Newly released documents have shed light on a troubled intern scheme linked to the Labour Party, with the party’s secretary telling electoral officials the scheme’s organiser “had not been forthcoming” in disclosing how it was funded. …
In response to a letter from the Electoral Commission, Labour Party general secretary Andrew Kirton asked for a meeting to discuss the “unusual and complex situation”, accompanied by Kensington Swan lawyer Hayden Wilson.
When you turn up with a lawyer, you know there are real issues!
The Electoral Commission’s notes of the July 5 meeting record Kirton as saying McCarten’s vision “appears to have been to create an independent entity supported by unions etc”.
The scheme was run by Labour Party staff and used the Labour Party name and logo. It was about as independent as the media in Belarus.
Kirton estimated McCarten had spent $104,000 on the intern scheme, with the funding believed to come from “a private funder who he has not disclosed.”
“Andrew believes that Mr McCarten would not have funded any of the costs himself. Andre [sic] and Hayden indicated that Mr McCarten has not been forthcoming…
So the General Secretary of the Labour Party is saying he does not believe Matt McCarten when McCarten says he paid for it all himself. This is staggering, especially as McCarten is the former Chief of Staff to two leaders.
“Andrew and Hayden’s view is that the costs incurred were by Matt. They have stepped in to honour the bills, but at law they have no obligation because Matt was responsible [and] had unilaterally entered into these agreements and had no authority to incur costs on behalf of the party.”
Two Labour Party staffers were working on the scheme. Advertisements appeared overseas promoting it all with the Labour name and logo.
The Electoral Commission then wrote to McCarten on July 10, asking him to provide information on who provided the funding for the campaign and the extent of Labour’s involvement.
After he did not respond to a July 17 deadline, the commission wrote to him again on July 19 saying it was considering whether to refer the issue to the police “given the amount of money involved and the seriousness of [the] allegation”.
Only the Police have the power to investigate fully. They can access bank accounts and determine who actually paid for what.
He told the Electoral Commission the campaign had been set up by “a few mates of mine” after Labour decided not to run an official internship programme, and he had agreed to personally cover or raise the costs for the scheme.
A few mates? Who? The four people involved with it were two Labour Party staffers, a member of their National Council and McCarten. Were there others?
In a follow-up letter on August 1, McCarten said Farrar and media had made “a series of assumptions that then lead to inaccurate conclusions”, and the scale of the project was far smaller than had been suggested.
There were no assumptions. It was all based on the actual documents McCarten drew up saying what it would cost.
He had spent $65,094 on the scheme “paid directly out of my personal bank accounts”, including nearly $37,000 on accommodation and food as well as over $10,000 on rental cars and vans.
I’m sorry but I am as skeptical as Andrew Kirton on this. Who happens to have a spare $65,000 sitting in their bank account to fund such a scheme. I know how much parliamentary staff are paid, and this is highly implausible.
McCarten said he was not working for Labour when he set the campaign up, and believed the interns would not have seen themselves as being part of the party’s national campaign.
This is also wrong. He started work on this back in March when he was employed by the Leader’s Office. And the interns absolutely saw themselves as part of Labour’s campaign – they cited Labour on their fundraising pages.
However, McCarten did not meet an August 17 deadline to hand over the information, with a follow-up email from the Electoral Commission on October 3 – nearly two months later – asking him to provide a timeframe for a response.
An Electoral Commission spokeswoman confirmed McCarten had still not provided it with the final donation figures, but there were no “legal obligations” yet.
“The next step is for candidates to file their return of election expenses and donations, and these are due on 23 January. The reason the Commission asked Mr McCarten to come back to us was to make sure the final figures were communicated to us and the candidates for their returns.”
It is not just the figures needed, but who the contributors were. The Electoral Commission needs to satisfy itself that McCarten did indeed fund this all himself, and no-one else contributed.
Asked why he had said he secured a private funder for the scheme, McCarten replied:
“Because I just felt like it really, to be honest – it was really kind of tongue-in-cheek between myself and [the reporter]…I meant it more as a joke, but of course there’s no jokes in these matters.”
This is why this must be investigated by someone who can get to the bottom of it. McCarten has made contradictory statements on who funded this. It would be naive to not try to establish the facts.