Douglas Carswell, May 2009, Steve Punter

There’s gold in them thar blogs

We’ve all got our own quirks. For some, it can’t be helped but to put any quirks on public display, others though, prefer to hide their quirks from public view, and so it is with UKIP MP Douglas Carswell and his relationship with advertising network MessageSpace.

In an interview for marketing mag Campaign, Jag Singh, a founder of advertising network MessageSpace let slip of Carswell:

“The quirk about Douglas is that because he is such a fiscally responsible person, he wants payment in gold,” Singh says. “Every month instead of sending him a wire transfer, we are sending him a gold nugget.”

Set aside what appears to be a breach of confidentiality and just let that sink in for a moment. Once you get past the “Huh?” factor, a few questions spill out of that statement.

Twitter was quick to react:

Tongue-in-cheek?

The comment about tax though tongue-in-cheek, raises a pertinent issue.

Carswell’s tax affairs are between him and the tax man, but the propriety of taking delivery of gold nuggets as payment for services should be considered here. As an MP, Carswell is bound by the Code of Conduct for Members of Parliament, he should be declaring income in the Register of Members’ Financial Interests.

The rules for the register are simple. The register is supposed to:

provide information about any financial interest which a Member has, or any benefit which he or she receives, which others might reasonably consider to influence his or her actions or words as a Member of Parliament

But Carswell has not declared his financial interest with MessageSpace.

A quick search of Carswell’s entry in the register of interests which dates back to 2015 shows that Carswell makes no mention of payment in gold nuggets, or of his financial relationship with MessageSpace. This doesn’t seem to fit with what Jag Singh claims are regular payments from MessageSpace to Carswell “every month”.

Carswell himself might not think advertising money is an influence upon him, and he might be right. It may well be that individual gold nuggets represent a small consideration for the advertising space at Carswell’s personal blog (over time they surely add up). Neither of those things is the issue here. The issue is only if others might reasonably consider it to influence his actions.

Payment for advertising of any kind clearly has the potential to influence, but an unusually quirky series of payments in gold nuggets from a company which claims to “own” the entire space for advertising in the political blogging market and which has exclusive advertising deals with major political blogs is surely so unusual that the general public might reasonably consider it to influence Carswell.

Carswell did not respond to a request from the BBC for a nugget of information on his payment in gold, but will he now add this payment to his entry in the Register of Interests?