The Fat Lady is About to Sing

All those who pledged to support a private prosecuton of Lord Levy should now have received an update by email and text message.

As was always intended, we will make a final decision as to whether to seek a prosecution following the conclusion of the all-party Public Administration Select Committee’s deliberations. They will be publishing their report into “Honours and Propriety” on Wednesday.

Well over two hundred people have pledged financial support for a prosecution. As we have seen with this second Donorgate wave of Labour fundraising sleaze, there will be no end to corrupt political fundraising until those concerned realise that they risk jail. This can’t be allowed to go on unpunished. Harman, Hain and others claim ignorance of the law and forgetful mistakes. The opportunity to unforgettably impress on politicians the disgust of voters with the system is approaching…

Ashcroft Should Come Clean

Labour is getting hammered for breaking the laws on political funding. Rightly so, there needs to be criminal prosecutions in order to make it clear that the laws are to be obeyed. The Tories are working around the laws, which may be legal, but it is slippery. It is also bad politics, slushing money through unincorporated associations is just not on any more. Ashcroft’s tax arrangements are only a private matter if he is a private person.

Ashcroft’s influence on the Tories, like that of Lord Sainsbury for Labour, has been in the national interest. Billionaire Lord Sainsbury helped finance New Labour, dragging the Labour party from socialism towards an accommodation with the Thatcherite settlement and at the very least an acceptance of the market economy. Sainsbury financed progressive think tanks and pressure groups as well as the Labour party itself, to the betterment of the country. It was in the national interest to have a non-socialist alternative governing party to the Tories. Like Ashcroft he got stuck in rather than just sending £15 million plus of cheques.

Ashcroft has an equally involved approach, he has made an evidence based case to the Tories to change their game for the better. He has encouraged them, with financial incentives, to campaign professionally. He has pushed the party to appeal to the young aspirational middle classes once again, rather than just their core voters. It has got to be in the best interests of the country to have an opposition that is electorally competitive and appealing rather than ideologically marooned. Ashcroft is not a sinister Blofeld type character, he like Sainsbury has constructively used his wealth to better his party and (eventually) his country. But the increasing perception that Labour is trying to capitalise on is that he is a shadowy tycoon manipulating Cameron. It is in his own interests to come clean and it is definitely in the interests of the Tories that he comes clean – soon. If not people will be entitled to assume he has something to hide.

Politics in Britain suffers from a disconnect between cynical voters and disingenuous politicians. Any lack of clarity and the voters presume the worst – usually correctly. The money laundering, for that is what it is, endemic in British politics is just not acceptable. Every penny should be accounted for and sourced, whether it is Midlands business types or Muslim moguls. If they don’t like the publicity than they shouldn’t donate. Corruption is only possible in the shadows, in the sunshine we can see clearly, whatever reforms are made should be on the basis of total transparency. State funding is a lazy option, it also presumes that political campaigning is of such importance that it should be funded – it isn’t. In Europe there is plenty of state-sourced funding corruption, it won’t make things any better.

Politics is needlessly expensive, we don’t need so much politics or so many politicians and their hangers on. Politicians need to be taken down a peg or two, having to raise money only from people who are prepared to openly support them might bring some much needed humility and make them more connected to voters. If people are too ashamed to openly support politicians, it is the politicians who need to improve their reputation.

Sunday Sleaze Round-Up

Abrahams did get government fast-tracking after donationSunday Telegraph
96% of Muslim Friends of Labour cash came from one donor Sunday Times
Planners fast-tracked Labour donor’s business park scheme Indy on Sunday
Wendy hit by more revelations – Sunday Herald
Scottish Labour loses top donor in sleaze rowScotland on Sunday
Son of millionaire MP Sarwar guilty of £850,000 money laundering scamScotsman

Oh and…

Hugh Grant parties with vice-girlsNews of the Screws

Follett Contradicts Herself Again

Yesterday Barbara Follett released a statement giving a sort of non-denial of undeclared funding of her political office. She seemed to think that because the money was drawn from her husband via their joint account it did not have to be declared. Wrong.

The Huntsman blog which first drew attention to this undeclared funding reminds us about a statement released by the Follets and covered by Guido in November 2004. The statement specifically admits that her office “is heavily subsidised by her husband, Ken Follett… In the financial year 2003-2004.. she claimed only £118,214 in expenses. She contributed her entire salary of £55,118 to meet some of the difference. The remaining £102, 673 was met by Ken.”

She was attempting to justify her claim for mortgage subsidy allowance on their £2 million mansion. If her political career is indeed being subsidised by her husband, she should declare it properly on the register clearly. The law is the law.

Follett v Follett

Guido and Mrs Fawkes often have disagreements over who spends how much on what. She thinks it all goes on booze and Guido suspects a lot of it just gets wasted on not getting wasted.

The multi-millionaire Folletts are no different. Ken Follett says “She spends all of her allowances and all of her salary running her office and I actually subsidise it to the tune of every year at least a hundred thousand pounds a year.”

When the Huntsman blogger pointed out that this is undeclared funding and therefore unlawful, Barbara got a bit panicky. The Equality Minister now says, panto style,“oh no he doesn’t”.

Barbara told PinkNews that “There are no donations involved. The funds are either from my parliamentary income, or from the joint accounts that I hold with my husband, Ken Follett.” Which doesn’t really clear up the matter up does it?

EXCLUSIVE : Darling Spoke at Deutsche Bank Hosted Labour Fund-Raiser

An outraged City co-conspirator has tipped off Guido that this morning Labour’s London Business group held an £80 a ticket breakfast fund-raiser with Alistair Darling.

Guido is stunned that in the current circumstances the Chancellor of the Exchequer attended a Breakfast fund-raiser hosted by Deutsche Bank at their City offices on Great Winchester Street.

The invitation from Labour’s Victoria Street HQ states that “the format will follow our usual arrangements: our guest speaker will make a short address and then take questions from the floor. There will be an opportunity for guests to network…”

This morning Deutsche Bank is threatening to walk away from the Virgin Group bid for Northern Rock, because it has serious issues with Virgin’s takeover proposal. Is it really appropriate to be holding a Labour party fund-raiser at the offices of a bank bidding for Northern Rock? Doesn’t Darling see that it smacks of Cash-for-Access?

Incidentally Guido got stonewalled by government SpAds and Press Officers on this all morning. Public servants? Guido thinks not. Unfortunately for them the Deutsche Bank Press Office is more helpful.

Ask the Electoral Commission to Confiscate the Money

Just got off the phone with the Electoral Commission. They are taking the “we can’t comment on an ongoing police investigation” line (© T. Blair). They however offered to direct Guido to the relevant legislation, which states

Forfeiture of donations made by impermissible or unidentifiable donors

(1) This section applies to any donation received by a registered party—

(a) which, … the party are prohibited from accepting, but

(b) which has been accepted by the party.

(2) The court may, on an application made by the Commission, order the forfeiture by the party of an amount equal to the value of the donation.

(3) The standard of proof in proceedings on an application under this section shall be that applicable to civil proceedings.

(4) An order may be made under this section whether or not proceedings are brought against any person for an offence connected with the donation.

So all the Electoral Commission has to do is apply to a Court for an Order. Guido understands that the only circumstances where the Labour party could pay back the money to the donor would be if they had discovered the funds were impermissable within 30 days of them being accepted. It is too late for that…

The Electoral Commission works for you, it costs millions yet it rarely seems to show any teeth, If you think they should get on with it and confiscate the money forthwith, email vmarkos@electoralcommission.org.uk, Vera Markos – Head of Strategy and Secretary to the Commission asking them to do their statutory duty swiftly.

What are they waiting for? The Labour party admits the donations were impermissable.

Purnell was Telling Porkies

As Guido re-iterated on Sunday, Labour have not paid back the Abrahams money. So when James Purnell toured the Sunday morning broadcast newsrooms claiming that “we’ve given the money back” he was lying.

Angus MacNeil put Jack Straw on the spot in the Commons with his question: “Last week the Prime Minister, when he said unlawful activities had taken place, said the money would be returned. Has the £650,000 left Labour Party accounts and where is it now?” Jack replied evasively “I cannot answer that question. I don’t know is the answer.”

Some of the less bright Labour backbenchers got quite worked up about Ashcroft. Jack Straw, perhaps wisely, was not so keen on talking about billionaire backers. Wisely when you consider that Lord Sainsbury has given far more to Labour in an effort to create a social democratic utopia for Sainsbury’s shoppers. Non-domicile backing for Labour from Lakshmi Mittal, Ronnie Cohen and Swarj Paul totals nearly £10 million, which is more than they have paid in UK taxes. The Labour leadership won’t want too much scrutiny of their foreign backers…

Rules v Laws

Money laundering, secret illegal undeclared loans, the making of false statutory declarations, deception, fraudulent misrepresentation and the rest are not “technical breaches of the rules”, they are criminal acts. Could broadcasters bear that in mind when referring to Donorgate. This isn’t just like miscounting the triple word score in Scrabble.

Exclusive : Hain Cheated the Labour Party as Well

It seems that Hain decided to pay the Electoral Commission a visit rather quickly only after he realised that Guido and the Western Mail were on his tail. Amazing how a few pointed questions can prompt a minister into action. The “shit they are on to me, I was just about to make a full confession, really” ploy.

Guido seems to better informed about Hain’s budget than he now claims to be. Back in May Guido ran this story detailing his expenditure, yet he claims to have been unaware of the figures until yesterday. Guido even helpfully uploaded the campaign’s expenditure summary for co-conspirators to download here. So how come Guido knew in May and he didn’t until yesterday. Why the under-reporting? Is it because of dodgy embarrassing donors like Mendelsohn?

Labour party rules on the leadership campaign require 15% of funds raised to go to the National Labour Party, and on September 9 this year Hain duly paid over £ 11,550.

In reality he should have paid over £13,335. He cheated his own party out of £1,785.60. Now if he worked for a private company and effectively defrauded them of commission, what would you do? Prosecute for fraudulent accounting or under the good old Theft Act?

How come Guido knew from his own campaign’s documents these figures and he didn’t? Even the most charitable interpretation is that he is recklessly incompetent. Is he really fit to be in charge of the billions allocated by the Department for Work and Pensions. Is he really the best person to be in charge of your pension?

Sean Connery’s Revenge

The regulations on donations were originally designed to screw foreign financial backers of the Conservative party. Some bright spark suggested tightening up the rules to exclude support from British expats who were not registered to vote and did not pay UK tax. A clause designed specifically and spitefully to block support from Sean Connery for the SNP.

It is that very same law that has come back to bite Scottish Labour’s Wendy Alexander. Sean Connery will be laughing his tartan socks off.

ICM Poll : 57% Think Brown is Sleazy

The moral compass is lost, his integrity in tatters, Gordon clings on to disgraced ministers out of fear. Three senior ministers are accused of reckless criminality and senior Labour party officials are facing potential jail sentences. Is it any surprise that an ICM Poll for Newsnight shows that 57% of voters think Gordon Brown is tainted by sleaze? The Labour party is now perceived by most people as institutionally corrupt.

Hain Fundraiser : “Small Problem With Donations”

Guido has been running up his phone bill trying to get hold of Labour fundraisers. Peter Hain’s fundraiser, Huw Roberts was kind enough to call back.
HR Hello, I couldn’t make out your message, who is that?
GF I was calling about your undeclared donations to Peter Hain’s campaign
HR Who are you? What are you talking about?

This went on for a bit. During which he claimed to have never met and never even heard of Jon Mendelsohn until this weekend. After some time where he tried to get Guido to tell him what Guido knew, he coughed a confession.

HR There is a small problem with my donation. It is not my fault. He has to declare the donations, not me.

The conversation got a bit confused and fraught at this point, Huw would only concede that he had made a donation, yet despite having held fundraising dinners for Peter Hain, he would not confirm any other donations were undeclared. No donation of any kind is recorded from Huw Roberts…

UPDATE : Have just got off the phone with Joe Carberry, Hain’s SpAd, “what you have written on the blog is not true”. So is Huw Roberts lying? “I am going to put the phone down” said Carberry. Guido gets through a lot of Hain SpAds per annum, so it is understandable.

Scottish Front Pages Say It All for Wendy

Like some desperado besieged by the police, Wendy is shouting that she is not coming out. You may quibble that the Daily Record has right headline, different story, but the point still stands.

Is Roy Kennedy, the Labour Party’s Director of Finance & Compliance, in De-Nile?

Roy Kennedy was the Labour party’s Director of Finance and Compliance when the illegal funding operation was under way. Guido has been trying to track him down with no success, nor can he get hold of his wife Alicia, who just happens to be Labour’s Deputy General Secretary.

Police investigators from Operation Minerva might need to pack some sun lotion, Guido has been told the couple have have taken a month long holiday in Egypt. The detectives will want to know from where the Loot-Was-Coming…

Bad In Westminster, Worse in Scotland

The press is having a field day with Donorgate, nobody believes that knowledge of the Labour party’s illegal funding operation was restricted to Peter Watt. Jon Mendelsohn says Abrahams was lying when he said Mendelsohn knew about it, and is suing the Evening Standard, Guido doesn’t believe Mendacious Mendelsohn (send writs to the usual address Jonny).
Guido has been trying to get hold of Roy Kennedy, who was the Director of Finance and Compliance when the illegal funding operation was under way, to ask him when he knew about it, with no luck. Presumably the investigating officers from Scotland Yard’s Operation Minerva will have more luck.

In Scotland the situation is even worse, Wendy Alexander has broken the law, apologised, then lied, immediately been caught lying and is only still in position because Brown fears that if she goes others will be toppled. Westminster hacks are not really focusing on the Scottish aspect yet. Guido is because he believes she will be charged, grasp this, the leader of the Scottish Labour party will face criminal charges based on documentary evidence. Brown is so scared of the domino effect of his protege Dougie Alexander’s sister resigning, that he is resisting internal party pressure for her to go. Mad, it will be worse if she is charged in office.

Labour is trying to spread the blame, with “we’re all at it” spin lines. They keep referring to Lord Ashcroft, who makes all his donations to the Tories above board and has actually given less money than Labour’s Lord Sainsbury.

They also keep referring to “a breach of the rules”, no these are criminal acts, a breach of the law is not the same as cheating at Scrabble. They are now hiding behind the “we’re not going to give a running commentary on a police investigation” line (© T. Blair).

Another line they are using is that they have “given the money back”. They haven’t as yet. It is in any event likely to be confiscated by the Electoral Commission.

There is no real need for new laws or reviews, there is a need for politicians to simply not break the existing laws. If Labour figures had not circumvented the existing laws they would not be in trouble. The idea that this situation is just the result of one publicity shy donor is nonsense, it has nothing to do with Wendy Alexander’s problems or Harman’s second problem.

Harman’s re-mortgage of £40,000 is an illegally undeclared loan – made against her home’s presumably joint mortgage – to her leadership campaign. Technically the loan is in equal part her husband’s loan. Her husband is Jack Dromey, the Labour party Treasurer, so he has permitted an undeclared loan to be made to the Deputy Leader of the Labour party, a loan from him. That is prima facie an illegal loan by two of the very highest ranking officials. She broke not only the spirit but letter of the law – in two instances – the loan and the proxy donation. Harman, the former Solicitor General, should face charges as a consequence.

Is Harman Trying the “If I Go, You Go Too” Defence?

Guido is having difficulty understanding the maneuvering of the various Labour party players in the scandal. Dizzy is hinting that the source for the Evening Standard’s writ attracting story on Mendelsohn is the Harman nominating MP, Kevan Jones. He was seen dining with the journalist who wrote the article in Shepherds the night before. Not conclusive, but interesting nonetheless.

Another Labour source tells Guido plausibly that when Mendelsohn was appointed, Watt (a Blairite sympathiser) offered his resignation. When the Abrahams shit hit the Mail on Sunday fan, Watt was the Brownies designated fall guy. A political firebreak. Harman was to be kept in reserve in case the fires licked at the door of No. 10, hence the noticeable lack of support at the PM’s monthly press conference.* So did Harriet encourage Kevan Jones to drop Mendelsohn right in it, thereby protecting herself by linking her fate to Gordon’s fundraiser? Not sure if it makes sense, but it makes more sense than the Telegraph’s bonkers hint that Abrahams might be a conduit for Mossad money.

With Mendelsohn feeling the intense heat and Brown’s campaign manager Chris Leslie giving a bizarre explanation that he tore up a cheque from Abraham’s proxy because he thought it dodgy, yet recommended the donor to Harman’s people anyway. It gets better, Harman still has campaign debts, which are presumably financed with undeclared loans. Which is dodgy.

Hain’s campaign, which according to the wife of a well connected SpAd was derailed by Guido (it was a pleasure), forgot to declare £5,000 given by Mendelsohn. That is Hain’s story and he is sticking to it. For now. The police are really going to have their work cut out methinks. At least we have settled one thing, the consensus is that the name for the scandal is “Donorgate”.

*The transcript of which on the Downing Street website is suspiciously heavily redacted “on party political grounds” something Guido does not recall happening in the Blair era. Also the usual video record is not available. Guido of course has his own copy to use to highlight a few of Gordon’s untruths.

Sainsbury v Ashcroft

It is worth noting when Labour MPs in marginal seats start bleating about Ashcroft’s money being a threat to democracy that they never mention Lord Sainsbury. He has actually given the Labour party, one way or another, some £15 million. Far more than Ashcroft has given the Tories.
Sainsbury has in the past given under-the-counter money to Blairite modernising groups as well. The odd £250,000 here and there to groups like the Progress faction. Guido thinks that he was overall a force for good in the Labour party, bringing them into the real-world. Lord Drayson bought his peerage off Blair, he too has become an effective minister – probably because of his business background. Similarly, probably because of his business background, Ashcroft forces Tory candidates to come up with a serious business plan. The sharpening up of their campaign objectives is probably worth more than the £10,000 to £30,000 he gave them in the past. Now the party has adopted what was his freelance system at CCHQ and brought him back inside.

Don’t forget incumbent MPs have voted themselves an extra £10,000 of taxpayers money for propaganda and already have well funded office teams of staff. They have all the incumbent advantages and they are up against candidates who invariably have jobs to do as well. To lever out an incumbent MP takes some doing…



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Michael Crick on Safe Seats:

“In effect, new MPs are being elected day by day now, as, amid huge secrecy, small cabals of party bigwigs pick candidates for safe seats.”

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