Page last updated at 10:55 GMT, Tuesday, 26 January 2010

WRU chair Pickering's apology for Labour dinner e-mail

David Pickering
WRU chair David Pickering is hosting a 1,000-a-ticket fundraiser for Labour

The chairman of the Welsh Rugby Union has apologised for using its e-mail to organise a £1,000-a-plate pre-election fundraising event for Welsh Labour.

David Pickering put a WRU e-mail on invitations to the dinner at Cardiff's members-only Park House Club next week.

Welsh Tories said the WRU should be above politics as rugby was "something that unites the nation".

Mr Pickering said it was "wrong" to use the WRU e-mail address and the "error" was not intended to cause offence.

Guests expected at the dinner on 4 February include Welsh Secretary Peter Hain and First Minister Carwyn Jones.

The WRU is above politics and its facilities should not be used to promote the narrow interests of the Labour Party in any way
Nick Bourne, Welsh Conservative leader

The WRU said Mr Pickering was holding the event "as a private individual".

A spokesman said: "This is not a Welsh Rugby Union event, and it is not being held on Welsh Rugby Union premises."

Before Mr Pickering's statement about using WRU e-mail, Welsh Conservative leader Nick Bourne said the WRU "had some explaining to do".

The invitation to the event on 4 February was sent out by Mr Pickering's office PA, with the RSVP to a WRU e-mail address. Mr Pickering is chairman of the board of directors of Welsh Rugby Union Limited.

Mr Bourne had said the WRU should be above politics, and its resources should not be used to organise what he called "an expensive donors' banquet" for Labour.

He said that Mr Hain and Mr Jones had shown a lack of judgement in allowing their names and Labour to be associated politically with the WRU.

Before Mr Pickering's admission of an error in using the WRU e-mail address, there was understood to be disquiet among other senior individuals in the WRU about the danger of the union being seen to be politicised as a result of the fundraiser.

'Lack of judgment'

Most commentators expect a general election to be held in May this year, and all political parties are ramping up their fundraising efforts to fight the campaign.

The Park House Club played a key role in the furore surrounding fundraising for Mr Hain's doomed deputy leadership campaign. It was the location for a dinner which later led to questions about whether certain donations to his campaign had been properly declared to the Electoral Commission.

Mr Bourne had told BBC Wales: "Peter Hain as secretary of state for Wales and Carwyn Jones should know better than to allow their names and that of the Labour Party to be associated politically with the WRU. It shows a serious lack of judgment.

Facing up to a Tory Party bloated by [Lord] Ashcroft's millions in the next general election will be a tough ask and Labour, like all political parties, needs to raise money
Welsh Labour

"The WRU is above politics and its facilities should not be used to promote the narrow interests of the Labour Party in any way, not least by WRU resources being used to help organise an expensive donors' banquet.

"Rugby is something that unites the nation and this sort of action is totally inappropriate.

"David Pickering and the WRU have some explaining to do and this expensive dinner should be cancelled.

"An apology should be given to the people of Wales by Peter Hain, Carwyn Jones the WRU and David Pickering.

"What on earth were they thinking of? It shows how out of touch they are."

In a statement to BBC Wales, Mr Pickering said the fundraising dinner had been organised by him "in a purely personal capacity".

'Proper compliance'

He said: "This event is not associated with the Welsh Rugby Union in any way shape or form. In light of that, I accept it was wrong to use the Welsh Rugby Union e-mail address.

"This e-mail was swiftly withdrawn upon realising the error, and was not intended to cause offence to anyone."

A Welsh Labour spokesperson said: "We are very grateful to David Pickering for his continued support of Welsh Labour.

"Facing up to a Tory Party bloated by [Lord] Ashcroft's millions in the next general election will be a tough ask and Labour, like all political parties, needs to raise money.

"Obviously all donations made to the Labour Party through this event will be declared in proper compliance with the regulations."



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FROM OTHER NEWS SITES
Wales Online Pickering sorry for fundraising gaffe - 1 hr ago
South Wales Evening Post Rugby chief admits email mistake over Labour event - 9 hrs ago



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