The news that Adeela Shafi, the Conservative candidate for Bristol East, is experiencing some fairly serious financial problems, has been the source of some schadenfreude for Conservative activists in Bristol no doubt. It is certainly the case that Labour activists, riled by Conservative attempts to unseat Kerry McCarthy via #KerryOut, have taken great delight in noting her problems.
So, let's see where we are. The blue team decided that raising money for their candidate via the internet was a good idea, and I was certainly intrigued by what they were up to. So far, they've raised £1,881, 94% of the target set. Unfortunately, a month later, news broke that Adeela was in financial trouble, courtesy of the less than entirely supportive Daily Mirror. It was suggested that she was in default on her mortgage to the tune of £325,000, a lot of money by anyone's standards.
Naturally, Conservatives such as Tory Bear (yes, the guy able to spot a paedophile simply by looking at them) rushed to defend their girl - always unwise if you don't know the facts. The absence of a denial should have been of mild concern, but the temptation to counterattack was too much.
Nearly a week later, with no denial yet to arrive, the Daily Mail, no great friend of people 'not like us', joined the fray, noting that her home had been repossessed, and that it had been sold for £250,000, leaving £74,000 outstanding, plus whatever costs had been sustained by the lender in selling the property plus interest. Not good. And still, no denial.
Now, I get no satisfaction from this. I don't know Adeela at all, but her biography makes her seem like a decent human being. The implication, and it is only based on the information that I've read, is that she may have been caught up in this due to her husband's prior bankruptcy. After all, lenders are unlikely to look favourably upon someone whose financial track record has such a blemish, and potential business partners likewise.
However, in the same way that Tessa Jowell took so much flak (from me included) for her husband's financial wheeler-dealing, when she signed off on large mortgages without seemingly asking too many questions, Adeela accepted responsibility for the situation when she signed up to a business deal and a mortgage. To buy a new, more expensive property based on projected profits from a property development that hadn't even been started yet strikes me as somewhat misguided. Anyone who has had building work done will tell you that 'stuff happens' that will alter your costs as you go. And if Environment Agency approval was required, it was equally unwise to enter into such a commitment.
In the absence of clarity, Adeela is something of a lame duck, too wounded to be credible, too easy a target for those with ill intent (which would include Labour activists across the city, no doubt). It might be easier if she stood down, got her finances in order, and came back for another contest at the next election. Otherwise, she'll be spending more time defending her personal affairs and not enough time attacking her Labour opponent.
Perhaps a few Tory bloggers might want to make that point? Or perhaps a whipround to pay off some of the alleged debts might be a nice gesture?...