At least according to today's Guardian here. The Electoral Commission has indicated that the Liberal Democrats could be forced to pay back their biggest ever donation of £2.4m which came from Michael Brown's company, 5th Avenue Partners Ltd.
The BBC also has the same story here.
Meanwhile The Times runs with the same story with the slant that all 70,000 members of the Liberal Democrats will be personally responsible for repayment of the £2.4m. The piece states that "The Lib Dems have admitted that they have not made any provision for paying back the money. If forced to do so, each party member would share the debt. "
Norfolk Blogger takes issue with the slant in the Times here. He says "it is The Times obsession with claiming the Lib Dem party members are liable for the debt that devalues their article. They keep repeating the phrase "party members will be liable" or "each party member would share the debt". The problem for the journalists, and something they cannot explain is why this is the case? Surely, just like the Tory Party or Labour Party (who both have massive debts which are not paid by their members) the Lib Dems could arrange temporary loans from individuals or financial institutions ? Just because the Lib Dems have made no provision at present, it does not mean they can't !"
I agree entirely with the above statement but just because we have made no provision does not mean that we will be able to raise all of the £2.4m which is required.
What happens then?
Could individual members be forced to stump up their share of the shortfall?
I don't know the answer to that question but I am not surprised that the media are running with it given the following quote from the same Guardian article which I quoted above. "The statement prompted senior Liberal Democrats figures to call for the party to repay Mr Brown's donation, which was spent on last year's general election campaign. Lady Miller, a Lib Dem peer, yesterday told the Guardian: "Raising £2.4m from 70,000 members is a mountain. But one thing the Lib Dems are known for is integrity. The party did its best at the time to check everything was fine. But he gave the party money which wasn't his. At the moment [the decision] is in the balance, but in my view it's balanced on the side of paying it back."
Admittedly this talks about raising the money rather than members being forced to pay the money but this still leaves unansweredered question of what happens if loans and money raised from members do not cover the amount required. The answer to this question could be very significant for membership of all political parties in the UK.