Lib Dems wish Ibrahim Taguri would just go away

Candidate resigns from party in wake of dodgy donor sting - but still wants to stand as independent

The Mole

Just when it seemed the election campaign couldn't get any worse for the Lib Dems, they have been hit by a fund-raising scandal which will be investigated by the Electoral Commission.

Lord Ashdown, who is chairing the Lib Dem election campaign, announced on Radio 4’s Today programme that he is calling on the Electoral Commission to carry out an independent inquiry into the allegations against the Lib Dems’ former chief fund-raiser Ibrahim Taguri, a member of leader Nick Clegg's inner circle.

Under the rules, any donor giving more than £7,500 has to be declared and named. Multiple donations of smaller amounts adding up to £7,500 in any one year also have to be declared.

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Taguri is alleged to have told an undercover reporter posing as an Indian businessman that he could avoid declaring the donor's name by accepting multiple cheques from "cousins" and back-dating them so they appeared in different years.

He also offered access to Nick Clegg and organised a meeting over dinner with Danny Alexander, the Lib Dem Chief Secretary to the Treasury.

Ashdown told the Today programme: “This is a serious allegation and we are treating it seriously. It is quite clear there are serious questions for Ibrahim Taguri to answer. It would be quite improper for us to investigate this ourselves.

“It must be done by a third party, the Electoral Commission. We will be presenting them with all the information we have... We will abide by any conclusion they reach.”

The allegations are the result of another "sting" operation by the Daily Telegraph. The last such sting led to the Tory veteran Sir Malcolm Rifkind resigning his Kensington seat – though he still maintains his innocence – while Labour veteran Jack Straw, who was due to stand down anyway at the election, was left humiliated.

Taguri has announced he is resigning as the Lib Dem candidate in Brent Central, where he was hoping to replace Lib Dem MP Sarah Tether, who is standing down. However, Taguri says he will stand instead as an independent.

The Lib Dems will have to find a new candidate to stand against him, though they must be wishing he would just go away. The scandal is highly embarrassing for Nick Clegg and comes at a time when his party is trailing Ukip in fourth place in the polls and facing heavy losses on 7 May.

One Labour MP tweeted: “I feel rather sorry for the Lib-Dems this morning.”

The Telegraph says it began its five-month investigation of Taguri after receiving information that the party was accepting “questionable” donations.

Taguri is alleged to have told the reporter posing as a businessman that his donation — and a promise of a further gift of up to £100,000 — would “open doors” and that the party would be “very helpful”. He was introduced to figures including Danny Alexander and Lord Ashdown, invited to a speech given by Vince Cable, taken to Nick Clegg’s House of Commons office and offered a meeting with the Deputy Prime Minister.

Taguri denies any wrongdoing.

The affair puts pressure on all the parties to do more to clean up party funding after the election and will increase demands supported by Labour for donations to be replaced by increased public funding of the political parties to end their reliance on rich individuals or unions.

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is the pseudonym for a London-based political consultant who writes exclusively for The