Improved as it has been under Kampfner’s editing it still lacks something because the hand of Geoffrey Robinson is suffocating it. He is prone to wandering up to writers post publication and congratulating them with the line “Gordon liked your piece”. As if any self respecting serious writer on the left would care.
The whole issue of Robinson’s ownership and his total devotion to the Brown cause depresses staff. The embarrassment of being known as the Brownite house magazine with the symbiotic “independent charitable non-partisan think-tank” – which just so happens to have moved offices three times with them in the last ten years (can you guess who?) – makes staff blush.
Guido was filming outside their offices recently when Kampfner came out, “What are you up to?” he asked of us. “We’re doing a piece on the Smith Institute, care to comment?” “Oh no”, he said and walked off. What kind of state of affairs is it when the editor of the liberal left’s house journal won’t discuss the question of the independence and integrity of his magazine? It shares offices with a controversial think-tank under investigation by the Charity Commission for dubious practises involving the future leader of the Labour party. Every newspaper in the country is covering the story and the New Statesman ignores the elephant literally in the same room as it. Not a single story about the Smith Institute has appeared in the magazine with which it shares offices. Bizarre.
Nick Cohen, a New Statesman journalist, has a bestselling book out, What’s Left? How Liberals Lost Their Way. Guido can’t help but wonder if part of the answer can’t be found in the silence and timidity of the left’s leading journal when it comes to discussing what is going on under its own roof.
UPDATE : Guardian’s Greenslade challenges Kampfner, Martin Bright tries a Sith mind trick, “these are not the stories you are looking for, you can go about your business…“
Now a statutory authority has issued a direction threatening Guido with contempt of court, imprisonment and fines unless Guido hands over documents obtained from whistleblowers. Guido will provide evidence of the Sith’s wrongdoing, but he intends to protect his sources as well. Now I’m off for a drink…
That may be, but we will know that he is just as slippery as Blair when it comes to covert funding. We’ll know that his big business friends with interests in government contracts, government preferment and personal advancement, backed his campaign with cold cash given behind closed doors. Gordon glad-handed them at events at No. 11 organised by the Smith Institute, subsidised the Sith’s events by allowing them to use No. 11 rent free, the Treasury paid tax kick-backs on donations to the “educational charity” and even went so far as to pay thousands directly to the Smith Institute’s private company to organise events.
Gordon then tried to get a peerage for his allies Wilf Stevenson, the director of the Smith Institute and Ronnie “PFI” Cohen, the financier and Gordon backer. When Blair goes will anything really change when it comes to New Labour sleaze?
*Hat-tip to Hencke
Benedict Brogan’s blog captures the moment
Colin Challen was called to ask the Prime Minister a question, and the minute his name left the Speaker’s lips the cat-calls began. “My Lord!” and “Where’s Ed?” came from the across the floor. Labour MPs writhed with embarrassment. And Ed Balls stood at the Bar of the House looking distinctly sheepish.
Da Fink thinks a bit of cronyism is just dandy anyway, because all parties do it. That’s alright then…
From: Guido Fawkes
To: FoI Unit HM Treasury
7 February, 2007
This is an FoI request concerning an email sent by Wilf Stevenson, of the Smith Institute, last month to a number of persons based at at HM Treasury. The email was also addressed to staff at some leading think-tanks including the the Smith Institute, IPPR and Demos. In it I understand that Wilf Stevenson explained that Gordon Brown was interested in gathering in policy ideas for his administration and that he would like to co-ordinate this activity.
I believe that Ed Balls and John Healey were also recipients of the email.
The activities of the Smith Institute with regard to policy formulation at HM Treasury are of great public interest. Please could you, in the first instance, provide me with a copy of this email and any other emails sent by Wilf Stevenson to persons based at HM Treasury.
Guido Fawkes Esq.
Tucked away elsewhere in the paper is a tiny PA piece on a Charity Commission investigation of another think-tank where Ed Balls once worked. Times readers will have to look hard to find it. All the other papers give it prominence Telegraph – page 4, FT – page 3, Independent – page 24, Mail – page 4, Guardian – page 16, Express – page 4, not forgetting the BBC. Even News International stablemate The Sun has a piece on it.
Fact : The Times had the Smith Institute / Gordon Brown story last year.
Wilf Stevenson bleats that they paid for their own tea and biscuits. Despite all of Westminster knowing that the operation is a Brownite organising front, Wilf Stevenson now denies it. The following quotations (after the first) are from less guarded times…
“The Smith Institute has never had and does not currently have a direct relationship with Gordon Brown.”
Wilf Stevenson, Director of the Smith Institute, November 30, 2006. “This is a series of three seminars dealing with social, cultural and knowledge entrepreneurship. There has been a building interest in this area and it needs to be further investigated in the think-tank world and also within government. This series is under the patronage of the Chancellor of the Exchequer”
Wilf Stevenson, Director of the Smith Institute, July 1999 at 11 Downing Street. “We were in at the beginning and are still here, still innovating. We look forward to hearing what he has to say. But to get us started: Gordon Brown.”
Wilf Stevenson, Director of the Smith Institute, October, 2004 at 11 Downing Street.
“Can I welcome you all, first of all, to No 11 Downing Street for the first in a series of Smith Institute seminars..”
Gordon Brown, Chancellor of the Exchequer, October, 2004 at 11 Downing Street.“I am a last-minute substitute for Gordon Brown, so I would like, on his behalf, to welcome you all to Number 11 Downing Street. I know, looking around, some of you are quite regular attenders of Smith Institute seminars, and you will know you get a letter from Wilf Stevenson before each one explaining that you are invited to Number 11 by kind permission of the Chancellor. I have to say, this series of seminars in particular is being held not so much by the kind permission of the Chancellor, but by his absolute insistence that they take place. He is unable to be with us now, but he will want to know exactly what has been said in the discussion when I see him later this morning. Many of you, including and perhaps especially the panel here, have known Gordon for a long time.”
John Healey MP, Economic Secretary, HM Treasury, December 2004 at 11 Downing Street.
Credits to co-conspirators : Saxon Times & Theo Spark for the picture montage. “Welcome to No. 11″ for the quotes.
The Charity Commission for England and Wales has opened a formal inquiry into the charity The Smith Institute today.
Feb 1, 2007 14:19:09
The decision to open an inquiry was taken in the light of new information we have received which raises concerns about some of the charity’s work.
The scope of the inquiry is to determine whether The Smith Institute is both established and operating as a charity advancing the education of the public in the field of study and research into the economy of the United Kingdom.
The Commission has informed the charity of this decision. The Commission has been and continues to engage with the charity in relation to the issues raised.
Number 1 law firm at Number 11On the podium yesterday morning was Stuart Popham, who was invited to speak at a Smith Institute event at Number 11 Downing Street. Stuart shared the limelight with Alistair Darling, Secretary of State for Trade and Industry, Vicky Pryce, Chief Economic Adviser to the DTI and Michael Snyder from the Corporation of London. Clifford Chance was there in force, with networking skills worthy of a place in the Prime Minister’s, ehem, Chancellor’s home.
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“I stab people in the front, not the back.”
Owen Jones says:
We also need Zil lanes.