Greens suspend former treasurer after polling 'leak' and funding allegations

A former treasurer of Brighton and Hove Green Party has been suspended.

Tuesday, 26th August 2014, 8:35 pm
Updated Wednesday, 14th December 2016, 1:39 pm

A former treasurer of Brighton and Hove Green Party has been suspended, pending an investigation into allegations that he leaked confidential polling information and made disputed claims about election expenses relating to the successful 2010 campaign by Caroline Lucas, the Green MP for Brighton Pavilion.

Disclosure of the suspension of Chris Barclay came as the Green Party said it was also taking legal advice about separate "false and malicious" claims made Duncan Roy, another former local party treasurer.

Freda Davis and Mike Shone, co-chairs of the Green Party Regional Council (GPRC), said a formal complaint had been levelled against Mr Barclay by Rob Shepherd, a former colleague of Mr Barclay's on the Brighton and Hove Green Party executive committee.

Backed by the current executive committee, they alleged Mr Barclay had leaked "highly-confidential proprietary polling information" and made allegations "without firm basis to date or providing full evidence about irregularities in the 2010 Brighton Pavilion constituency election expenses".

In an email, seen by Brighton and Hove Independent, they warned: "Please do not make any more damaging statements to the press or public media. This is not a constructive way to deal with these issues.

"Unfortunately, in order to protect the party from further damage GPRC have had to suspend your party membership pending investigation of Rob Shepherd's complaint."

Brighton and Hove Independent can now reveal that Mr Barclay was the anonymous "whistleblower" quoted in an article on August 15.

Following his suspension, Mr Barclay said in a statement: "On August 17, I was notified of my suspension from the Green Party - about 10 months after I had begun seeking disclosure of data relating to Caroline Lucas's 2010 campaign expenses return.

"In all of the time that has passed, the only responses I have received have been stonewalling and obfuscation from the current party chair, Lisa Murray, while the requested data has been determinedly withheld.

"Ms Murray joined the party long after the general election. Therefore, so long as she remains suitably incurious, she can provide a veneer of plausible deniability when it comes to awareness of alleged wrongdoing - and can act as a firewall while Caroline Lucas maintains absolute silence in relation to her 2010 declaration.

"I seek disclosure of what was once a public document, so as to establish that a sitting MP has obtained her seat by fair and honest means.

"The Green Party has made it tacitly clear that it will not disclose this information, referring instead to opaque and aggregated data on the Electoral Commission website. Which it knows to be inadequate to resolve my questions. I have heard independently from several members of Caroline Lucas's 2010 campaign team that there were serious issues with the declaration of campaign expenses and I possess a range of documents that give credibility to this testimony.

"I made it very clear to the party executive that, if they failed to disclose the information necessary to resolve this matter and determine the truth, I would speak out publicly so as to highlight what I believe to be a matter of unequivocal public interest.

"We hear a lot from Greens in general - and Caroline Lucas, in particular - about the need for transparency in matters of political finance so as to restore trust in politicians.

"When challenged about their own financial integrity, the party hides behind non-disclosure and Ms Lucas retreats into silence, while disciplinary proceedings are pursued against those who ask the questions. It's a revealing response."

The private polling information - dating from ast year and allegedly leaked by Mr Barclay - is reported to have shown the party lagging far behind the Labour Party in Ms Lucas's seat in Brighton Pavilion.

In response to the separate allegations made by Mr Roy - who writes the "Scrapper Duncan" blog - Lisa Murray, chair of Brighton and Hove Green Party, said: 'It has come to our attention that questions have been raised by an individual regarding the election expenses declarations made by Brighton and Hove Green Party for the 2010 general election.

'We refute the allegations being made as nothing more than an attempt to smear the local Green Party. No evidence has been forthcoming to back up the allegations being made, and they are based on claims made by a member of the party who is currently the subject of disciplinary proceedings.

"The returns required by the Electoral Commission were filled out in full and the returns were completed to the satisfaction of the Electoral Commission.

'The allegations relate to staff expenditure and take no account of the fact that campaign staff were employed by the Green Party nationally and working in other target constituencies as well as Brighton Pavilion for the duration of the election campaign.

"We intend to go beyond that which we are required to do by law and publish more detailed information, once we have fully considered the questions being raised.

'In the meantime, we want to point out that the allegations by this individual have changed several times - at one point alleging Brighton and Hove Green Party spent an outlandish £500,000 in Brighton Pavilion in 2010, despite the Green Party nationally only spending a total of £325,425 in 2010. This compares to the millions spent by the larger parties nationally.

'Given the high-profile nature of the 2010 general election campaign in Brighton Pavilion, it would be impossible for any of the fluctuating versions of these claims to be concealed from the public.

"The Green Party will not enter into any further public debate about these unsubstantiated accusations.

"We are also taking legal advice on what we believe are false and malicious claims.

'Anyone with genuine concern should contact the Electoral Commission.'