The Smith Institute, a charity widely seen as a front for Gordon Brown, who seemed to be the only beneficiary of the charity, acted as an integral part of his long campaign to become PM. By law it was supposedly a non-partisan, non-political organisation, yet it hosted a “how to beat Cameron“ event to which the Conservatives formally objected.
Wilf Stevenson, the director of the institute claimed, somewhat implausibly, that there was no direct link to Gordon Brown. Guido revealed that Sarah Brown got Konrad Caulkett the job at the Smith Institute. Despite Konrad being at the centre of allegations that the Smith Institute broke the law, Sarah Brown has once again stepped in to help him get a job, this time as her SpAd. So despite him being suspected of various breaches of the Charity laws, despite denials of links to Gordon, he has been brought onto the No. 10 payroll. Downing Street sleaze clearly didn’t end with Blair.
See also Sith attempt to cover-up use of No. 11, Mrs Brown recruits Konrad as the Sith apprentice, The back story to the Sith’s Konrad, The public charity which refuses to talk to the public, Non-political charity does policy at No. 11, Sith’s Konrad paid by charity to campaign for Balls’ election, The Charity Commission announcement, The Sith and the Statesman.
Ed Miliband, the Cabinet Office minister and frequent attendee of Smith Institute events at 11 Downing Street in the past, now reckons “Charities should be free to participate in appropriate ways in political activities. There are clear benefits to society from allowing charities to do so.”
Guido is in favour of such a change in the law, but the Charity Commission’s Smith Institute investigation should still reach a prompt conclusion. Gordon Brown was the sole beneficiary of a charity which broke the law continuously for five years and acted as a campaign slush fund for him. Nobody is above the law.
The Charity Commission needs to ascertain, in good time, whether or not taxpayers money was diverted to furthering Gordon Brown’s private interests.
In the small print of Brown’s Commons Statement yesterday:
Right of charities to campaign
168. …it is important to ensure that the regulatory framework for the third sector, together with the Government’s consultation mechanisms and investments in strengthening the organisational capacity of the sector, help it to foster and harness community voices on important issues of public policy. The Government will therefore work with the Charity Commission, Capacitybuilders and sector leaders to explore the options for enabling charities and other sector organisations to better campaign on issues that are likely to advance the cause of the purposes for which they have been established. As part of this process, the Government will consider the recommendations of the recent report of the independent Advisory Group on Campaigning and the Voluntary Sector, chaired by Baroness Helena Kennedy QC (23 May 2007).
So it is a bit of a coincidence that Lord Haskell, chairman of the Board of Trustees gave a five grand donation to Gordon’s leadership campaign. Even more of a coincidence that another board member, Mr Paul Myners, gave twelve grand. Surely he can’t remain mere “mister” Myners for much longer. It was Myners of course who provided the implausible story to cover-up the Treasury’s direct payment to the Smith Institute.
You won’t read about this in the Guardian, because although it likes to advertise that it has no press baron owner, Myners is chairman of the Guardian Media Group as well as being a Sith board member. Another fortunate coincidence…
“the registered charity that appears to have virtually set up headquarters in 11 Downing Street… Surprisingly – or not, whichever way you care to look at it – Gordon didn’t answer himself. He left it to his deputy, Stephen Timms, Financial Secretary to the Treasury. I suggested that it was odd that No. 11’s householder was apparently unwilling to answer to the House over his domestic arrangements. Timms is a nice, straightforward man and seemed uncomfortable to be asked the question, so he simply didn’t answer it. And so we say farewell to Chancellor Brown. Next time he is at the despatch box he will be Prime Minister. But I doubt that he has heard the last of the Smith affair.”
You can bet on that…
Classic stonewalling, but this is not going to go away just because the Sith refuse to answer questions. The Guido initiated Charity Commission investigation is a statutory process, subject to judicial review. It won’t be easy to sweep things under the carpet.
Well apart from Jamie Oliver and everyone’s mother, they could have gone to one of the various centres of excellence in the academic world; The Human Nutrition Research Centre at Newcastle University, the Nutrition Research Review team from the department of biochemistry at UCL, the Centre for Public Health Nutrition Research at the University of Dundee would have been particularly appropriate. Maybe the Medical Research Council’s Collaborative Centre for Human Nutrition Research at Cambridge University. These are well known and authoritative centres.
What did the highly politicised Food Standards Agency quango do instead in the aftermath of the Turkey Twizzler scandal? They called those well known experts in child nutrition, Konrad Caulkett and Wilf Stevenson at the Smith Institute. The Sith got Jon Snow in to chair the event, with Dame Deidre Hutton from the Food Standards Agency presiding.
Other seminar contributors included New Labour’s favourite headmaster Gary Philips (Lillian Baylis Technology School), Dame Suzi Leather – who was at the time at the Schools Food Trust. Paul Kelly from the contract caterers Compass Group chipped in – Compass are the firm which shoves chips down the throats of kids.
Funnily enough one of the conclusions they came to was that Mum’s packed lunch was not nutritious and the kids would be better off scoffing Compass Group’s nosh. For this conclusion to the gathering the Smith Institute was paid £10,000 of the taxpayer’s money. The actual benefit to child nutrition was zero. Subsidy value to Gordon’s charitable think tank – £10,000. Isn’t it amazing that once again it costs the taxpayer £10,000 for the Smith Institute to organise one seminar for a government quango, yet costs the Sith nothing to hold nearly 200 hundred seminars on government property at No. 11? The discovery of this latest bung follows last week’s revelation of a last-minute cover-up of another £11,750 bung to the Smith Institute direct from the Treasury. The whole thing stinks.
Even more disturbing is that Dame Suzi Leather, who attended this seminar, is a long-time Labour Party activist who now heads up the Charity Commission, which is conducting the investigation into the Smith Institute for breaches of the Charities Act. No conclusion has been reached in that investigation yet, which is in itself very worrying…
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?
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.
Full story this evening.
So when the SNP listed 100 leading businessmen who were supporting them, Gordon was not amused. A counter list of 100 businessman opposed to Scottish independence was hastily assembled. An advert was placed in The Scotsman by these “non-partisan” business leaders. Guido understands that it was financed by John Milligan, who is also a trustee of the Smith Institute…
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“I stab people in the front, not the back.”
Owen Jones says:
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