I didn’t intend to comment on the outcome of the cash-for-peerages investigation, given that Osler has already said pretty much what I wanted to say on the matter.
But now we have the disgusting spectacle of various members of the Blair court (notably Mandelson and the preposterous Benjamin Wegg Prosser), bleating about the “disgraceful treatment” their friends received at the hands of the police and attempting to cast aspersions upon the cop who led the investigation, John Yates. These people consider themselves to be above the law – the rules that apply to the plebs simply don’t apply to them. Their arrogance after seizing control of the Labour Party in 1993 developed into something approaching a contempt for bourgeois democracy after the 1997 election.
But the bleatings of Mandelson and Wegg-Prosser (not to mention the self-righteousness of Lord Levy, whose friends have stooped to suggesting that “anti-semitism” has been a significant factor in the equation), are as nothing to the demented ravings of Sarah Helm, wife of Blair’s former chief of staff Jonathan Powell. In an extraordinary article in today’s Observer, Ms Helm writes:
“Yate’s officers had recently turned up at some unearthly hour at the home of Jonathan’s colleague, Ruth Turner. As if she were some street criminal, ready to scarper, Ruth’s home was swooped upon by Yates’s men and she was forced to dress in the presence of a female police officer. Her house was searched from top to bottom and she was driven off to a police station. And then there was a tip-off to the press.
“I know one shouldn’t make these comparisons, but I was writing about Nazi Germany right then, and I couldn’t help think: Gestapo tactics!”
Ms Helm’s stupidity, arrogance and insensitivity are simply breathtaking, aren’t they? Never mind the exquisite irony of a member of the Blair court complaining about leaks to the press: what really strikes the reader of that self-righteous tirade, is how Ms Helm seems to think that her friends shouldn’t be treated by the police in the some way that other folk (‘street criminals’) suspected of major crime, would be. Her invocation of Nazi Germany and the Gestapo is simply beneath contempt and too distateful to warrant further comment here.
Let’s just remind ourselves of a few facts:
1/ Levy, Turner, Blair and their associates have not been “exonerated” or “vindicated”, despite what their courtiers (like Martin Kettle, Steve Richards and Mandelson) say: there was simply insufficient evidence for the CPS to consider that a prosecution had a 51% prospect of success;
2/ The link between donations / loans to the Labour Party and the receipt of peerages is universally acknowledged: it’s just that (in the words of the CPS), “If one person makes an offer in the hope or expectation of being granted an honour, or in the belief that it might put him/her in a more favourable position when nominations are subsequently being considered, that does not in itself constitute an offence. Conversely, if one person grants an honour to another in recognition of (in effect, as a reward for) the fact that the other has made a gift, that does not of itself constitute an offence”.
3/ It is nowhere denied that Blair’s people asked would-be donors to make loans, rather than donations (which they had offered), in order to circumvent a law that New Labour itself had brought in with the avowed aim of making party funding transparent.
4/ Sir Christopher Evans, who offered New Labour a big donation and was asked to turn it into a loan, has stated that he and Lord Levy discussed a “K or a P” : “knighthood or a peerage”.
5/ Blair knew exactly what was going on, but would have been quite willing to let Levy take the rap if the worst had come to the worst: the Guardian (July 21) quotes a “Labour source”: “Ever since 1995 Tony had been determined not to lose for lack of money. No one else wanted to raise the money. Tony hated doing it, and somone (ie Levy – JD) had to do it”.
It’s not often that this blog expresses any sympathy for the cops: but in this case, we’ll make an exception. Assistant Commissioner John Yates is an honest cop who attempted to do his duty without fear or favour. In doing so, he has sent a shot across the bows of the corrupt Blair court, and – hopefully – helped clean up British politics. The self-righteous bleatings of the Blairites should be ignored. As should the self-interested cries of those (like the Blairites, the Lib Dems and quite a few Tories) who hope to use this business to further their long-term aim of state funding for political parties.