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Bearwood Nov 28

Not a BBC Three spinoff from Doctor Who, but Bearwood Corporate Services, the medium of choice through which Lord Ashcroft funded various target seat campaigns for the Conservatives in the general election.

The Electoral Commission’s latest news release details donations and loans reported in the third quarter of 2006, but also include a list of donations that should have been declared earlier but weren’t. Sat on the naughty step with £207k of late donations are the Labour Party, followed by the Tories on £168k. (The LibDems were late with £23k, for which certain local parties deserve a metaphorical clip round the ear.)

Of particular interest are donations made before the 2005 general election. If that seems a long time ago, it’s because it was. The only LibDem donation to fall into this category was a transfer between councillors in Cannock Chase and their local party. The Tories, however, managed to fail to declare on time a number of Lord Ashcroft’s generous pre-election donations: £5,000 to the Harlow Association, donated in January 2005; £5,000 to Brighton Kemptown; £2,145 to the Hastings & Rye Association.

What may amuse LibDem and Labour bloggers is the constituency which received the largest previously-undeclared pre-election boost from Bearwood Corporate Services. Anyone want to hazard a guess? Yes, it’s the £7,993 donation to North Norfolk Conservative Association – and I think we all know who was the candidate there. Now I have no intention of casting aspersions on Iain, of course – PPERA reporting is not the parliamentary candidate’s responsibility – but I couldn’t help a wry smile at the coincidence. (And lest anyone forget, despite Ashcroft’s cash Norman Lamb romped home in North Norfolk, increasing his majority.)

That said, this donation nevertheless is trumped by larger previously unreported donations in Reading East, Wirral West and from the notorious Midlands Industrial Council to the Tory campaign in Shrewsbury & Atcham, among others.

All the main parties need to do better to ensure compliance with the PPERA, but some have further to go than others.