Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Donations Scandal Day 4

If you were Chairman of the Labour Party and in a spot of bother, who would you want as your closest political adviser and mopper of furrowed brows? A contact has just spotted Harriet Harman scurrying through Portcullis House followed by her doting PPS, Mr Christopher Bryant MP - possibly the most ambitions MP in the House of Commons. Not sure he's the one I'd want doling out tea and sympathy if I were in Harman's position, but Harpies can't be choosers.

Let me put a question, which has been niggling me. Why would a donor offer Harriet Harman money a week AFTER her campaign was over and she had won? There is ample precedent for donors giving money to two campaigns during an actual campaign (it happened to Cameron and Davis), but to donate money once you know the result provokes all sorts of suspicions as to the motive. At least it would to the likes of you and me, but not to Harriet Harman apparently. The question is: would this money have been offered to her if she had lost? You might as well ask if bears defecate in the forests. Of course it wouldn't.

Jon Mendelsson's position looks untenable now. Guido looks into his background HERE. From what we are hearing it seems clear that he also knew about Abrahams' 'little arrangement'. So Gordon Brown's assertion that only Peter Watt knew is unravelling by the day. Hilary Benn and Margaret Jay knew too. Mendelsson has known about it for a month yet has apparently done nothing about it. Not only that but he has sent a handwritten letter to Abrahams essentially holding out his begging bowl. Mendelsson was brought in by Gordon Brown as his equivalent of Lord Levy. He and Brown go back a long way and he's a close friend of both the PM and his wife, whose PR business did a lot of work with Mendelsson's lobbying company LLM.

PMQs is coming up in a few minutes. This is a tricky one for Cameron. The donations scandal may be construed by the Speaker (after having received "advice") as a party issue. Cameron needs to be careful how he structures his question. There may actually be a case for him not even asking about this and concentrating on Northern Rock or the Data-Disc scandal. But he would then probably accused by the media of not going for the kill.

People keep telling me there is much more to this than meets the eye. The Sunday newspapers are digging deep into various planning applications by Mr Abrahams. In these cases, there is always someone who will tell journalists slightly more than they ought to. This isn't over by a very very long chalk.

18 comments:

Tony said...

Mendelsohn's involvement in all this would appear to undermine Brown's denials of knowledge of the Abrahams donations or having dealings with him.

A lot of attention will be paid to Michael Martin's handling of PMQs after his recent intervention to close down demands for a second Alistair Darling statement on the missing HMRC discs.

Chris Paul said...

The Lib Dems of Durham gave the Planning Consent for the most significant development. How are they involved in all this? Does Abrhaams have some sock puppets who give to them?

tapestry said...

This makes cash for peerages seem like a harmless activity for old codgers needing a job. Here is evidence emerging of serious graft, unworthy of Gordon Brown and all his verbiage..

Jess The Dog said...

Some digging has been going on courtesy of Guido's blog.

It is pointed out that the latest planning application is an outline application (not a full one), conforms to the local plan, and the council is under Lib Dem control. Besides, the notion of Dougie Alexander knowing enough to interfere in a technical highways objection to a planning application is daft.

However, look further back in time. The Durham Green site was included in the local plan which was adopted in 2004. Concerns have been raised with regard to the site in the replacement Regional Spatial Strategy. So the site may well be controversial and may have been controversial at the time of its inclusion in the local plan.

This involves going back to the period 2000 to 2003, when the Labour-controlled council produced the Local Plan - including the site in question. The Local Plan was subject to lengthy consultation and inquiry, and many representations will have been made in the formal inquiry and outwith this. This period covers the period 2000 to 2003 when the ministers responsible in the planning system were Stephen Byers (Dept for Transport, Local Govenrment and the Regions) and John Prescott (ODPM). So, dig a little deeper a little further back. The current planning application is a red herring, or rather the product of something in the past that may be suspicious.

Chris Paul said...

PS You need to be more careful Iain. Too much speculation and hearsay. Not enough facts here. Almost as if it is a smear operation you're running here.

DIRTY EUROPEAN SOCIALIST said...

I think Cameron did not do very well at PMQ's today.

Chris said...

Iain,
Cameron ought to just go for the issue to satisfy the media. If the speaker intervenes it won't look bad for Cameron, it will look bad for the Labour speaker who will be portrayed by the media as attempting to kill the story

Anonymous said...

Why isn't there a Conservative in the Studio for the Daily Politics? Which is going to be watched by a number of people today.
We have Ken Clarke via link, but only a Lib Dem and two Labours. Surly we should have had someone in the studio. Given the recent events now is the time to get easy news coverage.

jailhouselawyer said...

Iain I see nothing wrong with accepting a donation after the event simply because the bills come in later and need to be met.

Having said that, there is every indication that this is dirty money.

If I asked you for money, or you offered me money, we would both know which version of events happened. Given this, it is totally unbelievable that neither Harriet Harman nor Abrahams can remember whether the donation was sought or offered.

Anonymous said...

Cameron was rubbish today.

AethelBald, King of Wessex said...

This could be bigger than John Poulson and Reggie Maudling. But your line intrigues me, Iain. I expected the party line to be incompetence, not corruption.

sniffer said...

Harriet Harman supposedly finished her deputy leadership campaign with a personal debt. It was 10k when quoted in the Guardian at the end of May and it was approx 6k in the latest figures that I have seen quoted. This means that the belated Abrahams payment was, in effect, of direct personal benefit to Ms Harman as it reduced her own, personal debt.

dirty european socialist said...

Gordon Brown is a nice man, very honest, has always worked for the people. You should leave him alone and let him get on with the job of running the country. Remember black wednesday in 1992, that's the toreis for you. Harriet Harman has had a setback but she is only 40 or so, she will bounce back, a strong lady too.

Anonymous said...

I'm puzzled. dirty european socialist's post about Cameron's performane at PMQs was timed at 11.59. I didn't think PMQs started until 12.00

Womble On Tour said...

I'll mop Harriet Harman's furrowed brow if she'd prefer...

Danvers said...

I've just blogged re the money laundering offence which may have also occurred in amongst the breach of the disclosure rules.

Walter said...

On the planning front - remember John Prescott using his powers to push stuff through over the objections of local councils? The campaign to disbar from planning decisions any elected official who had previously expressed an opinion? See Private Eye for the last - it meant that local opponents of schemes would be shut out, while the all the backers had to do was to keep their mouths shut for a bit...

In short, final say on planning became centralised.

Anonymous said...

"The Speaker, afyer having received "advice"" . . .

Care to clarify what you mean by the quotation marks, Iain?