Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Business transaction not political donation

Dizzy Thinks has an excellent piece on the difference between the business community and political tribalists when it comes to events. Rather than comment further I reproduce his piece here:

You say political donation, I say business transaction

The Ealing Southall by-election is getting rather funnier by the day. Allegations about possible lawsuits, and now we have "Tory candidates donates to Labour less than a month ago". Well that's the line Labour have pushed, which is understandable, elections and all.

It seems what has happened is that Tony Lit in his position as MD of Sunrise Radio, and his wife, attended an event which was celebrating diversity and was actually a Labour fund raiser with Blair and presumably other great and good Labour people too. They, that is Sunrise Radio had paid the Labour Party £4800 for a table at the event. Apparently the table also won an auction which it has yet to pay for with a winning bid of £4000.

There are of course some who would say this is evidence of shameless opportunism by Tony Lit. Weeks before he became the Tory candidate he was "donating" money to Labour. I think some perspective is needed on this though, after all, it was a business identity that was attending an event which, essentially, was a "here's a chance to lobby the Government" event as well as be seen in the local community and maintain a friendly business profile.

Whilst some people might call it a donation, anyone with a modicum of business understanding knows that the £4800 will be seen as a business transaction rather than an act of generosity. In fact, I would be surprised if it wasn't written off in the Sunrise books as part of a relationship building expenses ledger. One thing's for sure, personal political views won't have been a factor in the decision of whether to attend or not.

And to be fair, it sort of beggars belief that an event about diversity and the British Asian community would not have the nations largest Asian radio station in attendance in some way. The chances are they were probably contacted by the Labour Party and invited, rather than it being active participation the other way round. At which point a business decision was made to attend, because, funnily enough, from a business point of view it was absolutely the right thing to do.

Those of a more tribalistic persuasion might find this hard to stomach. Obviously a Labour tribalist won't buy such an argument because it (a) doesn't suit the situation to do so and (b) they're probably a public sector housing officer that doesn't understand the dispassionate nature of making a business decision. A Tory tribalist meanwhile will probably understand the point, but just see it as an excuse to blame Cameron some more I imagine.

There is one final thing to consider though. The Labour Party have (presumably thanks to Tom Watson and Joan Ryan who are dealing with their by-election strategy) just sent a message to businesses around the country that it will (a) breach a trust it may have with them and (b) use them as a political football if it's expedient to do so.

In the short term they've created a story on a Sunday when the polls look horrible for Tories, a double whammy, and politically a great hit (even though the story is devoid of any sanity really). But, in the long term, they've probably just ensured that they're not going to get a decent hearing on the largest Asian broadcaster in the country for some time to come.

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