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:
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.