08/06/2011

The LPUK tale: Racoongate

The worst legacy of Richard Nixon is the way "gate" is now added to every scandal just so that we all know that it is a scandal of huge proportions, but that's a different story.

The next part of the sorry tale is the blog post on Anna Racoon's website that laid in to Andrew Withers that kicked off the mess that LPUK descended in to. I don't intend going through it in any detail, this isn't the point of this tale, but I will make a couple of general comments.

When the post was first published I did read it and when asked to summarise it by someone who didn't have the I said it described Andrew Withers as a bit of a Walter Mitty character who had financial problems. Readers can judge for themselves whether of not my description was accurate.

I should also say that prior to the post I had been advised by Andrew that he and Anna had fallen out and that I should be wary of her. I took the view then that I still hold, most of these allegations were of a personal nature and I didn't want to get involved. I was also contacted by Anna and didn't call her, although I did offer her my email addresses. I suppose she wanted to warn me of what was to happen and maybe with hindsight I could have called her and might have been able to mitigate some of what was about to happen. But that's speculation with the benefit of hindsight so I won't be losing sleep over my decisions.

Its fair to say that when the post hit the blogoisphere it generated rather a lot of interest, especially from members and supports demanding answers. The response of the Party was right then and still is: Andrew Withers stood aside while Nic Coome investigated. I have a lot of time for Nic, he's a good steady guy, maybe wasn't going to set the Party alight but, I beleived than and still believe now, his integrity is irreproachable.

While Nic was carrying out his investigation the blogosphere was running wild and with hindsight it was obvious that no report was going to satisfy some unless it summarily found Andrew guilty of all charges and called for him to be hung drawn and quartered. It was not a pleasant time and some of the accusations and counter accusation were quite vitriolic with claims of libel being bandied about. This hardly created the atmosphere for an objective investigation and report but Nic did as well as anyone could do, IMHO.

In hindsight I suppose it shouldn't have came as any surprise that Nic's report just added to heat of the debate both internally and externally, for by now there was lots of emotive accusations flying around within the NCC. The split boils down to those who believe there was a cover-up and those, like me, who accept Nic's report. I am not here to justify anybody else's motives only to discuss my own position in this sad affair so I won't be voicing any of those accusations.

Why did I support Nic's report? There are a number of reasons but he main one's are that it may be old fashioned but I believe in Cabinet responsibility and there was only one issue worth worrying about, the allegations of wrong doing with the accounts. Having trusted to Nic to write the report I don't have a problem with his argument that most of the affair was personal between Andrew and Anna Racoon.

The point about the accounts is a bit more complicated. Firstly, the allegation that there is a secret second account just shows a lack of understanding of how an HSBC business account works. When you open up a business account you automatically get a Business Money Management (BMM) account. This is like a savings account but you can only move money in and out from the current account so I didn't have a problem with that one.

As to the allegations that Andrew had been using the accounts for his own benefit I had a fairly simple approach. Andrew was in the process of handing over the accounts to John Watson and it had been Andrew who had been looking for a new Treasurer. That hardly seemed to be the actions of someone who was deliberately defrauding the Party and if he was then he had either got John involved in a cover-up or it was all going to come out. From what John was saying I really couldn't see this being a cover-up, so all we had to do was wait.

Unfortunately the debate had now degenerated in to mud slinging, denials, counter mudslinging and counter denials with threats of libel and police involvement. Emotions started to run very high, as they do when debates and argument are conducted by emails and blog post. A minority report issued by Ken Ferguson added more fuel to the fire and the debate degenerated even further, if that was possible.

By this time Andrew was getting ever more defensive and John Watson was getting frustrated that the accounts weren't being handed over, which led to even more accusations, denials and defensiveness.

During this I was getting disillusioned and wondering what to do as there appeared no way out of the mess. I decided that I would cut my losses and rather than tender my resignation at the end of the year would do it now. However with all this going on I didn't want to add to Nic's immediate problems so I said that I wanted it to take effect from the end of June or before then if they found a replacement. As that email went to Andrew and Nic on 15 May I judged that 6 weeks was enough to find a replacement.

If I had known what my resignation was going to trigger I would have taken a different approach, but again that's hindsight.

1 comment:

  1. Simon,

    (I know you posted this some time ago now, but I haven't seen it until today)

    I'm sure you did everything you could and went above and beyond what could reasonably be expected, and, as an ordinary member of that party, I thank you for it.

    ReplyDelete