Two of Brown’s Fundraisers Linked to Abrahams

Sir Sigmund Sternberg (left) and David Abrahams (right)
The idea that Martin/David Abrahams is some kind of fringe outsider is being spun hard by the Labour party. Here he is pictured with Sir Sigmund Sternberg, a donor to Gordon’s leadership campaign and long time Labour party insider and financial backer. It was Sir Sigmund who sponsored Abrahams’ induction into the London Rotary Club last year.

In a surprise last night on Newsnight, Abrahams spoke by phone to Paxman and read out on air a letter of thanks from Jon Mendelsohn, Brown’s personal fundraiser, thanking him for his financial support and inviting him to a meeting in London. The letter was according to Abrahams received only yesterday, implying it was mailed just before the Mail story ran. Further proof that he was not a distant outsider as is now claimed, but someone who was considered by Brown intimates to be a known big backer of the Labour party.

Newsnight transcript:

Paxman: How recently have you been in contact with Gordon Brown’s fundraiser, Jonathan Mendelson?

Abrahams: Well, I’ve just got a letter today through my door in Newcastle, it came at 1.30pm today and it’s a personal message from John Mendelson and I’ll just read you extracts of the letter, it’s in his own hand.

“Dear David thank you for your message which Oliver passed onto me, the party is of course very appreciative of all the support you have given over many years at some point I would like to have the opportunity to talk with you personally about what we are doing and our plans for the time between now and the next general election. I know your diary is very busy but as one of the party’s strongest supporters it is only right that you are kept informed of what we are doing and the priorities that we are assigning to our resources. Any time that your diary allows, when you are next in London, I would very much like to meet to discuss this with you. Warmest regards. John. The Director of General Election Resources.

Paxman: And that letter arrived today

Abrahams: And that is contrary to what Geoff Hoon just stated on the program

Paxman: Absolutely.

Paxman: Can you tell us on the question of the support for Harriet Harman’s campaign for the deputy leadership? Do you know whether she approached Janet Kidd or did Janet Kidd approach her camp?

Abrahams: I genuinely don’t know, I can’t recall. I’ve been trying to think of this all evening. Umm. I can remember Hilary Benn because I gave him a cheque personally. Umm I can’t precisely recall what happened in the case of Harriet Harman. I’d totally forgotten about my donation to Hilary Benn when all this erupted at the weekend. It was just when it came out today, it jogged my memory

Paxman: Just as a matter of curiosity why did you back two candidates in the deputy leadership?

Abrahams: I backed Hilary Benn

Paxman: Oh, you didn’t put up the money for Mrs Kidd to give to Harriet Harman?

Abrahams: I backed Hilary Benn

Paxman: Did you give Mrs Kidd money to give to anybody?

Abrahams: I’ve just answered that question Jeremy and I umm and I think you should be satisfied with the explanation I have just given you.

Paxman: I just want to be absolutely clear about this if Harriet Harman received any money from Mrs Kidd…

Abrahams: I don’t want you to give any inaccurate statements on this particular issue. I gave Hilary Benn a cheque direct, to his, in his hand for which he thanked me and that’s, as I say uh was umm my preferred candidate.

Paxman: What’s this whole experience done to your future plans to support the labour party?

Abrahams: I’ll have to review them in the light of new legislation which I hope is brought onto the statute book as early as possible because this is just a total fiasco and when the act, and I was at a seminar in 2000, and when the act was explained to me at Durham County Hall, and being on the northern regional executive at the time, we had a day seminar on it and at the time I said that I didn’t like it, it seemed very clumsy there was a lot of loop holes in it and I stood up for party uhh government funding for political parties.

Paxman: One further

Abrahams: That was the only way I saw the future

Paxman: One further point Mr Abrahams. How many people at a senior level perhaps Mr Mendelson, perhaps others have known that you have been supporting the party in the way that you have been?

Abrahams: I can’t tell you for sure, because as far as I was concerned, I suggested to my associates that they made donations to the labour party and umm I did mention to the general secretary that I knew people who would support the labour party and I would be instrumental in insuring that donations were forthcoming and that was my role in that specific, for that specific purpose without wanting to get directly involved myself and at the same time until the weekend I didn’t know it was illegal for a person to hasn’t personally donated to declare his hand to the electoral commission otherwise I most certainly wouldn’t have contributed in this way

Paxman: Mr Abrahams, thank you for taking the time to join us, thank you.

The police will have a lot of questions to ask…

Harriet Harman Should Resign

Hilary Benn turned down £5000 for his deputy leadership campaign after Margaret Jay told him the cash from Janet Kidd was on behalf of David Abrahams. He insisted the cash should come from Mr Abrahams himself.

  • Gordon Brown also turned down £5000 for his campaign, so presumably his campaign team knew it was dodgy.
  • Peter Watt admits he knew about the money laundering scheme on behalf of Abrahams.

Despite her husband being the Labour party’s treasurer everyone seems to have known except for Harriet, she says she took the cash in good faith, that she thought it was a bona fide donation, that she did not know. In which case she will now of course repay the £5,000…

When the disgraced Blunkett was caught fiddling his expenses for his mistress he paid back the money – as if that made it alright. Whenever politicians are caught breaking the law they seem to think they can buy their way out of trouble with the same money they have cheated. That is not enough.

Harman is now chairman of the Labour party, her deputy leadership election was governed by electoral law. She received illegal funding for her campaign. It is that simple. If she had any honour she would resign this afternoon.

Incompetence is a Lie and No Defence

The excuse we are expected to swallow by Peter Watt is that he made an innocent mistake, he didn’t realise that using intermediaries to make donations was illegal. We are implicitly expected to believe that he didn’t think that money laundering donations was unethical either.

Before Peter Watt became general-secretary of the Labour party he was the party’s director of finance and compliance, a position which made him directly responsible for making sure the Labour party acted within the law. He had to be familiar with the law, it was his job. Indeed we now know that he was emailed by Rachel Savage at the Electoral Commission in July and explicitly told


If the original source of the donation is someone other than the individual or organisation that transfers the donation to the party, the individual or organisation making the transfer is acting as an agent for the original donor. Where a person acts as an agent in making a donation, they must ensure that the party is given all the relevant information as listed at paragraph 5.4 (s. 54 (6)). Transferring a donation to an agent rather than directly to a party must not be used as an attempt to evade the controls on permissibility and transparency.

Yet yesterday Peter Watt claimed:


“I was advised that, unbeknown to me, there were additional reporting requirements. Once I discovered this error, I immediately notified the officers of the NEC. I take full responsibility for the Labour Party’s reporting obligations.”

Unbeknown to him? He was explicitly reminded of his obligations, he must have know that the whole purpose of the legislation is to ensure that we have a democracy where we can see who is funding politicians and draw our own conclusions. Whatever the details of the donations, the principle of transparency has always been clear. Even when big party backers like Ashcroft and Sainsbury make donations through subsidiary companies they are meticulously transparent. There is absolutely no way Peter Watt could have been unaware of this fundamental legal tenet.

Clearly this was a deliberate attempt to camouflage donations from a property developer – why? Secret donations are against the law, there is no privacy permitted for donors, nor should there be. The law is clear, claiming ignorance of it when you are the official responsible for ensuring compliance with it won’t do. Peter Watt and Martin Abrahams should be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.

The penalties on summary conviction: statutory maximum of 6 months, or on indictment up to 1 year. It is way past time that crooked politicians tasted porridge and the law showed some teeth.

Benn Got £5,000 from Abrahams As Well

You have to give credit to Abrahams, he backed Harriet Harman for Deputy Leader with £5,000 through Janet Kidd, whilst giving another £5,000 to her rival contender Hilary Benn in his own name. Backing two horses in a race? Hardly shows a personal commitment, it is as if he is just throwing money at anyone in a potential position of influence. Why would he value their influence?

Harriet Harman Was on the Take Too…

Harriet Harman got £5,000 from Janet Kidd, a director of David Abraham’s Durham Green Developments Limited, for her deputy leadership bid. Presumably she knew who it really came from – or are we expected to believe she had no idea who was backing her? Really?

What Does a Property Developer Secretly Buy for £400,000?

Durham Green Developments Limited had a planning application for a business park development alongside the A1 motorway blocked by the Department of Transport.

Raymond Ruddick and Janet Kidd are directors of the company. Details of their directorships here [PDF]. They donated some £400,000 to the Labour party, secretly on behalf of David Abrahams, the owner of Durham Green Developments Limited.

In October last year the objection to the massive development was dropped by the Department of Transport. What a coincidence…

UPDATE : BBC reporting that Labour’s general secretary Peter Watt has resigned.

“Mr Watt told a meeting of officers of Labour’s National Executive Committee that he had known about the arrangement.”

So who else knew? Douglas Alexander was the Minister responsible for the planning objection…

CIA : BAE Bribed Hungarian and Czech Politicians

The New York Times is reporting this morning that the CIA discovered that Hungarian and Czech politicians received millions of dollars in bribes from BAE. The U.S. Department of Justice is stepping up its investigation into BAE.

The British government is not cooperating with the investigation. Hardly surprising when Blair blocked the BAE/Saudi corruption investigation on security grounds. Will they try that line again?

Does Newsnight Know What Day It Is?

Last week Andrew Marr had a go at Sky News for being less accurate than BBC News and Current Affairs. So two days of misreporting from Newsnight gives us a good laugh.

On Thursday, BBC Newsnight reported that the “Dow Jones was substantially down amidst more credit crunch fears”. That inaccurate insight and analysis was based on what? Based on bollocks.

It was made up. There were no credit crunch fears spooking the markets. The market was closed for the Thanksgiving day holiday. The economics editor Stephanie Flanders has ‘fessed up that it was “unforgivable and embarrassing”. Peter Barron contritely said on the Newsnight blog on Friday afternoon that it won’t happen again because they will check the U.S. market is trading. So Emily Maitlis was much more careful with Friday night’s market report:

“…the FTSE 100 share index closed up, sadly we can’t show the exact figures, um, holiday season as you know in the US, so the Dow Jones remains unchanged. Against the Euro, the currencies here, the pound up, against the dollar the pound was down. You’ll just have to take my word for it. We’ll get you some figures by Monday.”

The market was actually open and up 181 points closing at 12,981 (according to Sky News). So did they actually check the market was trading? Doh! Can they get it right tonight or will it be three days in a row?

Hat-tip : Biased BBC

UPDATE : Newsnight editor Peter Barron responds “I despair! We are having a complete revision of the way we collect and check the markets information.” The producer of that piece protests (anonymously) that s/he didn’t make it up. S/he just copied it wrongly from the BBC’s business wire. Guido’s advice : first check what they say on Sky News.

High Flying LibDem MEP Joins Tories

Sajjad Karim, Liberal Democrat MEP for the North West of England is joining the Conservative Party.

Saj is a free trader, helping to negotiate for an EU-India free trade treaty, in 2005 he was named as “a high flyer of British politics” by The Times in its Who’s Who of 2005.

The news will shake LibDems who are polling very shakily in the mid-teens. Saj, who was the first ever Muslim member of the European parliament, will be welcomed by Dave with open arms.

UPDATE : Why didn’t the Tories wait until the day of the LibDem leadership election result? Than they could have made him say “Tweedledee is not the right man blah blah blah…”

Rich & Mark’s Monday Morning View

Brown : “I Don’t Look at Polls”

Brown has just told Sky’s Adam Boulton that he doesn’t look at opinion polls. An absolutely blatant lie.

He even has a personal pollster – Deborah Mattinson – who must now dread telling him the bad news. After Mattinson told him he would lose the marginals, he bottled having an election. When he told the press pack that they weren’t a factor they were incredulous. When he told Cameron the same at PMQs the Tory benches fell about laughing. He is like most politicians, poll obsessed.

Facts :

  • Labour is polling at levels not seen since the nadir of Blair.
  • The News of the World tomorrow will report that on “economic competence”, Labour has finally lost the positive poll differential it has enjoyed over the Tories ever since the 1992 ERM debacle.
  • The Mail on Sunday has a poll rating Brown as less competent than John Major and Darling as less competent than Lamont.
  • If Blair were leading Labour they would be neck and neck with the Tories instead of 5% behind according to the same BPIX poll.

Maybe it would be better for his state-of-mind if he doesn’t look at the papers tomorrow…

Cameron : “We are Libertarians”

Dave is in Prague this morning to address the party conference of ODS, the future European parliamentary partners of the Tories. Founded by Thatcherite ideologue Václav Klaus, the party is receptive to what is a very rare message today from a politician – “fight for freedom”.  His speech has more ideological content than his normal stump speeches:-

“So there are many battles we must fight together, and my message to you today is a simple one – a message that I know you will understand more than most. The battle for freedom and opportunity is never finally won. In each generation, those of us who believe in freedom, in human potential, in the idea that the strength of our society comes from the energy and industry and creativity of our people; those of us who believe in these things must be ready to fight for them because the enemies of freedom are never finally vanquished. They always live to fight another day. Today we can see the enemies of freedom preparing a renewed assault on our liberty. They do not mean to harm us. In fact, they mean to help us. But their ideas are out of date, their methods have failed and their advance must be derailed. I am speaking of the politicians and public officials who believe that they know best how to organise our lives. That they are the experts, so they must have the power. You can find them everywhere – in my country, in your country and in the EU itself. They are the last defenders of the bureaucratic age, an age before the information revolution and our new world of freedom that makes it possible to put real power in people’s hands. But in their desire to control, to regulate, to direct, the defenders of the bureaucratic age have over-reached themselves. They have gone too far. They have tried to do too much. And it has exposed the historic error of their ways.

In Britain, bureaucratic over-reach has seen the Labour Government creeping further and further into the lives of British people. Millions of families sucked into a complex system of tax credits. An army of tax collectors that is now almost as big as our actual army. Fingerprinting children at school. And this week we saw a shocking consequence of this bureaucratic over-reach: a scandal where the government has lost the names, addresses and bank details of almost every family in the country. Are they learning the lesson? Do they accept that bureaucracy has gone too far? Of course not. They are stuck in the bureaucratic age. So they now want to take personal information about everyone in the country and store it on a national identity register. We are seeing this bureaucratic over-reach in the EU too. The desire for harmonisation and homogenisation – on tax, on regulation, on so many aspects of public and private life. It is the last gasp of an outdated ideology, a philosophy that has no place in our new world of freedom, a world which demands that we fight this bureaucratic over-reach and lead Europe into the hope and potential of a new, post-bureaucratic age.”

Dave is no Churchill, or even a Reagan, but it is refreshing to hear a politican talk optimistically about freedom. Amidst all the fear-mongering about security that is peddled in the war-on-terror, what we are fighting for, rather than against, is forgotten. The government is far too willing to trade real liberty for fake security.

Bottler Gives Remaindered “Courage” Book to African Kids

In an attempt to shift remaindered copies of his vanity published book on Courage Gordon is today giving away copies to Ugandan school children.

Whose brilliant idea was that? The travelling press pack are laughing at him. As many co-conspirators have pointed out in the comments, what is it with Gordon and photo-ops at schools. Do his media team have any other ideas? It just looks awkward, him smiling away at the kids and forcing his book on them.

What did the kids do to deserve this treatment?

Fox News

Liam Fox just came out with a great line about Des Browne; “He spends more time fighting the SNP than the Taliban”. Stinging…

UPDATE : Former Labour defence Minister, Lord Gilbert, told Channel 4 News that the troop’s families would find it very hard to understand when their loved ones were risking their lives in Afghanistan, why the Secretary of Defence was opening a Scottish golf course.

Friday Caption Contest (Why Me Edition)

Boris Ups His Work Rate

Londoners tuned into Capital Radio this morning to hear Boris on with Johnnie Vaughn, not sure if it was to do with his new single release. Wednesday he gave a speech on housing, yesterday he was banging on about Heathrow and the execution of De Menezes.[…]

+ READ MORE +



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