On Monday 22nd I blogged about allegations that Ealing Southall MP, Virendra Sharma, has been sponsored by the Indian government. I wrote to him that day as follows:
Dear Mr Sharma,
You will be aware of stories in The Indian Express and Pardes Weekly referring to a donation of Â£5,000 made to your 2010 election campaign by Indiatourism of
7 Cork Street , London WIS 3LH, essentially the government of India.
I would be grateful if you could explain why this item is not recorded in the Parliamentary register of membersâ€™ interests under your name. You will appreciate that the sponsorship of a UK MP by a foreign government is just the kind of item that should be recorded in the register.
I would also be grateful if you could confirm that this donation was included in your return to the Electoral Commission regarding your election expenses.
London Borough of Ealing
Since I wrote I have been looking into the Electoral Commission’s requirements for disclosure and apparently these end on election day so victory parties and their sponsors are not required to be disclosed to the Electoral Commission which seems a bit strange. There is still though a requirement to register the interest on the Parliamentary register of members’ interests.
As it happens I have just received a “vehement denial” from Sharma. We all know that it is the lie that gets you in the end, not the original offence. I hope for his sake he knows that his campaign/constituency party did not benefit from Indian government sponsorship or it will be curtains for Sharma.
Dear Cllr Taylor,
Please accept my apologies for the delay in replying to your email dated 22nd August 2011. I was out of the country and therefore not able to reply earlier.
I vehemently deny the false allegations that you refer to in your email and that have appeared in various media. I have never received a donation from Indiatourism and have therefore never been liable to make a declaration in the Parliamentary register of membersâ€™ interests.
I am in the process of obtaining legal advice in relation to this matter and would ask you not to repeat these false allegations.
Virendra Sharma MP
I note that Sharma’s denial is narrowly drawn: “I have never received a donation from Indiatourism …”. If you don’t think that Â£5,000 is a big deal you should be aware that the campaign limit in the immediate period before the election for a constituency of the size of Ealing Southall is Â£10,387.90 and Sharma spent 98% of it. Â£5,000 is half of what he was entitled to spend.
I am sure that Sharma did not personally pocket Â£5,000. I would like to know how big this party was and who paid for it. I can feel another e-mail coming on.