Creative accounting has been taken into a new dimension by Labour Party outgoing Treasurer, Jack Dromey. Delegates to Annual Conference voted just before lunch today on a Rule change which requires every constituency and branch labour party "to transfer the beneficial ownership of their respective freehold and leasehold properties legal title........to and for the benefit of The Labour Party......."
Questions were asked. Reassurances were given. Jack offered a "cast-iron guarantee". Quite correct. Cast iron's defining characteristic is: it is brittle.
Moving the Rule Change, Cath Speight, a past NEC chair and representative in the Trade Union section from Unite the Union, played the masseur's assistant assured conference there had been a proper consultation. And indeed there had been between end July and mid-September, when few CLPs meet, if you call that proper. NEC members were told last week some 60 replies had been received. But there was no written report. So no opportunity for other NEC members to look at the responses alongside the recommendation, which I call sequestration.
If implemented, the consequence will be to add assets to the Labour Party's balance sheet. It currently shows liabilities far in excess of current assets. So bravo, Jack, masseur extraordinaire. That should drape a towel over the naked financial irresponsibility which took the Labour Party to the brink of bankruptcy after the 2005 General Election. And who was Treasurer at that time? In his own defence, Jack insisted that there had been "complete concealment". Well, I'm sorry. As anyone who has ever put in place financial governance arrangements for a multi-million pound organisation, and I have, when elected Treasurer he simply never paid attention to the necessary detail in the first place.
I sincerely hope his successor as Treasurer, Diana Holland, doesn't make the same mistake, however fluffy Jack's towel looks.