- During the 2005 election campaign when you went up to the Normanton constituency to help Ed Balls’ election campaign, were you still being paid by the Smith Institute?
- Was it in your capacity as “events coordinator” for the Smith Institute that you blew up balloons for Balls?
- Who does actually pay your salary? The salary sums don’t add up.
Isn’t it odd that a public charity, subsidised by the taxpayers through the treasury, refuses to answer questions about funding?
What has Gordon’s little helper got to hide?
To understand how Konrad joined the independent, we-are-not-political, never-heard-of-him-gov-honest-institute, we need to go back to 1999 when New Labour was just starting to look less whiter-than-white. Sarah Macaulay was part of Hobsbawm Macaulay, the PR operation that was the spin-shop of choice for New Labour, and as such had as its client the then struggling New Statesman. Struggling to some extent because the owner (Gordon’s paymaster general at the time) Geoffrey Robinson was paying £100,000 to the future Mrs Brown’s firm. This caused some outrage at the time. As PR to the magazine she became friends with the lowly marketing and promotions employee – Konrad Caulkett. He was forever complaining to Sarah about his low pay and she supported his demands to the managment for a raise. Alas, the till was empty explained the management. Sarah suggested to him that he come work for the Smith Institute for more money, she would have a word and arrange it.
Konrad moved his desk from one side of the New Statesman’s office to the other side. This is the bit they call the independent Smith Institute.* Not so independent that it doesn’t still share the tea kettle with the New Statesman.
Hopefully this will jog Konrad’s memory as to how Sarah Macaulay got Konrad his job. Hobsbawm Macaulay went bust and Sarah became Mrs Brown. Guido wonders if she has a “direct relationship” with whomever she “had a word” with?
UPDATE : The press interest is on Ed Balls’ £100,000 bung for 8 months “work” in 2005. However a co-conspirator points out that if in 2004 the Smith Institute’s 100% owned S.I. Events Limited paid no remuneration to employees, and the S.I. charity only had a wage bill of £48,278 they must have been getting below minimum wage. Four staff; Wilf Stevenson, Konrad Caulkett, Ben Shimshon and assorted £7-per-hour interns presumably had to be paid. So where did the money come from? Over to you Konrad…
More next week.
Guido thinks such a ruse to bankrupt Blair et al unlikely to succeed, the money was spent by the Labour party, Blair was party leader and Carter general secretary. Would be fun to see them wriggling in court.
Guido has however heard Tory-inclined lawyers contemplating over their brandies the prospect of bringing a private prosecution in the event that the CPS fails to take action. Guido is good for a grand towards costs and suspects many, many others would willingly do the same.
Presumably it was Matt Carter who authorised the £500,000+ payment for the slogan “Forward, not back” to the same Penn, Schoen and Berland Associates in the run-up to the election. Shortly after the election he joined Penn’s polling organisation in the UK. Typical feather-bedding by a politician at other people’s expense – nothing special.
According to the Sunday Herald:
The theft from the Bloomsbury offices of Penn, Schoen & Berland, the Washington DC-headquartered consultancy where Matt Carter is managing director, was reported to police in Holborn on October 9. It is not known what data was kept on the stolen computers.
He was one of only three people said to know the full details of secret loans worth GBP14 million made to the party. The others were Tony Blair and Lord Levy, Labour’s most high-profile fundraiser.
Officers at London’s Holborn police station revealed details of the theft from Carter’s office… The four computers went missing over the weekend prior to October 9… Carter’s office is only one of a number of subsidiary firms owned by the international WPP agency which share an address at 24-28 Bloomsbury Way. Only Carter’s office reported a theft. No other firm at the address reported anything missing, according to the police file..
Carter has made no formal admission that he has been questioned by Yates’s team, but sources close to the investigation maintain he has been questioned on “more than one occasion” on what he knew of the GBP14m raised by Labour from private backers before the last general election.
GF “Why?” ,
KC “You’ve missed it” he said gleefully, “we had it this morning”.
GF “Oh, was it at No. 11?”
KC “No” (defensively)
GF “Is it a secret where it was?”
GF “Where in Westminster?”
GF “How did you get your job Konrad?”
KC “Errr, can’t remember.”
GF “Was it advertised?”
KC “Can’t remember.”
GF “You can’t remember how you got your job? Did Sarah get you the job?”
KC “Sarah who?”
KC “I don’t have to talk about my friends”
GF “No you don’t…. Did Sarah Brown get you the job?”
Over a hundred events have been held by the Smith Institute at No. 11 at the taxpayers expense – Gordon Brown himself often attends the regular Wednesday morning seminars. Who knows how much the Smith Institute gets in kickbacks* from the Treasury as rebates for “charitable donations” from secret donors. There is nothing wrong with Gordon having a slush-fund for his political ambitions, but it is wrong that it is subsidised by the taxpayer with the details kept secret from the public. The Smith Institute is legally supposed to be a charity for the education of the public, not a secretive cabal for Gordon with meetings held behind closed doors at the public’s expense.
If it isn’t a secret cabal why won’t they openly say who gives them the money? (Over £2 million). Guido has been given a few tips, and if correct he suspects it is because they do a lot of business with the Treasury and in some cases have been ennobled. Why stay in the shadows if you have nothing to hide?
*Legal, but not exactly transparent or a good example of open government.
Invitations for for mulled wine and nibbles will be emailed shortly…
Accounts on file at the Charity Commission don’t specify what Balls was paid. They show that in 2005 the institute’s wage bill rose to £156,501 pounds from £48,278 pounds in 2004. The accounts note that one person was paid more than £50,000 pounds that last year. Stevenson confirmed in an interview that this was Balls.
Now call Guido cynical if you will, but on the day the Charity Commissioners announce their intentions, and the Telegraph articles show the press chase has begun, we learn from a deftly placed story in the government’s favourite mouthpiece, The Sun, that tragically Gordon’s son has cystic fibrosis. A good day to front-page the tragic news?
DEVELOPING – MORE TO FOLLOW
The exchange took place at this year’s Labour Party conference during a reception hosted by the GuardianObserver, where Levy took it upon himself to act as an unofficial “meeter and greeter”.
Levy and I started talking, particularly about a Channel 4 Dispatches documentary on the “cash for honours” affair which I had presented and had been broadcast that same night.
Levy was his legendary charming self. Disarmingly, he told me that his wife had watched the programme and found it very fair. I was delighted, but said there was one matter I felt I had to raise with him. What did he make of the general point I made in the programme: that the loans from wealthy party supporters were not intended as loans, but were to be converted into donations?
He gripped my arm like a long-lost friend and said, by way of answer: “Only some of them.” I asked him what he meant and whether he could point to any specific loans. He volunteered the name of Lord Sainsbury, the billionaire former science minister who had lent the party £2m.
The point is that large donations, under this government’s own legislation, had to be declared, but loans did not. So what exactly was Levy saying to me? Did he misunderstand my original question? That is possible, but he had gone on to give me an example. Was he joking? Again possibly, but it’s an odd matter to joke about. Or was he merely expressing his hope that the loans would be converted into donations?
UPDATE :According to an impeccable source who has just emailed me, the Yard’s attention has been drawn to the Martin Bright story in this week’s New Statesman.