Sunday, March 07, 2010

a donation of minus £25

Before moving on to more serious issues, does anyone know what, exactly, the Young Britons' Foundation is? I mean, if you were to sign a cheque to it, what kind of a legal entity is it that cashes it? (I'm tempted to cut them a £10 cheque, just to see what comes up on my bank statement. Or possibly a whole lot of 1p cheques. But that would be infantile. Wouldn't it?) This is an interesting question. Is it a commercial company? Is it a charity? Is it a club of some sort? Is it an unincorporated association? If it was a company limited by guarantee, the usual set-up for a wanktank, it would have to file accounts somewhere, but the funds passing through it would be tax deductible.

I ask because despite its aims:
The Young Britons’ Foundation is recognized as the leading provider of state-of-the-art political training to conservative activists in Britain.

YBF offers a number of one-day specialist training workshops in London as well as bespoke half-day campus campaign workshops throughout Britain.

It is conspicuous by its absence from here. Neither is it a company or a registered charity.

I can see a couple of possibilities. One is that whatever-it-is claims that by charging participants a fee, it's providing services to the Conservative Party on commercial terms and is therefore exempt from registration under Section 50(2) f of the Political Parties, Elections, and Referendums Act 2000. This has some interesting consequences - if this is commercial activity, then surely someone is making a profit from it. If these services were supplied at a loss, the terms would not be commercial ones.

Another is that Section 52(1) g applies, which excludes from registration
the provision by any individual of his own services which he provides voluntarily in his own time and free of charge;

It's possible that the YBF is merely a collection of activists who voluntarily provide these services to the Tories. But the services are not provided free of charge (and in that case, what becomes of the money?).

My favourite explanation, however, is that Section 50(4) b states that:
(4) In determining—

(a) for the purposes of subsection (2)(e), whether any money lent to a registered party is so lent otherwise than on commercial terms, or

(b) for the purposes of subsection (2)(f), whether any property, services or facilities provided for the use or benefit of a registered party is or are so provided otherwise than on such terms,

regard shall be had to the total value in monetary terms of the consideration provided by or on behalf of the party in respect of the loan or the provision of the property, services or facilities.

I think I see the pattern. The argument is clearly that his courses are worthless, and therefore have no market value whatsoever, and therefore, cannot possibly constitute a political donation subject to registration under the 2000 Act?

This is not impossible in practical terms. Consider the YouGov polling of marginal seats; the difference between the famous Ashcroft-targeted marginals and the uniform national swing has narrowed sharply over the last 18 months, which seems to suggest it's possible to spend and spend on a Tory campaign and actually do worse.

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