ON PATRONAGE, PAYMENT AND THE
latest 23rd October 2007
Assuming that in the House of Lords, as distinct from the House of
Commons, what is required is a selection of people from all walks of
life who have demonstrated some practical ability that sets them apart
from the average, one way that this could be evident is if they had
made a great success of their life in business or academia, the law,
the arts, or even politics. A further measure might be that they had
managed their affairs so as to have made a financial success, brought
employment to many, contributed greatly to social welfare or even
supported a political party - for without such support no democratic
government could ever have come into being.
the past 24 hours I have heard more bollocks talked by media
commentators and some politicians than I have heard in any similar
period that I can remember. Most
people would prefer political parties to be financed by those who have
come to believe they should support them rather than, through taxation,
be forced to support parties they do not want to or actively disagree
with. I would not go so far as to say a large contribution to
some party's funds should be a condition of being made a peer, as this
could exclude those who have expertise that has not brought them any
financial reward (though I have not heard of many successful lawyers
who are bankrupt). We do after all want to avoid having too many
lawyers in Parliament.
should a person who has proved themselves competent in managing affairs
and therefore likely to make sense when discussing the legislation that
governments need from time to time to introduce in an ever changing
world, not show their commitment by giving financial support for the
party whose aims they would hope to support, or constructively
criticise, by serving in the upper chamber? It is open to any party
that gains the support of such people, who as I have said can come from
any profession including politics itself, to accept financial support
and to propose them for a peerage so they can contribute their
experience to Parliament. Why should a sitting PM not have a say in
this? If he does not, why should any appointments committee take a
financial contribution to democracy as an unworthy gesture rather than
a serious commitment. A peerage is after all given for a purpose - to
engage the recipient in the responsibility for participating in the
preparation and scrutiny of legislation which will affect the lives of
To complain that any particular act that supports the social agenda of
a political party, including a direct donation, should count against
appointment rather than in favour of it, is perverse. It seems to me
that it is this perversity that has led to donations being disguised as
loans - which are a dubious method of financing and should be avoided.
As usual, prejudice leads to bringing about a worse situation than that
which existed in the first place, which was perfecrtly sound but
offended.those who judge other people by their own miserable standards
of thought and behaviour. I can assure those whom it may concern, that
changing the way political parties are financed will lead to as big a
cockup as changing the way foxes are hunted, and for the same reason:
the people who are complaining know very little about the world they
live in outside their own very limited experience and a surfeit of
selective, second-hand, confused information.
SEPTEMBER 20th 2006
The arrest and release on bail of Sir
Christopher Evans, the biotech pioneer and millionaire, on the grounds
of suspicion of purchasing honours, leaves me with only two alternative
conclusions: either the law that covers this business is utter rubbish,
or the police are rambling out of control in the hands of idiots or
rogues. Of course both may be true. The onus is on the police,
parliament and the legislature now to prove their innocence and/or
competence as far as I am concerned, and make it snappy. They can't all
get away with it, so let's see how fast the buck passes back and forth
and where it ends up.
NOVEMBER 18th 2006
We hear from the copper on the case that he has come up with
some vital evidence, and that none of this is in the public domain. He
is going to report in January 07. We have no idea if this
1. of any particular individuals drumming up finance by offering
honours on their own initiative
2. of individuals claiming to have been induced to give money by the
offer of honours
3. of fundraisers claiming to have been intsructed by the party
(meaning the PM) to offer honours for funds.
All of the above seem pretty unlikely to me. What seems more likely is
that to avoid being falsely or properly accused of giving honours for
funds, those marked for honours were asked NOT to make donations but
loans were welcome. The alternative to this
would have been to live with the fact that large contributions to the
party are automatic exclusion from participation in the upper chamber
or of any other honour - what sort of sense does that make? Answer:
none at all in the present circumstances, even if in an ideal world
some other arrangements could be devised to fund political parties,
debate legislation and honour good performance. It is actually quite
hard, if not impossible, to imagine a world in which there was never a
connection between these activities.
It is perhaps not inappropriate for the police service to be engaged as
the gatherer of evidence, but that anyone had to be arrested in the
course of this I find incredible and ridiculous.
DECEMBER 14th 2006
I am not going to write any more on
this farcical stuff. There is no way any offence can have been
committed based on supposed connection between donations, loans and
honours. Equally farcical, if it had not so nearly caused a commercial
and defence security catastrophe, is the ridiculous investgation of
Saudi Arabian Swiss Bank Accounts by UK Police. Saudi Arabia is not
part of the EU and how they run their affairs is based on traditions
that are different to ours. We are not allowed to bribe to gain
contracts, and there is not the slightest evidence or even likelyhood
that we have, even if Saudi internal arrangements and accounting
systems were not, in the 1980s, able to accommodate all the finance
that was associated with organising these trade and commerce and
defense agreements. A 'slush' fund need not imply anything disreputable
whatsoever, merely the inability to define in advance who would need to
be employed in all the various capacities required over the years to
get things running. There are unknown expenses the purchaser of any
large contract may incur and that's that. In the 21st century we should
aim to get these things set up more transparently, that's all.
It has been said that today will go down as a day of infamy - the day
'the fuzz' visited Number 10. What utter bollocks. Today is the day
some once respected political commentators lost their marbles and
passed their sell-by date. As for the Saudi investigation, it should
never have been started. If there is a problem, deal with it sensibly -
the US Government wouldn't have a clue if it's defence contractors paid
bribes or not, and the French would expect to anyway. Thank God we only
employed one retired policeman on the Diana road-crash conspiracy
farce, though he wasted a lot of MI6 time when they are quite busy on
JANUARY 19th 2007
police farce continues. Early this morning Ruth Turner, the PM's
'Gatekeeper' was arrested, without prior arrangement, interviewed under
caution and released on police bail. It will be interesting to hear the
reason for this. I am inclined to agree with Lord Puttnam. It is
grotesque. The police seem desperate to prove that they treat everyone
same. That desperation can only be born of the realisation that they
can no longer be trusted to make any judgement, at any level, to treat
people appropriately. If that is the case, then that is what we have
come to and we might as well accept it. An interesting state of
affairs. We do indeed live in interesting times.
What would be normal? A single policeman, two at the most. By
appointment. Or was it a 'raid'? In that case I hope they can come up
with evidence to justify treating Ruth Turner as a suspected criminal.
What lies behind this is the serious disagreement about the nature of
the crime. To most people, the whole business is ridiculous. The police
should never have been involved. The matter is one for parliament, to
be thrashed out beween the parties and resolved with a public statement
agreed by them all and an agreed policy on fundraising. I find the idea
of people who have no expertise to bring or time to spend in the House
of Lords buying peerages ridiculous and the idea that Ruth Turner is
part of a cover-up equally ridiculous.
Levy returns on bail and is again arrested - this time on suspicion of
conspiracy to pervert the course of justice, and is bailed again
pending further enquiries
police arrest Lord Levy
Labour's chief fundraiser Lord
Levy has been arrested by police investigating cash-for-honours
He returned to a police station
on bail following his arrest last year,
and was arrested on suspicion of conspiracy to pervert the course of
Lord Levy, a close ally of Tony
Blair, was bailed pending further enquiries.
Police are investigating whether
money was donated to political parties
in exchange for peerages - all those involved deny any wrongdoing.
FEBRUARY 1st 2007
The media are waxing hysterical about the release of information that a
week prior to the arrest and release of Lord Levy (see above) the PM
was interviewed again as a witness. While this hysteria seems uncalled
for (the police had asked for the meeting with the PM to be not made
public till they had interviewed Levy) I wonder more and more why
anyone should suppose that Yates, the man in charge of the police
investigation, has even a small porportion between his ears of what any
man would need to know before trampling around asking questions and
making judgements on matters of such profound and complex historical
precendent, not to mention the psychological basis of the structure of
authority, trust and social cohesion on which our civilization is
based. I repeat, the resolution of these matters should have been
through parliamentary debate in public. The police should never have
got involved in trying to judge the fitness of a given individual for
receiving an honour or a peerage by relating this to any donation or
loan they may have given to support a political party. This is simply
not police business.
Yates has been described as 'fearless'. Yes, well we all know some
fearless people and in some cases we know why they are fearless and the
results this leads to for them and for others.
FEBRUARY 4th 2007
The press say they have news that at least 3 people will be charged
with something - either selling peerages or obstructing the course of
justice. If that is really the case, I imagine it is going to be based
on the claims of some people who say that the fundraising was allowed
to bet associated with understandings passed around that donors and
lenders would have their political-financial support taken into account
when their names were put forward. That is not selling peerages unless
those going forward are not suitable candidates in the first place.
MARCH 06 2007
No point in commenting on the latest fuss about injunctions (or their
lifting) concerning reporting of supposed opinions of Ruth Turner about
Lord Levy's version of events and whether or not these were shared with
Powell and Blair. All this has now got to the stage where it must be
apparent to the dimmest wits that the law about 'selling' honours and
peerages has little or no applicability to the calling into question of
deserved honours on the grounds that a political party and its aims
have been supported financially. Either there has to be a law
forbidding honours to financial supporters of parties, or their
financial support must be limited by law, or the version of events as
given by the participants must simply be accepted.
APRIL 20th 2007
The culmination of a meticulous investigation into a political system
built on vague traditions of recruiting friends and supporters to sit
on the committees we call Parliament and Government. Anyone who
thinks this makes sense needs their head examining. The CPS now has to
decide what to do and above all, why. Some inappropriate things may
well have been said or written. That anything wrong was done is highly
unlikely, Why the nation has to have its police time and millions
wasted by sad Scotsmen with personality problems is beyond me.
Police hand honours file to CPS
The file from the police
investigation into whether people were
nominated for honours in return for money has been handed over to
The year-long probe had widened
in recent months to look into any attempt to pervert the course of
Scotland Yard said that 136
people had been interviewed. They include Tony Blair and some of his
The Crown Prosecution Service
will now decide whether anyone should be charged. All involved deny
A Scotland Yard spokesman said that what they consider to be their
file on the investigation was "a 216 page report with supportive
He said there had been extensive consultation with the
CPS during the inquiry, and this was the 12th police submission - in
total they have handed over 6,300 documents.
He said it was now for the CPS to decide whether any charges should
The police inquiry began after it emerged that secret loans had been
made to Labour before the 2005 general election, and that some lenders
had subsequently been nominated for peerages. The probe was widened to
include the other main parties.
Four people have been questioned under caution during
the course of the inquiry, including Tony Blair's chief fundraiser Lord
Levy and Number 10 aide Ruth Turner.
| When I lodged the complaint, it was
said that the police would turn a
blind eye, but what we have had is a meticulous investigation
The first man arrested, head teacher Des Smith, has been told he
will not face any charges. The others remain on police bail.
There has only ever been one prosecution involving the law at the
centre of the inquiry - the 1925 Honours (Prevention of Abuses) Act -
so it could take some time to decide whether to press ahead with a
That decision will be made by Carmen Dowd, the head of the CPS's
special crime division.
In a statement, the CPS said it had received the file, adding: "It
now be reviewed in accordance with the code for crown prosecutors to
determine whether any individuals should be charged with any offences."
It added that the police would be told of the decision "in due
and it would be made public, after the parties concerned had been told.
Director of Public Prosecutions Ken McDonald has said he will stand
back from any decision, because he is a former colleague of Cherie
The Attorney General, Lord Goldsmith, has resisted
calls for him to stand aside from the decision on whether to have any
prosecution because he is a close ally of Mr Blair.
He says his "constitutional responsibilities" do not
allow him to do so, but has said he will make sure there are procedures
in place to give confidence that the decision is taken impartially and
Scottish National Party MP Angus MacNeil, whose
complaint initiated the investigation, said: "When I lodged the
complaint, it was said that the police would turn a blind eye, but what
we have had is a meticulous investigation."
We are informed by the media that tomorrow the result of the inquiry
into 'cash for honours' will be announced and that there is no case to
answer. It is the least surprising news of the year - and that is
saying something. The selection of individuals for honours is by
necessity a rather private affair if it is not to unnecessarily
embarrass those chosen and those not. This sort of discretion is bound
to annoy the paranoid who believe themselves politically and socially
dispossessed by a society run by conspirators and inspire them to
launch accusations that, it seems these days, the police have to
investigate for political (though not party-political) reasons. Well,
now its done. We are left with the status quo: a party in power can
appoint anyone it deems appropriate and suitable to a seat in the House
of Lords. Whether or not they have given money to a political party
should not exclude or ensure their selection.
However it seems that the decent discretion surrounding the process was
interpreted at some stage as obstruction of justice. The man who
started this said he would accept the result. Now of course he won't. I
would say he's beyond help. The media as usual are to blame for this
waste of money. But we have to live with them.
JULY 20th 2007
'No charges' in
'cash-for-honours' police inquiry will not lead to any charges, the
Crown Prosecution Service has announced.
a televised statement on Friday Carmen Dowd, the head of the CPS's
special crime division, said there was "insufficient evidence to
provide a realistic prospect of conviction against any individual
involved for any offence in relation to this matter".
said the decision related to the Honours (Prevention of Abuses)
1925, attempting to pervert the course of justice and the Political
Parties, Elections and Referendums Act.
The news provided
confirmation of reports widely circulated on Thursday night that no
member of former prime minister Tony Blair's inner circle would be
charged, despite a 16-month investigation by the Metropolitan
following a complaint from SNP MP Angus MacNeil.
Dowd said that the CPS's code
states that "there must be sufficient evidence for a realistic prospect
added that the fact that the "investigation was lengthy" was "an
indication of the complexities involved and the diligence and
professionalism of the officers conducting the inquiry".
said she and other independent experts had conducted a "detailed and
rigorous review of the evidence obtained", and that her "decision is
based solely on a fair and balanced assessment of the evidence
An explanatory document was also
published on the CPS website.
on behalf of the Labour Party, general secretary Peter Watt
acknowledged that while "controversial", the police inquiry had been
"The Labour Party has co-operated
throughout with the police investigation and I would like to take this
opportunity to thank the police for their hard work, diligence and
decency during this process," he said.
"There is no doubt,
however, that this whole inquiry has created in the minds of the public
a detrimental impression of politics and all political parties.
we are left with now is an even greater sense of urgency in seeing
through the reforms necessary to party funding so that we can build
towards a future with trust restored in our political institutions and
the creation of a level playing field within a more transparent system
of funding for political parties."
Four people were
arrested by Scotland Yard officers during the inquiry, including Labour
fundraiser Lord Levy, former Number 10 aide Ruth Turner and Labour
donor Sir Christopher Evans. All denied any wrongdoing.
the course of the investigation, Blair became the first serving prime
minister to be questioned by police, although he was quizzed as a
witness and not a suspect.
The investigation was launched in
March last year after allegations from MacNeil that four wealthy
individuals had been nominated for peerages after lending Labour large
sums of money.
The inquiry is said to have cost
as much as £800,000.
was going to end this file here until, unbelievably, senior police
officers have started to speak out questioning the result of this
investigation and the behaviour of Labour politicians. I can hardly
believe my ears. The police had little option once this business
had started but to pursue the case. It was handled thoroughly but
appallingly badly. There was never the slightest chance of it coming to
court. The police do not decide whether any prosecution takes place and
this is just as well as we know they cannot be trusted to do both the
investigation and take the decision. We have learned this from painful
history and the law has been changed so thst can never happen again.
For them to question CPS, which has given its very clear reasons for
the decision, is disgusting.
The truly terrifying truth which is now coming to light is this: if we
did not have a CPS that is independent of the police, the police WOULD
HAVE GONE AHEAD just to prove they had a case which needed
investigating and justify the expense. This in turn would have involved
millions more in costs. At the end, the pressure to get a result is the
sort of pressure that has led in the past to a miscarriage of justice.
OCTOBER 23rd 2007
Today, Assistant Commissioner John Yates gave evidence to the House of
Commons Public Administration Committee/
he came over as a straighforward, intelligent, honest policeman who was
put in an impossible position. A political quarrel between our two main
parties had resulted in them passing a law that made no sense, with
consequenes and penalties that were as monumental as the mind could
conceive. A political offence had been set up as a criminal one, so
that anyone found guilty of it would ruin their political career and
that of their party. The wretched Yates was asked to investigate the
possib ility of the offence and when that looked impossible to prove,
into the possibility that he was being obstructed. In setting this hare
running, the arseholic MPs responsible risked bring all politics and
the police into disrepute. Yates avoided, just, bringing the police
into disrepute, in spite of the appalling media coverage. The media
have unfortunately already destroyed the reputation of our political
system in the eyes of many.