rift, but they demonstrate that LPUK’s balance was small and varied only by tens of pounds.

There was also a rumour of a £0.26 balance no later than May 2011, and at the October 2011 meeting Nic Coome mentioned that he put in £500 of his own. The Party also owes my company £30 from June 2011.

What might this mean?

The accounts investigation has yielded no new data so I can only give my opinion. First, let’s visualise that the facts and rumoured values listed above, and add a line to fill in the blanks by assuming a gradual change in the financial posiotn of the LPUK:

LPUKNumbersViz

Visualisation of confirmed value, the calculated December value, confirmed and rumoured values, total debt; and assumed changes (dotted) for LPUK’s primary bank account balance.

The party was not used to getting large amounts in donations, so we would not expect the balance to change by more than a few hundred pounds at a time. As such the balance implied in the statement of accounts is, at best, surprising. To be accurate it must have risen then fallen again by £4200. What explains that yo-yoing? What good reason is there for the bank balance to be such a secret that the reconciliation must be called off without a further word?

We know that the Party used a second account to process incoming donations, and also used Paypal. If at least £4200 of donations were received in November or remained unprocessed from earlier then the matter can be left here, but that would have represented a dramatic peak in donations. I believe it is unlikely that £4200 suddenly appeared only to disappear again by April. Also the receipt of that much money would still leave a question over why the party had to maintain £530 of debt the following year.

Andrew might have taken a loan from the Party account, which might be legit but certainly should have been disclosed when the original scandal over his unpaid personal loans hit the blogs.

Given the above, it is reasonable, I believe, to conclude that there is an accounting discrepancy of approximately £4200 to be resolved.

The most important thing to observe is the behaviour of the leadership team. There has been no private reply to me on these questions, no refusal, not even an acknowledgement. There has not been a single public statement acknowledging my query regarding the bank balance, despite a week and five months being given for the Party’s team to prepare one. This is not how I believe a libertarian party should respond to queries from concerned libertarians.

I hope that this article will finally prompt the disclosure of the bank balance value and supporting evidence. It is hard to imagine good reasons which might have delayed it’s publication. This figure should always have been discernable from the public statements and there are no privacy concerns about it for individuals since it is a single number. If it were somehow private, the time to disclose it confidentially was five months ago. Had it been disclosed my investigation could have moved on and been much more useful to the Party and to the libertarian movement as a whole.

By the summer of 2011 most activists I know had decided it was “him or me” with regards to the scandalised leader and other NCC members. Yet the leader ultimately insisted on staying on and fighting against measures others were taking to preserve the Party. That caused the rift we were attempting to cure in October. Presumably the chairman has been acting in consultation with the leader and his nominated NCC, and for them to play hot and cold to an investigation that was a declared prerequisite to a reconciliation was not in the true best interests of the Party. Ultimately, the South East region continued to hold meetups dissassociated from the Party and the success of those meetups shows what the Party is missing out on by electing to act as it has. For example, had the rift been cured it would have been the Libertarian Party of the UK visiting Occupy LSX at St Pauls cathedral and distributing leaflets to a third of the gathered crowd, not “an internet forum” called Libertarian Home. This closed and secretive behaviour should stop.

Finally, it is important that this discrepency is dealt with. At a minimum the 2011 accounts, due shortly, should leave no false impression that it’s net worth is over £4300 when the Party is in debt to it’s activists and officers.

 

 

UPDATE: Unfortunately, the 2012 AGM minutes do not include a statement on this issue. Nic Coome did address the issue of multiple bank accounts citing a lack of awareness of HSBC’s standard procedures on the part of unnamed critics. He may be referring to other critics, but in fact I also bank with HSBC and am aware that the Money Manager account he refers to cannot be used directly for spending purposes, therefore the bank accounts I saw must be the main account as spending was incurred against it. Nic’s comment amounts to a claim that the Money Manager account (+PayPal) contained £4200 which was fully spent within 5 months. This should be trivial to verify, yet has still not been verified. There has been no further comment or communication as of 11/04/12.

UPDATE 28-04-2012: in a party statement “NCC NOTE – 25-04-12” (also labelled NCC NOTE GAVIN WEBB) is a breif mention that the investigation was ignored because none of the people at a key meeting were members. This was not in fact the case. As noted above the rift is not in the interests of the movement so I have once again contacted Nic and Andrew to clarify.

UPDATE June 2013: Wither’s has not contacted the author or provided any further information.

Despite the troubles, LPUK will always have my support

I have only recently joined the Libertarian Party, so I am not entirely involved in the history which has led to some accusations being made against its leader, Andrew Withers. I only know one side of the story, and that is the side which has made such accusations which I do not wish to dwell on, yet I think it is important for me to pledge my commitment to the Libertarian Party, not because I have some personal loyalty to its leader or his confidantes, but because I am a libertarian, and I believe that in order to advance the cause of libertarian thinking on a legitimate political platform, the party must be united. I am new to this, so forgive me if there are things I am missing. The purpose of this piece is not for me to say that we should forget about the personal accusations made against various members, but that these accusations should be dealt with, the bad blood should be put out in the open, if not for the personal sakes of those involved, but for the benefit of the party as a whole.

I believe in libertarian ideas. For as long as I can remember I have always seen the goings on in the world from the perspective of the enhancement of individual liberty. My discovery of the party was a god-send for me who up until last year, was effectively a fish out of water when it came to political alignment. The conservatives have betrayed their Conservative roots, UKIP are pigeon-holed as a one policy party, and there is simply no other place for libertarian thinkers to turn when it comes to libertarian politics other than LPUK. Perhaps it is an overly sentimental approach to take, but through conversations I have had with other fellow libertarians, they are of the idea that we are entering a new age of libertarian politics, but with the party struggling to hold it together, there is little hope.

The only way we as Libertarians can truly change things is not through joining the libertarian minorities of the top parties (as the top rank will simply not allow it), but it is dealing with the accusations made against the leader, laying all cards on the table and simply moving on. Any arguments or disagreements that may have come before MUST be dealt with or set aside so that we as a party can move on and make true progress. The AGM is the starting point for this. Hopefully Withers will be willing to deal with questions about the various accusations made against him; if he is, then I applaud him for having the courage to do so. LPUK will always have my support because I believe in the politics, to truly change the system we must separate ourselves from the establishment parties and we must present a united front, with a voice distinct from the establishment. From a personal perspective, I have considered running for public office, perhaps for the local council at first, then for Parliament, but I would not want to run as a candidate for the Conservatives, UKIP or the Liberal Democrats, I would want to run as a Libertarian Party candidate, but the only way I could morally do that is if I have faith that not only the party would still exist in 5 years, but that the arguments and the accusations, that threaten to destroy the party, have been resolved.

All of the people cannot agree all of the time, but I have absolute faith that if we all truly believe libertarian politics has a place in the political mainstream, then we must all be willing to get behind the party in order to achieve such legitimacy. If we can get one party member in a local council, just one, then we have made the first significant step on the road to changing the country for the better.