Sunday, March 18, 2007

Whiter Than White, Sleazier Than Sleaze

On News 24's paper review last night I described the Sunday newspapers as "Sleaze Central". The front pages of the Sunday Times and Telegraph have three stories which illustrate the problem with our political system and government. I've got a lot to say later (maybe today or tomorrow) on the Cash for Access scandal in the Sunday Times, including some new revelations. Dizzy has an analysis HERE.

The Sunday Telegraph has got hold of a letter written by Labour donor Sir Christopher Evans, sent to his shareholders, about his relationship with Lord Levy. He denies any wrongdoing and says that he was never offered a Peerage. Whoever advised him to send this letter must want their heads testing. It is the most incriminating letter he could possibly have written...

"Did we ever discuss honours and politics? Did he [Lord Levy] ever say on the countless occasions that I met him and his wife over the years that I was deserving of a future honour or I should have a political role and make a difference? Yes, he did. So what? Why should I be embarrassed by that fact or such comments? Were conversations also taking place about making donations to the party? Of course they were. Michael Levy was always talking about money, that's his job! Did he ever promise me anything in return for my donations or my loan? No. Never."

Sir Christopher, estimated to be worth more than £150 million, also wrote of his close relationship with Tony Blair and the Chancellor, Gordon Brown. "Over that time [10 years] there have been countless mentions of my future role in politics, that I would be 'just right' for contributing to the House of Lords."


That last sentence will be of particular interest to Inspector Yates. Surely if Lord Levy, or ndeed Blair or Brown, had often mentioned the possibility of the House of Lords that was tantamount to encouraging Evans to believe that he only had to keep the donations up and the reward would be his.

The other front page story in the Sunday Times concerns the departure of Sir Alastair Graham as Chairman of the Committee on Standards in Public Life (formerly the Nolan Committee). Sir Alastair has effectively been fired. He's been an outspoken critic of the way Tony Blair has reacted to various sleaze scandals and he is now paying the price. His contract has not been renewed. There is specualtion that Blair intends to axe the Committee as there has been no attempt to recruit a replacement for Sir Alastair. This means the Committee will be without a chairman for at least six months, and effectively toothless.
“I suspect Blair and his government are going to be as strongly identified with the loss of public trust as Major’s was with sleaze. The public certainly feel let down over the period.” He added: “The most fundamental thing is that Blair has betrayed himself. He set such a high bar for people to judge him and he has fallen well below the standards he set for himself.” “The prime minister has caused difficulties for himself and has helped to undermine trust in politicians through the way he has handled alleged breaches of the ministerial code,” said Graham.

One should remember when reading this article that Sir Alastair Graham is a former trade union leader and a man of the left. It defies credulity that atthe very time that the public is most worried about standards in public life, the Prime Minister castrates the watchdog which is supposed to promote such standards. This Prime Minister is not whiter than white. He's sleazier than sleaze.

26 comments:

Chris Paul said...

What a load of nonsense Iain. Do you remember those New Mathematics your were probably taught at school? Nuffield Maths perhaps? Didn't they do something about "Sets"? Here are some sets you surely learned about earlier :

- Clever academic people who have made a contribution to the sum of human knowledge and could make a contribution to national life chairing reports, as advisors, or even as peers;

- Clever business people who have made a contribution to the wealth and happiness of themselves and perhaps if they're not scumbags to the wealth and happiness of their people and the nation ... and who could etc;

- Clever people in other walks of life - unions, local government, charities, house of commons, medicine, law, even sport ... etc;

- People who have personal wealth and political interests that lead them to support parties of all stripes and in various ways;

Someone can of course be in more than one set. While the last one alone should not be enough to get a P or a K - let's say they are a money launderer or a criminal.

But membership of one of the three sets that does qualify does not and should not disqualify citizens from becoming Ps and Ks under the existing system, even if they've got a bit of money and have given some to a political party.

Your whole case is illogical. Following it through (other than in stopping all honours and scrapping the Lords) is not in the national interest.

In a 100% elected system I would also not want to disqualify people who had lent or given money to pollies, even to your party!

So long as that isn't how they get elected e.g. by being in a place on a party's list that they don't deserve on merit which is one reason (along with the MEP experience) that I don't much like lists.

Iain Dale said...

Am I alone in not understanding a word of that? I have read it three times and cannot makwe head nor tail of what the *** you are on about.

Wailer Ned said...

I think it's a gratuitously discrete-mathematical argument that nobody should be excluded from honours just because that person has given money to a party.

Marquee Mark said...

I think Mr. Paul may have missed out the "Complete and Utter Sleazy Bastard Set". Nothing he says would seem to preclude all the New Labour donors from living in that particular subset, whatever other contributions they may have made to mankind. And so it would seem to be.

By the way - and I think I speak for the set of All Nosy Bastards here - any chance of today rather than tomorrow for the updated tidbits?

darcy dancer, gentleman said...

Remember what happened to Elizabeth Filkin, the former Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards, after she investigated some of the sleazy buggers like Keith Vaz and Peter Mandelson. They conspired to get rid of her. So it's hardly surprising they now want to get rid of the Committee on Standards in Public Life. And yet they always manage to get away with it. Why?

Ken from Gloucester said...

Labour are without doubt the sleaziest and most corrupt bunch of politicians I have ever seen.

They got away with it because there was no EFFECTIVE opposition party.

There is now and I hope Cameron takes this up and runs with it mainstream. We need a strong opposing party now more than ever..

neil craig said...

Parliament also effectively fired their own standardsperson Elizabeth Filkin for doing her job. She was certainly not being over censorius.

One thing the Scots can be proud of is that we got rid of our First Minister, Henry McLeish, an otherwise likeable man, because he had been subletting his office while still claiming the full rent on his expenses. This is something which Ms Filkin had already approved of & caused considerable astonishment among Westminster politicos & journalists who wondered what he had done wrong.

Trumpeter Lanfried said...

Emasculate the Committee on Standards.
Emasculate the Freedom of Information Act.
Emasculate the House of Commons.
Emasculate Public Enquiries.

What are they afraid of?

Bob Piper said...

The Committee on Standards in Public life is just another quango created to give retired duffers like Graham a few bob to help them in their dotage. Its very terms of reference exclude investigation of individual allegations of misconduct. Nolan correctly set out the principles, I can see no roll for a toothless quango beyond that.

Howcanshenotbeinprison? said...

Iain,

please help me understand how the 'contingency allowance' of 2.7bn is bigger than the original bid!!

The excuse for VAT of 800m+ was simply "The Commonwealth Games in Manchester were structured on a corporate basis and thus attracted no VAT" (or the other way round cant remember)

For anyone to give this excuse shows a complete breakdown in accountability and actually must be fraudulent. There can be no other explanation as none is offered.

If KPMG had already delivered a report showing costs well in excess of 2.4bn BEFORE the actual bid that was ignored by errrrr nobody will answer the question, even though asked in parliament, on the exact date she received this report.

One thing is for certain, any accounting firm would have worked out the tax status of the bid vehicle and submitted it for sign off to the treasury/IR.

This cannot be a mistake or a change in status post the bid. For it not to be considered straightforward fraud you must assume that an accountant, the treasury, Jowell and the olympic committee (and their accountants) all made the same mistake.

I know nothing will happen and that rude, incompetent, compulsive but not very good liar is going to get away with it again.

She is now instrumental in the Casino, Prescott/Anscutz, "does my brain look big in this' financial chicanery and husband-dump incident and this latest embarrassment shames the entire country.

She told parliament that the bid of 2.4bn was the bid number and that it was always intended to be revised. Iam fairly sure that the Olympic Committee saw it differently.

That "as soon as we won the bid we got to work on,quite properly, revising the budget" said one her ministers on BBC this week.

Please someone explain how you can submit a winning bid that looks like it was written on the back of a packet of lambert & butler 100's , that was meaningless (apart from winning the bid!) and was only GBP3-7bn off target.

Who signed the bid document? I accept your resignation. Goodbye

If government cannot or will not answer questions what is the point of parliamentary questions? Oh yes I remember, its got democratic legitimacy, just like the Lords will have soon.

Surely the Speaker can ask for an answer to a question if it is avoided completly??? It has become a total joke, over the past 18 it has been in freefall.

Anonymous said...

Sir Christopher Evans also stated that if he(and Levy) were to be made scapegoats he would not keep his mouth shut! What does he mean and is that the reaction of an innocent man?

Trumpeter Lanfried said...

howcanshenotbeinprison 4.29 PM. Good point about the Speaker. Successive Speakers of the House of Commons have allowed Government ministers to get away with murder. The Speaker has power to insist that questions are properly answered and should exercise that power rigorously, day in and day out.

David Boothroyd said...

Tony Blair never said "whiter than white". It's a complete misquote.

Chuck Unsworth said...

Bob Piper:
"The Committee on Standards in Public life is just another quango created to give retired duffers like Graham a few bob to help them in their dotage. Its very terms of reference exclude investigation of individual allegations of misconduct. Nolan correctly set out the principles, I can see no roll for a toothless quango beyond that."

Ignorance of history can be politically useful. The Nolan Committee (subsequently formed as the Committee on Standards in Public Life) was set up by Major in response to public concern about the Al Fayed cash for questions scandal. Its terms of reference were announced at the time and agreed by all political parties. Like the Prime Minister's Delivery Unit (set up by Blair, and without the agreement of all parties) it is answerable directly to the Prime Minister. It was not formed to give retirees - duffers or not - some sort of stipend, although that may be how it has been subsequently used by New Labour. Piper's comment is lazy, superficial and untruthful.

Presumably the sort of 'roll' that the good Councillor had in mind for the 'toothless' was a finger roll.

Then again, Blair and his colleagues have been giving the nation the finger for just about a decade...

Iain Dale said...

David Boothroyd, so that makes it all alright then. You astound me.

Anyway, you asserted this once before on this blog and someone proved you completely wrong, if I recall correctly.

Marquee Mark said...

Iain,

February 21st 2007:

mark williams said...
For David Boothroyd:

That misquotation in full:
"We have got to be whiter than white to rebuild trust"

Tony Blair, 1997 election victory speech

David Boothroyd was as wrong today as he was then. Still, why let the truth get in the way when you are trying to refute something so fundamentally embarrassing. Or it would be embarrassing if New Labour hadn't been genetically modified to have their embarrassment gene removed. Explains why they were so in favour of GM food.

darcy dancer, gentleman said...

'Just another quango created to give retired duffers a few bob in their dotage'... Labour has created hundreds of quangos and stuffed them with its placemen (or should that be placepersons?). They are largely responsible for the appalling mismanagement of so many publicly funded bodies. Is this quote representative of Bob Piper's views of all quangos, or just those that try and stop Labour sleaze?

gullible-but-not-stupid said...

........."secretly lent Labour £1 million" and ......"knighted 6 years ago". I wonder, could there possibly be.........

Dear me, did I type that out loud?

javelin said...

Looks like Gordon is being dragged into the criminal allegations now.

Remember follow the evidence ... interview Gordon.

Maybe he has been interviewed already - has anybody found him ot ask him?

Bob Piper said...

Chucky, I do not see much historically wrong with what I wrote. I know Major set up the Committee on Standards with a very broad remit following sleazy Tory MPs pocketing cash for asking parliamentary questions. One of my former bosses gave evidence to the commission which led to the quango being formed. The Committee, under Nolan, laid down what are commonly known as the Nolan Principles on Standards in Public Life. Those are the principles I referred to. I never said it was a quango ‘intended’ to give retired duffers a job, but that is what it is. Am I supposed to be impressed because it had all-party backing? A bit of lazy-arsed criticism if you ask me.

Dear Darcy dancer, see above about why the Committee was formed. I happen to favour democratically representative bodies over quangos if you are particularly interested.xf

Chris Paul said...

But Iain - Lord Levy will need a new job soon. Who better than a poacher turned gamekeeper to sort out any abuse or loss of public trust.

But on the last point the truth is the public just shrug and say "they've been at it for 90 years, Libs, Lab and Tory and on balance Tories have been the worst by a mile".

Sad Sums, Sets and Syllogisms blogged.

Chris Paul said...

Oh and Iain the fact that you cannot understand the logic of sets even when simplified does rather make my point for me. You don't understand logic (or elsewhere Economics) and this shines through on your blog posts.

Anonymous said...

In fact, Chris Paul, Lloyd George was more renewing old Tory and Whig practices than inventing new ones of his own. Please don't give the Libs all the credit. Robber Barons have been at this since before Runnymede.

The Remittance Man said...

Mr Boothroyd,

Who gives a flying **** whether Slimy Tony actually uttered the words "whiter than white", although it does appear that he did? In 1997 NuLabour campaigned to a very large extent on an anti-sleaze platform.

To have merely failed to do so could be simply excused as incompetence. To have made the situation worse brings other words to mind.

Cllr Piper,

When Juvenal first posed the question quis custodiet ipsos custodes he was paraphrasing Plato's argument about the need for a democratic body to monitor the activities of the state and its agents. Sadly, a couple of thousand years later, we find that it is members of that democratic body who appear to be in need of scrutiny.

And if we cannot trust the democratically elected representatives of the people to police themselves, what system do we put in place? Personally, I'd say that a committee of "old buffers" on a pension is a pretty good solution. They are far less likely to have either hope or desire for further advancement and thus are more likely to perform their jobs scrupulously until such a time as parliament proves that it is capable of doing the task itself. Indeed since it appears that barring a few exceptions the members of parliament are being neglectful of one of their principal duties, perhaps they should all receive a massive cut in their bloated paypackets.

The Remittance Man said...

ps

Mr Paul,

I think we understand set theory perfectly well. And as you say people in your three sets may well make admirable heads of quangos or even peers. Their non-political expertise would doubtless be like a breath of fresh air through the corridors of Westminster.

However, as pointed out already, your example fails to mention that other set of people who financially support a political party. There is no logical argument to say that the population of your three sets may not also be members of the one I describe.

What is wrong is when the leader of a party selects only those members of sets one to three (yours) who are also members of the fourth set (mine) who support his party. A truly honourable leader would select the best people regardless of their political affiliation, even promoting those whose politics are opposed to his own if they are suited to the task in hand.

Sadly, at the moment, I suspect that being able to put both the words "honourable" and "X Party" (where X means the party of your choice)in the same sentance without irony is all but impossible.

Chuck Unsworth said...

“Chucky, I do not see much historically wrong with what I wrote.”
OK, but I do. Hence my comment

“I know Major set up the Committee on Standards with a very broad remit following sleazy Tory MPs pocketing cash for asking parliamentary questions.”
At least he had the courage so to do and not to try to change things if Nolan’s activities made him uncomfortable. Now what was that about Alistair Graham’s contract?

“One of my former bosses gave evidence to the commission which led to the quango being formed.”
So exactly what was this evidence supplied by your former boss which led to the formation of the Committee on Standards in Public Life?

“The Committee, under Nolan, laid down what are commonly known as the Nolan Principles on Standards in Public Life. Those are the principles I referred to.”
Actually Nolan was chair (therefore technically the servant of) of a body which put forward a series of recommendations. Those principles are not enshrined in law, although many bodies have chosen to adopt them as part of their codes. Your point was?

“I never said it was a quango ‘intended’ to give retired duffers a job, but that is what it is.”
Who mentioned anything about ‘intentions’? Certainly not me.

“Am I supposed to be impressed because it had all-party backing?”
Goodness only knows what might impress you, Councillor. However you might understand that your erstwhile colleagues in the Labour Party had the opportunity to comment on and alter the Principles and the constitution of the Committee. They chose not to do so. However the ‘serving’ (I use that term in its broadest sense) Prime Minister has decided he does not like what has gone on and has therefore chosen to make changes. Naturally these changes will not be discussed in Parliament as a Debate, despite them affecting all MP’s and many others. No doubt Mr Blair’s ‘advisors’ will determine that outcome.

“A bit of lazy-arsed criticism if you ask me.”
I agree entirely. I could and should have done much better than that. I promise to try harder so, better luck next time, eh, Councillor?