City of London Labour Party met last night for its monthly meeting of debate and campaign planning. As usual there was an item on the Agenda for National Labour Party business. My comrades were shocked to hear me report that the General Secretary, Ray Collins had effectively rejected our request for earlier publication of the Statement of Accounts. There is no obligation on the GS to arrange early publication. The Rule Book Chapter 1, Clause VIII. G says one of the jobs of the NEC is::
That means forget about them until mid-September. But a Labour law to clean up British politics, the Political Parties, Elections and Referendums Act passed in 2000, yes that's nine years ago, requires political parties with a turnover in excess of £250k/annum to file a Statement of Accounts within 7 days of 30 June in the year following the accounting period in question.
I think members should get them at the same time, so does my branch and so does my CLP which has a Rule change resolution down for the 2009 Conference. Devotees of this blog will perhaps recall comments at around this time last year from 'tory boys never grow up' questioning whether my assertion that there was no reason why members could not receive them at the same time as the Electoral Commission, ie now. I thought (mistakenly) that a little quiet diplomacy on the NEC with the GS might result in my wish being fulfilled despite 'tory boys never grow up' strident assertions. It will come as no surprise that my optimism was (as is often the case) premature. But I have not given up, I have gone back to the GS querying whom he took advice from in coming to his decision not to publish immediately.
Openness and accountability underpins how most of us decide to spend our time and money, often in ways we are not even conscious of at any particular moment. Labour Party membership, commercial income and donation trends, whether small, high value, corporate or trade union will all be affected by how well the NEC is seen managing the Party's affairs. I'm not suggesting anything material is being hidden in the 2008 Accounts. Though, bearing in mind it is only just over 18 months since over £20 million of hidden unsecured loans were discovered dating back to the Blair era as Leader, one can't be too careful.