back to article MS Word edit history snares Scottish Labour on donations

Scottish Labour chief Wendy Alexander stands on the shakiest of political ground today after her leadership campaign became further embroiled in the escalating donations scandal over the weekend. If she is forced to fall on her claymore for accepting an illegal £950 from a tax exile, she'll have long the Scottish winter to rue …

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  1. James Pickett

    Professor?

    "University of Strathclyde professor"

    Of what, I wonder? Not IT, I hope...

  2. Andrew MacCormack

    If Alexander goes, Harman will have to too

    Although the real issues are more complicated, the public will see that if one Labour politician resigns over less than a thousand quid, those embroiled in allegations of more will be forced to go, even if they were actually less dodgy.

    Some think that London Labour is pressuring Alexander to stay and take the flak for this reason.

  3. voshkin
    Thumb Up

    LOVE IT!

    This lovely feature of word should be made mandatory through a system policy on all government computers, and those computers owned by politicians and their families. Should this happen (in a parallel universe) the parliament would be clear of all but the occasional tourist..

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Up

    Well done...

    ... sort of. I think you're the first publication south of the border to pick up on this.

    Scottish Labour is toast - the evidence here appears to be clear-cut and unlike Westminster parallels there also seems to be an audit trail. ALL of the Scottish press are out for blood as well :-)

    The only thing that can save Labour north of the border is the Crown Office (equivalent of the CPS) deciding that prosecutions are "not in the public interest". If that doesn't happen then there's three by-elections for the Scottish parliament and (possibly) one by-election for Westminster happening this year.

    Bets on the Crown Office/CPS doing what REALLY IS in the public's interests - ie prosecuting the people who have already admitted to breaking the law?

    Oh look there's the Hogfather flying past my window.

    Justice? We've heard of it.

  5. Karl Lattimer

    who monitors them?

    The government are quick to accuse us all of being kiddie porn users and want to block all such content by means of monitoriing etc... but they get up to this kind of thing. Nobody monitors their activity, maybe we should erm... have a committee for watching the politicians and making sure they don't break the law.

  6. Louis Cowan
    Thumb Up

    re:LOVE IT!

    Don't think I'd like that tbh - only too often have I written a big nasty tirade in Word with no intention of it being shared or sent, just for me to see it in writing in front of me and allow me to sigh happily as I rapidly tap the backspace key :)

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    LOVE IT

    when the mafiosi turn on each other like rats scrambling for the bowsprit as the ship of fools disappears slowly beneath the waves. Nice to hear that stalinists are no less liked north of the border than south of it.

  8. Lee
    Happy

    Wouldn't happen to me

    Plaintext files don't have a history function :-)

    interesting thing to note - a .txt file with a few words made by notepad is ~1Kb, the same few words in word, save as .txt is ~32Kb!

  9. Graham Marsden
    Stop

    Edit history...

    The company a friend works for sent round a memo telling everyone to ensure that the "history" function was switched off.

    Office gossip revealed that this was after a customer was sent a document and back-tracked the changes to find that "Dear Sir" had replaced "Dear Miserable Bastards"....!

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Happy

    As well as plain text...

    you can presumably also safely use RTF and PDF? They may get raised eyebrows from the recipient ("why aren't you using Word format?") till the message finally gets through to Jo Public, that in general MS = bad news, whatever the circumstances. On this particular occasion, the bad news for the individuals involved just might bring some small longer term benefits to the rest of us.

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Even politicains deserve a bit of slack

    Jeez. If I lost my job for every 950 quid that wasn't faultlessly accounted for, I'd be a bit stuffed. They were even aware of possibly dodgy donations and flagged them up. Frankly, I don't care. This is a minor infringement of a minor law and the media furore is getting really tedious. If its 50 grand, from an obviously dodgy source then OK, but this is just stupid. We desperately need a culture of "not perfect but good enough" applied across the board. For :@uk%'s sake, in software we've been doing "totally crap but you'll pay up and live with it anyway" and I wouldn't want that to change :).

  12. Anonymous Coward
    Paris Hilton

    Kayb

    "interesting thing to note - a .txt file with a few words made by notepad is ~1Kb, the same few words in word, save as .txt is ~32Kb!"

    That's because Word saves all the style information as well (waves hands) templates, user preferences and stuff. If however you save your few words as a .txt file. it should be ~1kb, although NTFS has such a thing as alternate data streams, whereby metadata can be hidden stored as a hidden component of .txt files (or indeed any file), but I'm not a technical person so don't hit me. I think the bottom line is that if you don't want someone to read something, don't write it. Try not to think it.

  13. Anonymous Coward
    Flame

    This whole anonymous donation would never have happened...

    ...if they had all our biometric data!

    How long till we hear that from one of the (many) affected politicians.

  14. lglethal Silver badge
    Thumb Up

    Ban donations

    Here's a novel idea - ban donations, loans and all the other methods of politcial party's getting money from the public/corporations! Have the party's receive a set amount from the government to fund their little campaigns and leave it at that.

    That way, there's ZERO corruption. Because lets face facts, if someone is donating money to any fund/party they want to get something in exchange for it. When i donate to WWF or the Red Cross i expect to get something for my money (Whales being saved in the case of the WWF or people being fed/healed by the Red Cross).

    When people donate to a political party nothing has changed, they still want something for their money - support for the (insert lobby group here) cause. This is usually not in the public interest. Remove a lobby group's ability to coerce the government by legal means and you remove a lot of corruption.

    NOTE: there will always be corruption but any future corruption would be highly identifiable as illegal with this model...

    Thoughts?

  15. Michael

    professor of economics...

    http://www.strath.ac.uk/economics/staff/ashcroftbrianprof/

    Possibly she can argue he spotted the discrepancy....

  16. Anonymous Coward
    Alien

    @ Iglethal - Zero Corruption?!

    Not a good idea to ban donations from the public. Letting the Govt control what groups get money just gives them more power.

    'sorry WWF - because you are campaigning on Climate Change - you are now a political party' - nobody is allowed to give you money. 'We will say what funding you can have'

    The opposite policy would be better. No corporate donations at all. Amounts over £1000 to be publicly declared with a cap at £50,000. Unions to only donate as each member specifies.

    Also a ban on politicians, senior civil servants or ex-politicians getting jobs with any corporation holding government contracts or PFIs within 3 years of leaving public office.

  17. Cathy Brode

    Journalists know about metadata

    I’m sure investigative journalists are getting wise to the stories they can dig up in tracked changes and the like – this was what brought the whole Iraq ‘dodgy dossier’ story to light a few years back. Still amazes me how the most basic precautions to remove metadata aren’t taken with Word documents.

  18. Anonymous Coward
    Unhappy

    Ban donations..

    That way my taxes are paying for any dickhead organisation who want to call them selves a political party including some, no doubt, that I would not want to see get a penny from anyone ever.

    I see your point and am just playing devil's advocate here but there are real problems with both methods.

    The real problem is that the politicians, as in so many countries, have co-opted democracy from the people and are now ensconced in their little fantasy-world of billion-dollar deals and are so preoccupied with watching, scratching and stabbing each other's backs they have little time for interest in the voters until they are forced to.

  19. David S

    @Iglethal

    Excellent idea. Does that mean that my new political party, the... um... Register Readers party, will be eligible for funding at the same level as Labour or the Conservatives?

    No? Why not?

    When people donate to their political party of choice, the return that they receive for their donation is the knowledge that they have helped to support a party which (broadly) represents their views. In theory.

    Of course, Theory's a great place (everything works there, for a start) but I've never actually managed to visit it. Where we live, political donations do coincide strangely with the government over-ruling local auhorities blocking developments, for example. The solution? FIIK, I'm afraid. Vigilance and castigation of those found guilty is a start. When the guilty not only have friends in high places, but ARE friends in high places, though, then I'm afraid there may be little anyone can do.

  20. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Down

    We ALREADY pay their bills

    http://www.leics.gov.uk/index/jobs/job_detailpage.htm?id=115347

    There you go - £20k+ for a "Political Assistant" for the Lib Dems. Paid for by the council taxpayers of Leicestershire - 99% of whom will be oblivious to the fact they all fund the Lib Dems.

    Apparently you should apply to the "Head of Democratic Services". Now there's an oxymoron if ever I've seen one.

  21. Anonymous Coward
    Unhappy

    Why donations?

    So what is wrong with a party being funded by the membership subs (subject, of course, to some sensible limits) of its members? So popular parties get money from members, who want to subscribe because they favour the policies of that party, and thus have an incentive to attract more members by having popular policies.

    Oh wait, that's a bit too much like democracy.

    This business of "we can't be trusted not to play fast and loose with our funding and will take any dodgy cash from anyone unless the taxpayer coughs up" is not exactly impressive.

  22. night troll
    Pirate

    Their defence is;

    "I reject any suggestion of intentional wrongdoing on my part." or I did not know it was illegal, as with Abrhams and the London lot.

    WTF is this! since when has ignorance been a defence in law? Just you try saying I'm sorry officer I didn't know I was over the speed limit next time you get pulled, will he let you off? Will he f*ck.

    Prosecute the bastards to the full extent of the law, no more of this "not in the public interest" bullshit. I is in the public interest for ALL politicians to be fully accountable for their actions.

  23. Brian Squibb
    Paris Hilton

    2 brain cells

    Has Alexander got more brains than Paris?

  24. skeptical i
    Alien

    the mess we've made

    For less than a thousand quid, jheez, she should have just returned it immediately to avoid the possibility of headache later on (plus the added bonus of being able to publicly trumpet taking the moral high road, yadda, yadda, yadda).

    @lglethal: It's a sad day when it's almost refreshing to see self- financed campaigns (i.e., the contestant is feelthy- rich) since these folks don't have to be funded by special interests hidden behind PACs or other groups and thus, for good or ill, are relatively free to follow their own agendae. Forbidding corporate campaign contributions, capping individual donations at something small- ish, and mandating equal media time for all candidates would invite challenges, but would be a good starting point for discussion.

    @cathy brode: I'm contantly amazed at how many people "play computer" without having the slightest idea how to do basic things, so it doesn't surprise me that politicos fall into this category as well. The more foolproof stuff is made, the more fools will use it.

    Choosing alien icon because I'm not sure what planet politicians are on these days, or if I'm on theirs by mistake.

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