Sunday 6 December 2009


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.


  1. This is potentially very informative.

    According to the Sunday Herald the local Labour councillor team leader defended their past conduct of using local public funds to fund their partty fund raisers on two points:

    i] apparently they are "at the centre of the local community"...yeh sure mate, thats why the locals voted the SNP into council power!

    ii] and two, this is my favourite seems that this has always happened and in the past when Labour were in charge this just went through "on the nod"...who right, so the fact that this has went on so long that the corrupt and illegal action is the norm excuses it then!

    My God Tris, Munguin. Are these Labourites really this dogmatically corrupt?

    However I will also criticise the local SNP, they should immediately have ordered an independent ivestigation. Because by seeking to hold an internal 'in house' enquiry conducted by themselves they risk discrediting future labour corruptions due to arguments of political bias.

    Brownlee was right, we need an independent investigation into this to look into Grays involvement and knowledge of where these funds came from, the extend of the local former administrations corruption etc...and it has to be non-partisan.

  2. I agree with all of that Dean.

    Perhaps we need a very close look into all funding of this kind. I'd certainly like to see that done in Dundee.

    Who knows, regardless of party, what we will find.

    I'm sorry, by the way, I can't get the links to work.

  3. Thats fine, I seem to keep getting 'desktop smiley' every time it almost loads the right page...hmm, it is strange.

    But yeh, who knows what Labour councils have been getting up to over the last 50 years or so they ruled Scotland!

    Bendy Wendy and now Gray-gate may just be tasty little taddlers!

  4. I would be amazed if there is not a great deal more to be looked at Dean. It's not a party thing really. I think we need to be looking at clearing up our politics and the establishment. For far too long they have been above suspicion. And we all know what that means.

    We make such a fuss about corruption elsewhere; it's one of the excuses they have given for us being in Afghanistan, and we complain about the EU's accounts not being signed off.

    While these things are deplorable, there is much needed to be cleaned out closer to home. I wonder who signed off the expenses in the House of Lords without a receipt for anything, ever. All done on the nod of a head.

    More power to the Daily Telegraph kind of investigation which turns up what the MPs and now the Lords are doing. Let's expand it to the rest of the establishment. Why should we allow all this corruption and our answer to the country’s debt be that we increase the pension age and stamp hard on the unemployed.

    I'm beginning to think that they do this sort of thing in order to direct the public's anger away from them...

  5. The Daily Telegraph being praised by Tris? How hard was that for you to do? LOL- next your going to be conducting a love-in with Simon Heffer!

    I'll make a Tory of you yet'll join the dark side of is inevitable...[can you tell I've watched too much sci-fi star wars?]

  6. Now now dean... don't be silly. I only get the Telegraph for the crossword.

    However, it's dinner time, and the notion of a love in with Mr Heffer has just put me right off my beans on toast!!

    And... in reply to your last quetion.... YES! :¬)

  7. Surely Gray has been round long enough to know how the Labour party works. "£800, thank you very much - I won't ask where it came from! Oh, and another £1500, say no more. Ask no questions eh?".

  8. One of the main reasons we don't see enough investigative reporting on the kinds of central and local government corruption you mention boils down to the usual, I'm and time.

    Digging about for the evidence you need to "nail"
    corrupt cooncillors and trough-swilling MPs requires a dogged, determined and extremely time-consuming dedication, ploughing through interminable paper trails (and now, electronic ones, obviously), as well as sticking with the utter tedium of sitting through a plethora of cooncil meetings, subcommittee meetings, consultations and the like. Journalists also have to spend a lot of time finding and nurturing insider contacts within "self-preservation" cliques who may have sat their lazy bottoms on cooncil seats or jobs-for-life admin/exec posts for many years, and who seem to have a long-standing pathological aversion to even the gentlest enquiries as to how the money is being spent. The press is seen by these time-servers (the lazy and corrupt ones, that is - they're not all bad!) as an unwelcome intrusion which must be avoided and repelled at all costs, unless they are spinning it for their own ends. All this makes the work of the earnest journalist extremely difficult and time-consuming - not to mention dangerous, on occasions. Some of these councillors have friends in very low places.

    The results can be spectacular when you get there, as The Telegraph showed (and as the Rotten Boroughs column in Private Eye has always shown), but it takes a lot of money and time to get these stories out.

    It's so much easier (and cheaper) for the papers and the broadcasters to have their journalists churning out less demanding stuff that is far easier and quicker to fill up the pages, or the airwaves, than have a whole "employee unit" out for days, weeks or months chipping away at something that may or may not come off.

    It's all part and parcel of the regrettable "dumbing down" of society and the media in general, I am sad to say. In depth investigation costs a hell of a lot of money, proportionately, to other types of stories - hence we're not seeing it to nearly the same degree as we used to. A lot of the time now we are just being force-fed with diary fodder and carefully-managed (but not properly analysed) press releases. The Sunday Times' "Insight" team are still at least investing money in this area (I believe)and that's why they get scoops that many of the other papers aren't even chasing.

  9. As usual Brownlie you've summed it up in a few words. Why do I take so many to say what you do in so few ? ;¬)

  10. You have a point Quinie. Of course with a large section of the public more eager to read about who Tiger Wood... and who Tiger Woodn't, who Jordan was sleeping with yesterday, who's managed to sing flat on the X Factor, and what's the lastest gossip on who's doing what to whom backstage on Strictly.... I guess not that many people give that much of a toss what's going on at the local town hall.

    I wish they'd put me in charge of a purge....

  11. By the way, it's worth remembering that while it was the Telegraph that got the brownie points for the expenses scoop, it was in fact an American journalist called Heather Brooks who had first started fishing around on this and set the whole chain off. She came over here and couldn't believe how little transparency there was in the UK with regard to government (central and local) spending of public finds. She set about doggedly digging to glean what information she could, despite the government machine shutting down on her and refusing to answer her requests uinder the Freedom of Infomation Act (which this Labour government set up!!!). Heather was actually only enquiring, at that stage, about the expenses of a handful of MPs. The Telegraph then picked up on the story at a much later stage once Heather had got the ball rolling, and by whatever means, fortunately stumbled upon the inside mole who sold the Telegraph the precious disks containing all the relevant data. But I think it was only then that the Telegraph editorship released whole teams of its journos to sit and comb those disks to see if any trough-swillers could be nailed. Little did anyone know, even then, that almost the entire House of Commons (with a few very honorouable exceptions) would be tarred, revealing an endemically embedded culture throughout the entire edifice! The Telegraph couldn't believe its luck.

    But I suspect that if those darned disks had not handily fallen into a T journo's hands, then the editorship would not have been so keen to release all those teams of journalists to manually dig away for weeks and months to turn up the information that was so handily contained in those little disks at a stroke. It would have been far too costly and the story would probably not have been done. The big secret would have remained buried.

  12. I have no idea who that is: its not El Duce by any chance?

  13. Even well-known and formerly reputable investigative TV programmes have lost their edge, I've noticed. Within a series, for example, for every stormer of a scoop (that will have undoubtedly been costly to make), there will be some episodes that are pretty weak (because the fixed and ever-tighter budgets will have run out, and because the production time scales are debilitatingly short).

    Someone I know started work as a journalist for a certain broadcasting company some fifteen years ago, and was given the "trainee's" job of sitting in the public gallery of the local council chambers for days at a time, and attending meetings upon meetings, and meetings ABOUT meetings, about education, social work, housing, dog fouling, you name it. Boy, did it open her youthful, idealistic eyes! Ill-tempered spats between illiterate time-servers; childish in-fighting; procrastination on a scale unbounded; chronic absences; entrenched and historical factionalism (need I say more?!). There was little regard paid to the need for accountability over how the public's money (and their wages) was spent.

    Anyway, all this is nothing new. My point is that in THOSE days, media outlets still regarded it to be a valuable and important function of their purpose, to send a journalist out for days and weeks watching a local government at work, in order to sniff out a story or two of mis-spending and corruption.

    But how often these days do we see stories of what is really going on in our councils? There seems to be a lot less of this kind of reporting around than there used to be. These days, I can't think of many MSM editors who can afford to have employees away spending the huge amounts of time required to keep across council shenanigans in the hope that they'll turn something up and be able to deliver the whistleblowers and legally-tight evidence necessary to actually go to press with it, or go on air.

    As more and more journalists are made redundant, and newspapers and broadcasting news/investigative teams are often run on skeletal, over-pressed staff and minimal resources, the chances of this sorry situation improving do not look good.

    The mantra from on high within the MSM now is "Churn stuff out and churn it out fast.". That's what makes the few remaining, truly investigative media that we DO have left, so precious.

    And the explosion of the bloggysphere so supremely vital and timely!!

  14. Like I said Quinie, one of the big problems is that it is time consuming and expensive. I remember the lady with red hair starting the whole thing off (how they must hate her).

    The Telegraph obviously sensed, no, knew, there was a big story there. Lobby correspondent send people around parliament must have known that there was theft going on. But once that lady started it off and they saw it was worth the man hours, and effort, the Telegraph got stuck in.

    No one is that interested in local government. Local papers don’t have the resources for what wouldn’t be a big selling story even if they could fins stuff out.

    And with half the population more interested in Jordan’s bits, it’s simply more profitable to print a big picture of her and whoever she has conjured up as her latest publicity stunt, sorry I mean boyfriend for that night... (Well, cross dressing cage fighter...come on, what could be more interesting than that?)

  15. I thought it was maybe El vis Munguin

  16. I know Tris. It is deeply, deeply depressing (the preoccupation with Katie Price, I mean).

    If this elusive man is indeed Elvis, I vote we start singing his well-known hit "Return to Sender".

  17. (you wouldn't if you could hear me singing....)