Back in February this year Guido was pressing for explanations as to the Smith Institute’s use of No. 11 Downing Street. The fact that the charity seemed to have only one beneficiary – Gordon Brown – meant that it was not only breaking the rules against political activity by a charity, it was actually functioning as a factional powerbase for Brownites. The staff and trustees were all allies of the Chancellor.
Political opponents in parliament had tabled parliamentary question after parliamentary question, all were met with stonewalling by the Treasury. Freedom of Information requests were ignored and went unanswered. Then came a breakthrough, the revelation that at a private meeting of the Smith Institute, attended by long list of Brownite allies in the media and the Labour party, the U.S. pollster Bob Shrum had advised on a strategy to defeat David Cameron’s Conservatives
based on his experience fighting the Republican party. The speech transcript was proof that the allegations were well founded.
Guido made a formal complaint under Section 8 of the Charities Act. The Charity Commission indicated that it would consider taking action. It leaked out before the official announcement was made that they would commence a formal inquiry. This led to a flurry of activity at the Smith Institute and HM Treasury. Their response was transparently choreographed in the knowledge that a statutory inquiry under the Charities Act would bring previously suppressed documents and information into the public domain.
After months of pressure it was suddenly revealed that nearly two hundred meetings had been held by the Smith Institute (free of charge) at No. 11 Downing Street with the permission of the Chancellor. Guido had been alleging that the use of the building effectively amounted to a subsidy of the Smith Institute’s activities by HM Treasury. It was literally an abuse of office in all senses of the word.
In those circumstances if it were to be revealed that the Treasury had made direct payments to the Smith Institute, Gordon Brown’s political front group, it would have been extremely damaging. The charge against Brown that he was corruptly financing his political ambitions would be hard to defend.
Amazingly a letter dated February 1, 2007, and written by Paul Myners was produced to explain away just such a payment. Myners is a Smith Institute trustee, a Treasury appointed veteran of various Gordon created quangos, who is considered a safe pair of hands by Brownites. He is also a wealthy donor to Gordon’s leadership campaign.
It explained that two years previously the Treasury had paid the Smith Institute £11,750 to hold two seminars on behalf of the Myners Review into the financial sector for Gordon. It went on to claim (without explanation) that the Treasury had paid the money by mistake. That it was always Myners’ intention to pay the cost himself. That he had now, over two years later, paid the sum personally.
If the Charity Commission investigation was not going to bring knowledge of this payment into the public domain, there is no doubt that the Treasury payment to the Smith Institute would have been kept well hidden with no danger of it being discovered or repaid.
The Myners letter is here. The explanations given by Myners are frankly incredible. He is expecting us to believe that the Smith Institute accidentally invoiced HM Treasury and that HM Treasury accidentally paid the invoice. We are asked to believe that suddenly two years later he decided to pay the bill having told his “team that I would be happy to personally contribute some or all of the costs of the seminars”. But he didn’t actually do it at the time, did he?
Why the Two Year Interval?
Could it be that the imminent and inevitable exposure of the payment by HM Treasury to the Smith Institute during the course of the Charity Commission’s investigation was the real and only reason the payment was now refunded by Myners to the Treasury? It was a plain and simple cover up – long after the event – by Myners to help his friend Gordon Brown out of a politically difficult situation.