Surprise! Smith Institute Plans More Meetings at No. 11

On Friday Gordon complained about smears in a statement where he denied that the Smith Institute had any formal link to him. Sure he is not on the board, but the board is Brownite.

Remember Wilf Stevenson, the institute’s director, both denies it is political (which would put it in breach of charity law) and that it is a Brownite front. Nevertheless we discovered recently that Gordon pushed to have Wilf made a working peer.* That would have meant that Brown had made him a Labour working peer for his Smith Institute work. How in any sense therefore is he non-political and non-Brownite?

This is all a “Mandelson smear” the Sunday papers were briefed. Guido has no formal link with Mandelson, but he has been digging into “the Sith” sleaze for months. When is a smear not a smear? When it is the truth.

Guido has obtained this list of events being held by the Smith Institute. You have just missed “Shaping Global Policy” – which seems an odd subject title for a non-political public charity. Isn’t policy formation a bit political?
Are these meetings open to the public in line with the charity’s charter? No. Are they anything to do with Brown’s current imperative to repaint himself as Green? They are all being held at No. 11, what do you think?

*So, yes, he would actually have become the Dark Emperor’s very own Sith Lord.

Ferret Watch : Brownites V Blairites

When Guido read the headline about the “Shambles” memo on Iain’s blog on Saturday his first thought was “Gould”. Gould tried to work with Brown some months ago as part of the perparation for an “orderly transition”, but the short-lived co-operation fell apart in mistrust.

On Friday the Brownites believed the weekend would see a smear operation on Brown, Gordon’s spin-meister Damian McBride put out an extraordinary statement dealing with three issues – Gordon’s knowledge about loans, his lobbying for peerage on behalf of his two cronies, Ronnie Cohen (whom he secured a knighthood) and Wilf Stevenson, director of the Smith Institute, which serves as Gordon’s private political secretariat.

The “McSnide” statement:


Rather than respond in piecemeal fashion to these unfounded allegations and smears, we wish to make the Chancellor’s position absolutely clear – on the public record:

Neither is there any formal position for the Chancellor in the system of nominations for Labour working peers. And the Chancellor has never made any such submissions nominating an individual or individuals in letters or statements.

When asked to give his opinions informally about potential working peers to be nominated by the party, the Chancellor has, of course, been happy to give them on the basis that eligibility should naturally be based on service to the community and country, present and in the future.

Mr Stevenson, former director of the BFI and now director of the Smith Institute, and Sir Ronald Cohen of the Portland Trust are known by the Chancellor and he respects their service to public life and has no hesitation in saying they would have made valuable working peers.

But the fact is that no nomination has been made for either individual to the political honours committee, nor has the Chancellor ever submitted any letter or statement of nomination. In Sir Ronald’s case, it is understood anyway that Sir Ronald has made it clear he would not wish to be considered.

We understand that neither Mr Stevenson nor Sir Ronald has ever made loans to the Labour party.

We also know that if any donations have been made they are anyway a matter of public record under the rules and neither individual has ever discussed any such donations with the Chancellor.

And, as the register of Members’ interests confirms, at no time in Opposition and, of course, never subsequently have either of them made any donations to Mr Brown’s political office.

And in respect of the Smith Institute, set up in memory of his friend, the late John Smith, Mr Brown welcomes and encourages the work they do and their contribution to the intellectual and policy debate of the country but Mr Brown has no financial nor any formal relationship with them.

Guido thinks Brown really wasn’t involved in the Loans for Lordships scam, but McSnide does not really deny that Gordon lobbied for Ronnie and Wilf to get peerages to become working peers. Odd because Wilf protests that he is non-political and has no relationship with Brown, who in turn claims no formal relationship with the Smith Institute. A patently false claim, since we all know that it is a Brownite operation and that if Gordon had his way his friend Wilf would now be a Sith Lord…

Friday Caption Contest (Sith Edition)

This is a picture taken at a closed meeting held by the “non-political”, tax subsidised, “public educational charity”, the Smith Institute. In the middle is Wilf Stevenson, the institute’s director, on the left of him is James Purnell, Minister for Creative Industries. On the right of Wilf is Eric Nicoli, Chairman of EMI group, a business regulated by the Minister. Around the table are industry lobbyists and vested interests.
At the meeting, according to a transcript obtained by Guido, Eric Nicoli told Wilf “We have the problem that the political agenda is, on average, about two years out in terms of the time horizon because of elections and so on, yet we are here trying to develop something for the longer term. So I agree, not least because prime ministers and chancellors seem to last a bit longer than the average minister, that we should go after them and be relentless in our pursuit of our objectives.

Wilf, who says the institute is non-political and “has no direct relationship with Gordon Brown”, told Eric at the meeting “What you are going to say will have a great impact on the government’s thinking”.

EMI then paid £29,375 to the New Statesman, owned by Geoffrey Robinson, the former paymaster general. The Gordon Brown backing New Statesman rents office space to the Smith Institue at below market rates. EMI has also made undisclosed*, but substantial donations to the The Smith Institute. Nor is this the only Smith Institute/New Statesman event organised by Konrad Caulkett and sponsored by EMI over the last two years.The Smith Institute held a seminar on copyright reform at No. 11 just before Gordon’s big PBR speech last week. It was a happy affair. Later, in his PBR speech Gordon went outside his usual brief to announce reform of copyright legislation.

So co-conspirators, what was Eric Nicoli really saying to the Smith Institute meeting?

*Neither EMI or the Smith Institute were willing to make a comment.

C4 Tonight : Gordon "Cash for Honours"

Guido has just been tipped that C4 News is going to do a “Gordon in Cash for Honours” story tonight.

Co-conspirators and readers of this blog will have heard about Ronnie Cohen months ago.

Tomorrow :

Guido will be exposing evidence of how the Brownite Smith Institute’s “Cash for Access” machine became a “Payments for Policy” racket – with Gordon Brown delivering the policy.

Guido will name the the donor the institute’s director, Wilf Stevenson, told at a Smith Institute meeting “what you are going to say will have a great impact on the government’s thinking” – two months before Gordon announced the policy change wanted.

Konrad is Not Speaking to Guido…

… and no-one else at the Smith Institute is answering questions, so Guido will just pass this one straight to the Charity Commissioners for their investigation into if the Smith Institute has crossed over into “politics”.

Konrad:

  • 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?

Comrade Konrad, the Sith Apprentice

Eagle-eyed co-conspirators will notice the line-up on this regular feature’s Smith Institute banner has changed, out goes Gordon’s pollster Shrum, in comes curly haired Konrad, the man who could not remember how he got his job. Guido had no idea how widely disliked Gordon’s little helper is until he mentioned him earlier this week.

Now bear in mind that according to Wilf Stevenson, the director of the institute “it has never had and does not currently have a direct relationship with Gordon Brown.” (Incidentally, how does Wilf, never in the office, run a Westminster focussed think-tank from the Lake District?)


Some of the comments about Konrad were just unprintable so Guido has stored them in his files. Essentially Konrad is said to revel in the cloak and dagger aspects of running Gordon’s slush fund and the proximity to power it provides. He enjoys being the secret Sith apprentice to Gordon’s Emperor Palpatine.

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’s co-conspirators have renamed the institute “the Sith” after the evil cult devoted to the dark side of the Force. In Star Wars they attempt to overthrow the legitimate elected political leader and replace him with an unelected dictatorial emperor Gordon Brown Palpatine. It is a fantasy.

Sarah Who?

Guido called up the Smith Institute this afternoon to get an invite to go to a Bob Shrum talk he had heard they were hosting. The S.I.’s Konrad Caulkett was a bit evasive.

KC “No.”
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?”
KC “Westminster”
GF “Where in Westminster?”
KC “RUSI”
GF “Nice.”

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?”
GF “Macaulay”
KC “I don’t have to talk about my friends”
GF “No you don’t…. Did Sarah Brown get you the job?”
Silence.

The Smith Institute is not a Brownite political front they repeatedly protest to the press and the Charity Commissioners. But Wilf Stevenson, editor of Brown’s yawn inducing collection of speeches, who had Gordon as his best man at his wedding, is the boss. The number two got his job through his relationship with Brown’s wife. Bob Shrum advises Gordon on polling (and is also on the S.I. pay-roll), Ed Balls got bunged £100,000 for 8 months to tide him over when he stopped working directly for Brown at the Treasury. The whole thing is run out of Brown-backing Geoffrey Robinson’s New Statesman offices. It smells.

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.

Charity Commissioners to Re-Investigate Smith InstituteGordon’s Spin Merchants Front-page His Bad News

On Saturday The Telegraph followed up on Guido’s story from earlier this month about the Smith Institute and today it has a leader and an article on the subject. The Charity Commissioners received calls from the Times, Bloomberg and The Telegraph chasing the story, which seems to have galvanised them into action. They have announced that they intend to re-investigate what is effectively Gordon’s slush fund and charitable successor to his “blind trust”, the Industrial Research Trust.
All are chasing what could be a dynamite scandal for Ed Balls and Gordon Brown, the Smith Institute’s use of Treasury tax rebates on donations to the “charity” to fund Ed Balls’ salary and subsidise what is the secretariat for Gordon’s government-in-waiting. The prospect of being able to lay abuse-of-office charges at the door of No. 11 has hacks salivating.

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

Previous here, here and here.

What Kind of "Charity" is the Smith Insitute?

If you call the New Statesman you get an automated response system, which at the end directs callers to the Smith Institute. The Brown-backing New Statesman is owned by Geoffrey Robinson. Guido is making a wild guess here, but would

[…]

+ READ MORE +

What Yates Should Ask Gordon

Yates of the Yard wants to know what Gordon Brown knew about the £14 million in loans to the Labour party made in 2005. Gordon will no doubt have credible answers for him. Yates’ questions would be better directed back

[…]

+ READ MORE +

Prezza v BloggersMichael White Gives Round One To Prezza on Points

Michael White is scoring the fight this morning-

The war of Prezza’s stetson is not over yet. But the political bloggers have lost the first round.

Prezza’s pugilistic skills may be infamous, but if he won the first round on

[…]

+ READ MORE +



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Quote of the Day

Former Miliband guru Arnie Graf reveals Labour’s disconnect with the working class:

“On one of my trips to the U.K. in the autumn of 2013, I bumped into one of Ed’s strategists in Portcullis House. He asked me if I was assisting the staff on Ed’s trip that was to take place in a few days to one of the regions. I told him that I did not have knowledge of his planned trip.

He told me that Ed was going to give a talk at the region’s annual fund raising dinner and that prior to the dinner he had invited the media to join him at a local coffee shop to listen to a conversation he planned to have with a minimum wage worker. The point of the conversation was to show how difficult it was for a minimum wage worker to get on in life.

There was only one problem. No one had been able to locate a minimum wage worker for Ed to talk with.”

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