Guido is Feeling Charitable

On Friday the Evening Standard launched its Christmas charity auction in aid of Greenhouse. Greenhouse provides sport and performing arts programmes for youngsters in deprived neighbourhoods.

One lot in particular caught Guido’s eye. Don’t worry Michael, Guido will pay cash in a brown envelope…

Levy Sweats it Out

Just got back from popping in on Sleazy Levy’s book launch for A Question of Honour. Guido doesn’t usually do the London political scene cocktail circuit, however for Levy, well, Guido thought he would make an exception. The venue (Daunts in Marylebone) was not air-conditioned and the sweat was dripping off the guests. Guido didn’t waste much time hanging about.

The place was filled to gills with hacks and Guido had to push a few out of the way to make it to the drinks (sorry Emily). Admittedly Guido left early and the only MP Guido spotted was Charles Clarke. Perhaps the PM or the Blairs will drop in later, or perhaps not…

Who is Leaking Now?

At the last stormy meeting of Tony Wright’s Public Administration Select Committee, Yates of the Yard was blamed for leaking during the inquiry into Loans for Lordships. He pointed the finger at the politicians on the committee. They in turn accused the police.

So who told the Sunday papers about Levy trying to block publication (later today) of Gulam Noon’s letter to the committee? Yates hasn’t even seen the letter.

Here are a selection of the stories from the Sunday papers:

Who do you now believe was really responsible for the leaks and speculation, the police or the politicians?

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…

Mendacious Mendelsohn Must Go

Mortgage subsidy fiddler Geoff Hoon on Newsnight told Paxman “It seems clear that there could be no impropriety attached to Mr Mendelsohn he acted properly.”

Paxman: I wasn’t suggesting impropriety I was merely suggesting he knew who Mr Abrahams was.

Hoon: He has made clear he hasn’t solicited any donations whatsoever from Mr Abrahams and given the facts set out by Paul Mason in his interviews it seems highly unlikely that he would approach him for a donation given the history between the two men.

Hoon was not telling the truth as became clear minutes later when Abrahams contradicted him. Mendelsohn not only knew Abrahams, he knew about his substantial donations and currently wanted to discuss getting more for Gordon. He handwrote his letter addressed to “Dear David”…

In Westminster there is no murkier business than lobbying and of all the sleazy lobbyists there is no sleazier firm than LLM – Lawson, Lucas, Mendelsohn. Famous for cash-for-access scandals, representing opposing sides on legislation and generally being the scummiest lobbying firm in the Westminster village with coincidentally the closest links to New Labour.

So when Gordon Brown told us he wanted to clean up politics after the sleaze of the Blair era, he clearly wanted to put all that dodgy fundraising behind him. So why did he appoint lobbyist Jon Mendelsohn as the Labour party’s Director of General Election Resources, reporting directly to wee Douglas Alexander?

Mendelsohn is a friend and protege of Sleazy Lord Levy. After he cashed in his LLM stock his days at the office were spent on the phone on behalf of Labour Friends of Israel, plotting with Levy, using all the same hustling tricks as Levy. It would be very interesting to see how many Mendelsohn clients got honours…

Jon’s firm pioneered cash-for-access in the early days of New Labour for LLM clients, he is at the centre of a web of financial links to Labour; Treasurer of Policy Network, Treasurer of Progress, deeply involved in Labour Friends of Israel. His firm is infamous for lobbying on behalf of two opposing cities to get a super-casino. This is not the first or the last time that his mendaciousness has been exposed…

It is clear that Mendelsohn knew that Abrahams was the real donor of substantial sums, in which case he was in the know about an illegal funding operation, he can’t remain the head of Labour’s fundraising efforts in those circumstances.

Huhne : Sue Me,”Labour Sold Honours”

Huhne has told the Indy that “the whiff of corruption has become a nauseating stench..there was an organised arrangement whereby a very large amount of money was donated to the Labour Party and at the same time the major donors received peerages and knighthoods”.

“It’s quite clear what was going on,” he said. “This was basically a supermarket in honours. It is completely mad to suggest other than this was an organised matter. I am very happy to say that on the record. If they [the Government] think otherwise they can very happily take me to a libel court.”

Huhne is no idiot, that is too vague to be libellous if it were untrue. You would have to say something more specific, such as “Lord Levy was intimately involved in the trading of honours for donations to the Labour party.” That would only be libellous if it were untrue, and that is why Lord Levy isn’t going to sue anyone.

How to Tell If Tony Wright Has Been Nobbled

Today is the first hearing of the Public Administration Select Committee into Propriety and Honours: Lessons Learned. At 3.00 pm oral evidence will be taken from: AC John Yates, Metropolitan Police, Carmen Dowd, Head of Special Crime Division, CPS and David Perry QC.

This is only the first hearing, we are told there will be others.

Tony Wright chairs the committee and is being criticised for selecting the terms of reference to avoid investigating the actual allegations. He no doubt would argue that was the job of the police.

However, if at a subsequent hearing he does not call Lord Levy to answer questions, you can safely assume he has been nobbled. Arguably Blair and Ruth Turner should also be called to explain themselves.

Guido has also seen a copy of a letter sent to Tony Wright by a witness making specific allegations about being offered honours in return for donations to the Labour party. The letter specifies who made the offer, the figures discussed, as well as naming the Labour party operators involved when they were introduced to Tony Blair. The witness states in the letter that they are bemused at the lack of a prosecution. The witness also states in their letter to Tony Wright (copied to all members of the Committee) that they are willing to testify to the Committee. If that witness is not called Tony Wright has been nobbled.

To the hundreds who have pledged publicly (and privately) to financially support a private prosecution and have been wondering what has been going on, rest assured preparations have been made, legal soundings have been taken and we are waiting to see what comes out of these hearings.

You will also remember that after the dropping by the CPS of the case, the briefings in the papers by “friends” of Levy and Ruth Turner that they would be taking legal action against those who made the accusations. Nobody has received a writ. They have gone very quiet.

Look Who Flew in to Say Goodbye to Blair

Yates of the Yard is still chasing down evidence and statements to tighten up the case against Sleazy Levy.
Police flew in Ms Courtney Coventry yesterday to question her again about her dealings with Blair and Levy. In April 2004 she was canvassed by Jane Hogarth, the Labour party’s former head of high-value fund raising who supposedly has been made redundant – but is actually still working as a “consultant” to the party.

Lord Levy introduced Courtney, as a potential donor, to Tony Blair. The police want to know what Levy promised in return for a donation.

Glover : Editors Should Not Associate With Levy

Stephen Glover in the Indy this morning agrees with Guido, that it may prove to have been inadvisable for editors to attend Sleazy Levy’s leaving party.

Not long now…

Blair Praises Corruption Suspect Sleazy Levy

The insouciance of Lord Levy knows no bounds. Last night at his £6,000 leaving party, he joked about honours peddling. He should have learnt his lesson from the last time he went to a fancy dress party in a gangster outfit as “Honours Levy”. The police arrested him the following week after reports in the press of his chutzpah.

In his speech he praised two former FCO Permanent Secretaries – John Kerr and Michael Jay – for their help. He cracked a gag congratulating them on their peerages, saying with a smile: “Nothing to do with me.”

Tony told the Lancaster House party goers “I would like to thank him for everything he has done for our country.” Guido suspects that the next place Tony speaks about Sleazy Levy in public will be at the Old Bailey.

See You Next Tuesday : Sleazy Levy’s £6,000 Leaving Party

Next Tuesday the Foreign Office will be hosting a party for the twice arrested, out-on-bail, under investigation for corruption, Sleazemaster General himself – Lord Levy. The SNP’s tenacious Mike Weir got Geoff Hoon to admit that the party is being paid for by the taxpayer – “the estimated cost is £6,000, which will be met by the Foreign Secretary’s entertainment budget.”

The LibDem’s Lord Oakeshott asks: “Why should the taxpayer put his card behind the bar for Lord Levy’s leaving party?” Guido would be happy to see the taxpayer pick-up the tab for levy’s food and drinkporridge and prison tea…

Police Keeping Close Watch on Levy

There has been some speculation that the CPS could place charges as soon as June, which will coincide nicely with the Blair-Brown handover and the publication of the follow-up Big Red Book of New Labour Sleaze. Guido is also working on another book, with the working title “The Trial of Lord Levy”, for publication, on the advice of lawyers, after the verdict.

While researching the latter book it has come to Guido’s notice that, somewhat bizarrely for a man on police bail, whenever Sleazy Levy is in public he can invariably be seen being kept under the watchful eye of the Metropolitan Police. Guido understands that they are for his personal protection, not surveillance.

Guido never knew it could be so dangerous in leafy Mill Hill…

Operation Ribble Closes :When Will Levy Be Charged?

The CPS got the final tranche of the Operation Ribble files on Friday.* The Met let the press know in no uncertain terms that they expected charges against the Sleaze Master General himself, Ruth Turner and Sir Chris Evans. If Powell faces charges too, it will be a devastating denouement to the Blair era. Blair himself is widely expected to escape without being charged, the documentary evidence being too weak.

The CPS could make a decision as soon as June, at a time when many expect the Blair-Brown handover to be in process. Guido has long believed that the police would not be fazed by dealing with powerful political figures, that Levy would inevitably face charges and is now convinced that senior figures at the CPS will not find it possible to sweep things under the carpet. Lord Goldsmith may not even be in office when the decision to prosecute is made, it could well be a Brown appointee. If Brown’s Attorney General were to block charges the prospect of a private prosecution being brought remains. Soundings have already been taken by interested parties at the Inner Temple about this possibility.

If the Attorney General were to then enter a plea of nolle prosequi, claiming it would not be in the public interest to put Blair’s lieutenants on trial, Brown’s administration would forever be tainted with covering up his predecessor’s corruption. Something Brown is unlikely to countenance.

One way or another, this is going to go all the way.

*Guido was at the time supping champagne at Pascal Aussignac’s Club Gascon.

No Such Thing As A Free Lunch

The Commons Standards and Privileges Committee today told Dave he had been “ill-advised” to link funding to access to his office. Guido has been told that the modus operandi for the “Leaders Group” was to have proven donors over for PMQs on a Wednesday, have them watch the show and then give them lunch and a few drinks to loosen their wallets. Dave would do a bit of glad handing and not be around if and when they were directly hit up for dosh.
Cameron got a rap on the knuckles and had to grovel “unreserved apologies for inadvertently contravening the code of conduct in respect of the use of his parliamentary offices” and promise to be a good boy in future. Quite right.

Much as Guido hates to add to his troubles given his current mental state, Sleazy Levy had a very similar routine, although a little more direct. If he smelt money off you at a social or party event, he would invite you to visit him at the Lords and hit you up for dosh there. Perhaps, given the circumstances, we should skip the rap on the knuckles from the parliamentary authorities option. He has enough to worry about as it is…

Levy On the Edge

It was a year ago that Guido said Levy would be charged (and started taking bets) it has taken the press and the Lobby a long time to fully come around to Guido’s way of thinking.

The Indy reckons Levy ‘feels let down and is about to turn on the Labour Party, the Sunday Times says Blair aides ‘plotted’ to foil police.

If (as is widely believed around Westminster) McTernan has grassed about the alleged cover-up, then Powell, previously perceived as too clever to get caught, could also be in trouble and dodgy donor Chris Evans can expect his day in court as well.

Here is Guido’s advice to Levy…

Sleazy Levy Complains of “Trial by Media”

Levy’s lawyers have just released a statement complaining, wait for it, of “trial by media”.

Well perhaps he should stop ringing up political editors and briefing them in that case? All those unnamed “friends” quoted in the press are him, briefing…

UPDATE : 13:30 The Metropolitan Police have released a statement effectively accusing the Guardian of undermining their case.

UPDATE : 14:00 “There has been a regular stream of leaks to the media during this year-long investigation, all of which have presented a prejudiced and distorted view” say Levy’s lawyers. Of course Lord Levy’s off-the-record briefings to journalists are not prejudiced or distorted in the slightest.

Cui Bono: Is Downing Street the Leak Source?

Guido is very wary as we enter the closing straights of the investigation. Downing Street is in serious trouble and the only defence advanced so far is that the peerage nominations were for “party peerages”. That is a non-existent class of honour and the admission in itself was effectively a confession, not a defence.

The BBC appears to be in a position to stand up the story going around in mid-January about a “Smoking Gun” email. Why else would the police want to injunct the story unless it was correct and revealing? The question is, who passed the email to the Beeb and what is their motive?

Fact : the BBC does not do cheque-book journalism.
Fact : Yates’ team are, whatever the spin from Downing Street apologists, very tight-lipped.

When news of arrests and interviews has come out, it has more often than not been from the politicians themselves. Given that the Beeb didn’t buy this story, who profits from revealing crucial police evidence? Not the investigators, which is why the police sought to suppress the story, because defence lawyers could make much mischief, and probably will, with the “trial by media” line.

To quote the most famous detective of all, “If you eliminate the impossible, whatever is left, even if improbable, must be true.” Those under investigation, now that they believe it no longer possible to “fix” the CPS because of the evidence known to have been discovered, have the most to benefit from bringing the evidence into the public domain. The desperadoes of Downing Street would not be above leaking against themselves, tactically it would also allow them to portray themselves as victims of media savvy police investigators. They already brief that the police are “theatrical” and whine that they are unable to publicly defend themselves from the “trial by media”.

These are dangerous times for Downing Street’s toughest street fighters. The gloves are definitely off, which is why Guido thinks this leak has Downing Street’s fingerprints on it.

++ INJUNCTION ++

Contrary to rumour, Guido has not been injuncted. He has been on the piss.

The email is news to the BBC, not readers of this blog.

Sleazy Levy Shaky

Reports are reaching Guido from different directions as to the increasingly erratic personal behaviour of the man at the centre of the Loans for Lordships scandal.

Well the mental pressure must be immense, what will his defence be? Guido fears it may all get too much for him in the way that it did for Ernie Saunders. Whatever happened to Ernie?

Funny Turner

Variations on these are going round Westminster:

Q. What do you have to be get off Loans-for-Lordship’s charges?
A. Ruthless.

Q. What do you call Labour Party HQ without Loans-for-Lordships?
A. Roofless.

Levy isn’t laughing…

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