Paxman: I wasn’t suggesting impropriety I was merely suggesting he knew who Mr Abrahams was.
Hoon: He has made clear he hasn’t solicited any donations whatsoever from Mr Abrahams and given the facts set out by Paul Mason in his interviews it seems highly unlikely that he would approach him for a donation given the history between the two men.
Hoon was not telling the truth as became clear minutes later when Abrahams contradicted him. Mendelsohn not only knew Abrahams, he knew about his substantial donations and currently wanted to discuss getting more for Gordon. He handwrote his letter addressed to “Dear David”…
So when Gordon Brown told us he wanted to clean up politics after the sleaze of the Blair era, he clearly wanted to put all that dodgy fundraising behind him. So why did he appoint lobbyist Jon Mendelsohn as the Labour party’s Director of General Election Resources, reporting directly to wee Douglas Alexander?
Mendelsohn is a friend and protege of Sleazy Lord Levy. After he cashed in his LLM stock his days at the office were spent on the phone on behalf of Labour Friends of Israel, plotting with Levy, using all the same hustling tricks as Levy. It would be very interesting to see how many Mendelsohn clients got honours…
Jon’s firm pioneered cash-for-access in the early days of New Labour for LLM clients, he is at the centre of a web of financial links to Labour; Treasurer of Policy Network, Treasurer of Progress, deeply involved in Labour Friends of Israel. His firm is infamous for lobbying on behalf of two opposing cities to get a super-casino. This is not the first or the last time that his mendaciousness has been exposed…
It is clear that Mendelsohn knew that Abrahams was the real donor of substantial sums, in which case he was in the know about an illegal funding operation, he can’t remain the head of Labour’s fundraising efforts in those circumstances.
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.
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: 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…
- 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…
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.
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.
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…
“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…