Levy Makes An Admission

Martin Bright has been all over the Loans for Lordships story. In this week’s New Statesman he recounts a recent conversation he had with the Sleaze-Master General himself.

The exchange took place at this year’s Labour Party conference during a reception hosted by the GuardianObserver, where Levy took it upon himself to act as an unofficial “meeter and greeter”.

Levy and I started talking, particularly about a Channel 4 Dispatches documentary on the “cash for honours” affair which I had presented and had been broadcast that same night.

Levy was his legendary charming self. Disarmingly, he told me that his wife had watched the programme and found it very fair. I was delighted, but said there was one matter I felt I had to raise with him. What did he make of the general point I made in the programme: that the loans from wealthy party supporters were not intended as loans, but were to be converted into donations?

He gripped my arm like a long-lost friend and said, by way of answer: “Only some of them.” I asked him what he meant and whether he could point to any specific loans. He volunteered the name of Lord Sainsbury, the billionaire former science minister who had lent the party £2m.

The point is that large donations, under this government’s own legislation, had to be declared, but loans did not. So what exactly was Levy saying to me? Did he misunderstand my original question? That is possible, but he had gone on to give me an example. Was he joking? Again possibly, but it’s an odd matter to joke about. Or was he merely expressing his hope that the loans would be converted into donations?

Guido thinks that this is an admission of some guilt. If Sainsbury’s loan wasn’t really a loan and the intention was always to turn into a donation at some point, that is an offence. A false loan which disguises a donation is surely an evasion of the legally required reporting of donations under the Political Parties, Elections and Referendums Act 2000?

UPDATE : According to an impeccable source who has just emailed me, the Yard’s attention has been drawn to the Martin Bright story in this week’s New Statesman.




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