One of the problems that the Leader of the Labour Group in the Scottish Parliament has is the fact that he is not Labour Leader in Scotland. Gordon Brown has insisted that, despite Gray being elected by the whole Labour movement in Scotland including MSPs, MPs, MEPs, Trades Unionists and members, it is Mr Brown himself and only Mr Brown who is leader of Labour in Scotland, or North Britain as he would have it. (Short pause for maniacal laugh.)
Anyway, that’s a story for another day. Today’s story is more about the other problem he has. One that a lot of bloggers have had a bit of fun with over the months. The fact that no one really knows who he is. The results of a survey some months ago suggested that he was recognised by about 12% of the population if I remember rightly. Overshadowed by the much more charismatic leader of Scottish Conservatives (who actually is the Scottish Conservatives' leader) and overshadowed by Her Majesty’s Secretary of State for Scotland, Mr Murphy, Mr Gray had people scratching their heads, wondering where they’d seen him before... and deciding they probably hadn’t.
Well now all that will change. For Mr Gray has made the front page of “The Sunday Post”. For non Scottish readers this may mean almost as little as Mr Gray does to Scottish readers, but you should know that the Sunday Post is one of our finest organs. In its heyday it had a circulation that suggested that most people in Scotland bought at least 2 copies. It still probably finds its way into the bulk of Scottish households.
So what is he doing on the front page you might ask? Some magnificent policy statement? A huge breakthrough? A coup de grace, de foudre....d’etat?
Nope, none of these things! Much more predictably, Mr Gray, rather like his predecessor as leader of the Labour ... blah blah blah, has got himself involved in an expenses scandal. It seems that his campaign for the said leadership of the.... (well, you know) was partly funded by the taxpayer. Now there’s value for money! NOT.
According to The Sunday Post... and I quote...
It’s claimed local tax payers in East Lothian unknowingly subsidised Labour fund-raising events in Prestonpans.
Both Prestonpans Labour Party and Prestonpans Labour Club gave donations to Mr Gray’s leadership campaign and he launched his leadership bid in the club.
The local Labour club’s annual fund-raising barbecue in Prestonpans has been funded by the council for at least the past 14 years, at a cost of £6700 to council taxpayers.
So the local Labour club and party seem to have been getting money from the council tax payer, and, both then gave money to Mr Gray’s leadership bid. The Labour club to the tune of £1500 and the local party to the tune of £800.
Local councillor Paul McLennan has challenged the Labour party to reveal how much money they have received from council-backed events and to repay it.
A Labour Party spokesman claimed Iain Gray had accepted the donation from the branch in good faith.
“The matter needs to be sorted out between the Prestonpans Labour Party Branch and the council,” he said. "When that matter is dealt with, if any action needs to be taken on this donation, it will be taken.”
It seems to me that when politicians (of any party) are making a bid for leadership, they must be totally sure that there is nothing at all dubious about the funds with which they are doing it. There are too many instances of poor administration, bad accounting or lack of understanding of the law in the recent cases of Peter Hain and of Wendy Alexander.
It is all very well to complain about how busy they were being MPs or MSPs , or how they left it to other people to check. For some jobs that might be acceptable. But these people were standing for high office. Hain was standing as Deputy Leader of the UK Labour Party (some might have reasonably thought Deputy Prime Minister). Ms Alexander was standing in a position where she might one day be the First Minister of Scotland! If you can’t manage a leadership campaign and the money that that involves at the same time as doing your constituency work, how can you run the country?
As for what’s going on in Prestonpans, it’s up to them, I guess. But I don’t think that the taxpayer should be subsidising the Labour Party or the Labour Club, any more than it should be doing it for any other political party.
Hat tip to Madame Subrosa for pointing me in the direction of this story. This is one of the few households that doesn't take the Sunday Post.