Sunday, January 27, 2008

Four Ministers Face Police Interviews: What Does It Say About Politics?

Peter Hain, Harriet Harman, Gordon Brown, Alan Johnson. It could well be that within a few weeks no fewer than four Cabinet Ministers will be interviewed by the Metropolitan Police. On the face of it you might expect me to be crowing about it from the top of my voice, but I am not. If I thought any of them were actually guilty of actual corruption, then it might be different.

Hain certainly has a case to answer, and is in the biggest trouble, and I suspect he may well be charged with offences under the PPERA 2000. But let's not lose sight of the fact that in most other countries political corruption implies politicians on the take. That's not the case here, and whatever our views on what Hain, Alexander, Harman and Johnson may have done, they're not being accused of trying to profit personally from their various alleged misdemeanours and incompetences. Let's remember that.

But to the general public, various politicians being interviewed by Inspector Knacker means only one thing - that they're just the ones who have been caught. The ones that even bother to look into what they are being accused of may make a differentiation between corruption and incompetence, but they cannot forgive the double standards of a politician who says he did nothing wrong and reckons that filing his returns to the Electoral Commission six months late is OK. They look at him and wonder what planet he lives on as they ponder the consequences of filing their tax returns six days - not six months late.

Politicians of all colours need to realise that they are held in lower public esteem than ever before and they need to react accordingly - not by arguing for higher salaries or allowances, but by addressing the failings of a political system which is becoming unfit for purpose - and by improving their own personal standards of behaviour.

Most politicians I know are in politics for the right reasons, but the few bad apples are allowing the public to believe that they're all the same. Most politicians I know go out of their way for their constituents and have a deep sense of honour. Now is the time for them to go that extra mile in improving the reputation of the whole of the body politic.

UPDATE: Conor Ryan has blogged along similar lines.

47 comments:

Johnny Norfolk said...

I just dont understand you at times Iain. We need to be rid of Labour as soon as possible before they inflict even more damage. If this helps to do it then so much the better. Its this lack of a killer blow that concerns me about the Tories its all to cosy for my liking.

Labour attacked the Tories and made the most of everything when in opposition. Now its all care and understanding from the Tories. Les get real.

Hypocentre said...

You say that they are not accused of trying to profit from this but Hain and Harman were massively in debt after their campaigns. Who would have to pick up the tab if they didn't get the donations?

zendo said...

They are a sleazy lot, but I do not believe Alan Johnson did anything wrong. The rest should be gone-----sooner rather than later.

David Boothroyd said...

Alan Johnson plainly did absolutely nothing wrong and you're lying to even imply there's a possibility of a police investigation.

Newmania said...

Your idea that Politicians are morally superior to anyone else has always struck me as an unlikely theory. The Conservtaive Party , however , will be wise not to crow and leave a hostage to fortune .
I am not convinced there is a clear distinction between stealing for fame and stealing for fortune though. They cheated to become powerful . As Blair has shown , cash is easy to grab once you have held power.

Gman said...

Mr 'porky' Boothroyd at it again. He was slightly less generous to Mr Osbourne last week, when he had done less then nothing wrong, he had done everything correct.

It seems with Labour, even the nice ones are crooks.

Come the election, will they be enough rope and enough lampposts to hang all the buggers????

Anonymous said...

The British political class are very corrupt, and it is only MPs who always say "overseas politicians are much worse". Rubbish! they are not worse and in America at least they know what democracy is.
Now that we are ruled from Brussels what on earth are the Westminster paricitocracy for? Get rid of them all! If that corrupt lot are bent on passisg governance of Britain over the heads of the British people to Brussels, then finish off the Westminster frauds.

Paul said...

Four Ministers Face Police Interviews: What Does It Say About Politics?

Peter Hain, Harriet Harman, Gordon Brown, Alan Johnson. It could well be that within a few weeks no fewer than four Cabinet Ministers will be interviewed by the Metropolitan Police.


Three cabinet ministers face police interviews, Peter Hain is not a cabinet minister.

canvas said...

What did Alan Johnson do that George Osborne didn't do?

Johnson appears to be an honest and decent man.

Henry Rogers said...

What interests me is why the Mirror chose to run this story. If DB's link is correct (time will tell) and nothing unseemly, let alone illegal, has been done then this story is likely to be deliberate propaganda. And the Mirror would hardly run a malicious story planted by wicked Tories, now would it! To whom in the Government is Alan Johnson a threat then? Does someone fear he would inherit if Brown explodes or implodes (which he probably won't but it's a cheering thought).

verity said...

Of course they're trying to profit personally, Iain! They're trying to buy their way into power, from which flows money.

(I, too, don't believe Alan Johnson did anything wrong, btw. He's not that kind of politician. Also, he's cute.)

javelin said...

4 rotten apples in a basket of 30. We don't even know how many other apples are rotten. There are several issues here

(1) What does Labour have funding problems? Partly because their beneficiaries are less wealthy, so they needed to target numbers, but went for sleazy individuals. They could have worked with the unions or made their offer more attractive. They failed. This has nothing to do with state funding. If a party targeted misers I would guess they might have a case for state funding - but New Labour don't they only have them selves to blame.

(2) The system for registering donations does not provide for automatic checking. A computer system should be set up where people could register using their NI numbers into a Bank Of England account and donors would be required to sign a statement declaring they are the source of the money etc. Not difficult to do.

Paddy Briggs said...

Iain

Very good post with which I agree 100%.

In the main I think that politicians of all parties are decent and honourable. I lean towards the views of some more comfortably than others but there are only a few who I despise (Galloway, the UKIP mob... that's about it).

I don't think that many of them in the UK are even slightly corrupt. If you are greedy there are far easier ways to feather your nest than politics. The four Labour politicians under a cloud are no more rotten apples than Boris is with his dodgy office deal.

The media and the rest of us need to move on to examine the real issues.

Yak40 said...

It says it's time this tired incompetent apology for a government gets tossed out, the sooner the better.

Oscar Miller said...

What comes across is that these powerful people think they are exempt from the laws everyone else is held to - the laws they themselves have made and impose. Sleaze was turned into THE issue to topple John Major and was used in a cynical, ruthless and mendacious way (see the thread on Mohammed Al Fayed). The issue here is one of double standards and hypocrisy. NuLab came to power on a squeaky, clean up politics ticket and now show no signs of acknowledging (let alone remorse) for their own failings. In fact they are still desperately trying to smear the Tories like the good old days, but can't really get anything on them. (See David Boothroyd). As far as the government is concerned sleaze is for Tories. Rules are for other people. That anti benefit fraud ad must be making the population laugh out loud - "No ifs no buts" when it comes to fraud unless you're a member of the cabinet when it becomes "only ifs and buts". If these contraventions are down to gross incompetence or something worse, why should anyone make excuses for them?

Twig said...

The Alan Johnson (non) story is just an attempt to raise background levels to make Harman, Hain and Alexander’s transgressions seem less serious.

It's like the chaff and flares that military aircraft fire off when under attack.

Anonymous said...

Iain,

I'm not sure you can say they didn't profit from their illegal fund-raising.

They wanted power without the unpleasantness of dipping their hands in their own pockets - they wanted other people to do that but wanted to pretend otherwise.

Hain no doubt got all sorts of dinners and corporate jollies out of his endorsement of loan sharks and other such bottom-feeders. He was, in the classic words of the late George Carman 'on the take and on the make'.

He got into this position by piggybackinmg off the pillorying of Neil hamilton and others, only to show miself much more corrupt.

Good riddance. But don't you get too close to the political elite that ytou can't smell the corruption!

Alex said...

For once, I have to agree with Boothroyd about Johnson, and I don't think there is a case against Harman unless it can be shown that she knew about th Abrahams "arrangements".

Hain and Alexander deserve all that should be coming to them.

Oh .. and I agree with gman's comment on Boothroyd's previous comments on the Shadow Chancellor.

What's it all about? said...

They say that the 51 year old Pakistani "student" who donated the money is on the electoral roll and is a member of the local Labour Party.
Why does he say, then, that he has never heard of his MP, Alan Johnson?

Chris Paul said...

Ridiculous to include Alan Johnson in this list Iain. Quite a stretch including Harman. And also Alexander who is not in fact a minister. Hain is of course an ex-Minister.

My understanding is that our Johnson's donors were notified to the EC who have for some reason not included them on their web schedule and that the £3,000 not from the person on the cheque was from his brother, that both are LP members and that there is nothing there.

Your Johnson on the other hand has seemingly failed to put lots of things in the RMI that should be there. All his notifiable donations in fact. And taken a gift from an organisation that have been in dispute with the GLA on planning matters and may be hoper for softer landings in future.

The idea that Osborne has done nothing wrong is a real stretch. That he was correct in every regard is just tosh.

Incompetent at best. And for the nth time the question asked of the commissioner had little or no relation to the case on which a ruling was allegedly being sought.

In fact the link to the GOO situation is so obscure than one might even think an unrelated email was being dragged out to give the impression that a ruling was sought when there was no such effort.

Marquee Mark said...

verity is spot on - these charlatans are trying to buy positions with money they don't have/shouldn't have.

Kick and bite and scream about their antics - the Tories got knocked from pillar to post in the Nineties, whilst this hypocritcal shower promised that when they had power they would be "purer than pure". The way they are debasing democracy is not something you can ever let slide past.

Bel said...

"That's not the case here, and whatever our views on what Hain, Alexander, Harman and Johnson may have done, they're not being accused of trying to profit personally from their various alleged misdemeanours and incompetences."

I'm sorry, but it was the desire for high political office (ie deputy leader of the Labour party) that put Hain and Harmanin this mess. If this isn't trying to 'profit personally', then what is?

mitch said...

The standards for MPs should be higher and the penalties much harsher they are happy to make the rules so should understand the consequences.
They are not forced to join they do so willingly and should accept the rules they cant be that hard to understand.
This would introduce Darwinian selection making parliament more honest.

Chris Paul said...

Whoops. Sorry, you've got Brown in there with Johnson as facing a police interview. That seems even more ridiculous than calling Alexander a minister actually!

barry monk said...

Alan Johnson, secretary of state for health, has joined his ex-colleague Peter Hain in the soup over donations to his deputy leadership bid.

One of Johnson's largest (legitimate and declared) donors was Reg Race (ex labour MP).
We wrote about Reg on www.vote4barry.blogspot.com on 7th June 2007 (Nice work, Reg). The story also appeared in the Sunday Telegraph.Interesting how the worms keep turning.

Iain Dale said...

Chris Paul, your posts on this thread illustrate why people hate politicians.

1. I did not call Alexander a Minister, but she may well face an inviestigation.

2. Various newspapers have already speculate don Brown being interviewed as a witness over the Abrahams money.

nadds said...

It does amuse me greatly that nu labs response to the funding issues to be to say its a problme for all parties, when its clearly their issue.

I agree with Iain - us normal people with normal tax issues and deadlines, don't buy the "it doesn't matter being late" line as we can all see what happens to us if we fo something involving Tax, or tax credits etc, or making a small mistake and having the real risk of prosecution.

nulab and its supporters really have lost touch with reality and increasingly belive the "the state is me" mantra beloved by dictators around the world.

Apart from everything else brown is screwing up, I cannot understand why no MSM is covering the Smith Institute story and brown and balls changing the charity laws so their seedy breaking of the current laws becomes irrelevant.

Final point - brown raised over £200k for his "campaign" to become leader. As there was no campaign as he had no election, where did all the money go and what was the for bunging him money in the first place? nulab trolls, do please explain

Anonymous said...

The issue is not whether they personally trousered any of the cash, it's whether they obeyed the laws that they themselves introduced.

The logic of your argument is like saying "Okay, he's guilty of rape, but at least he did'nt murder anybody, so thats all right then!"

NO, it's not! For the people who make the laws there must be zero tolerance, because if they cannot abide by the law they cannot, in equity, insist that we do.

If you find that harsh, then don't go into politics.

Anonymous said...

you're right, they're not currupt, but most politicians i know have an almost crippling ego problem. they want to serve "in public". they crave the attention. one or two blogging-wannabe MPs are like this, tho i dont count you among their number. oh for the days when MPs had done something else before becoming an MP...i blame parties,who have lowered the bar, so that candidates in their 20s and 30s are given seats to fight. realistically, very few people indeed have seen enough of life by age 25 or 30 or even 45, to be able to be anything other than lobby fodder.

it's a can of worms said...

It's strange isn't it that Johnson has done "nothing wrong" according to some posters here but this story has been headlining ITV, BBC, and Sky news broadcasts all day so there's something in it, as all the reporters and producers on those shows know.

It seems some people are easily fooled by this ruthlessly ambitious politician and his well acted "cheeky chappie" persona. He's also making a good fist at the moment of hiding the king-size chip on his shoulder. When it comes to hateful, bile-filled oddities, Johnson runs Brown himself a close second though you wouldn't think that by the act he puts on.

BTW The 3 grand was put up by the brother-in-law of the "50 year old student" Mr. Siddiqi. The generous donor also happens to be treasurer of the local Labour Party and a businessman who's business affairs may warrant looking into.

Anonymous said...

The Johnson leak is as Baldrick would have reffered to as a dead Herring, you only have to look at what paper leaked it fora start.

Anonymous said...

A rare top-quality and reasonable post that isn't aimed squarely at partisanship, and you have to go and spoil it by using a title that is at best tabloid.

Scary Biscuits said...

Iain, you are so wrong to say that Hain's corruption is somehow a less serious type than that of other countries - as other bloggers here have pointed out.

Corruption is always for self-interest at the expense of the country. In Hain's case it was to get himself a promotion and a pay rise.

Just because the money didn't go directly to his bank account doesn't make him any better than a Belgian eurocrat writing cheques to himself. In fact, it's worse.

The face value of Hain's corruption is about £100k. If you put the cost to the taxpayer of promoting him, providing him with staff, offices and a super pension then you can add at least another zero to that amount.

Ripping off the taxpayer to the tune of millions (or attempting to), easily puts him in the same league as Bertie Ahern or an African despot.

If somebody in industry used illicit funds to get themselves promoted they'd be instantly out the door and the police called. The fact that politicians like you, Iain, think that different rules should apply to themselves is the real reason why they are becomming so unpopular, and not the pedantic remarks made by people like Chris Paul above.

Man in a Shed said...

Its says its time for you to produce a little red book of charges. ( Maybe with the profits donated to the Police Federation ).

Iain Dale said...

Sorry Scary but your weak case is somewhat undermined by the fact that the Deputy Leadership of the Labour Party does not attract any salary at all. Far be it from me to defend Hain but how exactly did he rip off the taxpayer?

And, by the way, I am not a politician.

yorkshireman said...

I agree with Oscar Miller. Loans from undisclosed principals is but one symptom of what looks like a terminal disease, others being:

1. The double standard, eg
- PPERA;
- FOIA (expenses - Norman Baker);
- bomb-proof pensions whose underlying funds would suffer a punitive layer of tax if paid for personally;
- liberty to smoke in the corridors of Parliament (can this be true???);

2. Abuse of privilege
- Two double resignations from the cabinet on this ground;

3. Zero correlation between reward and practical results;

4. Off-balance sheet finance
- Tax credits;
- Good old PFI;

5. Widespread unemployability of politicians outside the Party, its lackeys and running dogs. Exhibit A: Ms Hazel Blears.

Sure, there are backbenchers who do good work in their constituencies, but in terms of passing practicable legislation which is intelligently implemented, can someone please tell me what exactly it is that we are supposed to respect about HMG?

One can only hope that time and maturity will enable most members of Gordon Brown's Cabinet to come to terms with their own basic uselessness, and that when that Damascene moment comes, that tears of gratitude will abseil down their faces when they recall the wise admonitions they first read on Iain Dale's Blog.

fred said...

"they're not being accused of trying to profit personally "

Come off it - do they not benefit just a little?
They might not pocket the cash but if they win the election they stand to do very nicely thank-you.

Gman said...

we havent seen the end of the dodgy postmans problem...

Think about it. A cheque for £3334, such an odd number, wouldnt you think? What happens if you mulitply it by three? You get a lovely round donation for £10,000.

So, who really did donate the money, and why did they want to hide it....

Follow the money....

DiscoveredJoys said...

When Nanny keps getting bossier and bossier about your own behaviour, it seems appropriate to hold her to own standards with just as much vigour.

Oscar Miller said...

There's a view shaping up on Guido that Johnson is being set up by Brown, who has form when it comes to disposing of rivals. I personally don't think Johnson did anything wrong. The story seems flimsy and the fact it broke in the Sunday Mirror does arouse suspicions.

Anonymous said...

If they are incapable (whether through incompetence or corruption) of following the rules that they themselves introduced are they fit to run the country?

Anonymous said...

More to the point what does it say about you iain YOU make your living off of theres parasites so what does that make you?

Anonymous said...

You cannot be a little bit dishonest any more than one can be a little pregnant.

It seems to be convenient now to say that we should forgive and forget some of these acts of wanton carelessness or dishonesty. We shouldn't.

Using the office stamps on personal letters leads to fiddling the petty cash and then to direct embezzlement.

Far too many of our MPs and MEPs are playing the expenses game up to and beyond the hilt. One MP claimed £37000 for postage last year. Might that be a wee bit suspect?

Victor

neil craig said...

While i agree that most of these are technical infringements my problemm is with something in the background which was legal.

Abrahams, a major property developer despite having limited apparent assets gave money to several different candidates. Clearly he was not doing this because of a principled belief they were all the best person for the job & can only have been buying influence.

Equally in the case of wendy Alexander it is not that there was a technical error over £950 but that senior Labour politicians, including the former boss of Glasgow council were on such good terms with Mr Green, who has made many millions out of projects which depended on planning permission for Glasgow corporation, that he would write such a cheque on the nod.

The planning system which gives politicians & pressure groups enormous power & damages our economy to at least 10s of billions of pounds, provides temptation to the most honest.

jafo said...

What I am particularly curious about in the Deputy Leadership donations furore is - what did they all need so much money for? What did they actually do with all this cash?
How much does the Deputy Leader job pay, that SIX people were prepared to drop themselves into debt in order to get it?
This was an election with a limited number of potential voters. It didn't require billboard advertising, TV adverts or double-page spreads in national newspapers.
I assume there may have been some articles - adverts maybe - in Trades Union papers. Shouldn't think that would be all that pricey. Visits to Labour Clubs, few well-chosen words about voting for them, and buying of drinks all round perhaps? That doesn't sound like the thick end of £100,000 does it?

What did they all spend the money on? Are there accounts somewhere?
Where did the money go?

The Remittance Man said...

Maybe Alan Johnson is innocent of corruption, the news revealled seems to demonstrate this. As for the others, the evidence of innocence is less convincing. The simple fact is they appear to have conspired to take money illegally. Whether this was to line their pockets or for saome other purpose is immaterial. If one robs and then gives the proceeds to charity one is still a robber.

As to the broader political issues; defending a belleageured colleague may be a sign of loyalty but to do so blindly gives the public the impression that all politicians consider themselves above the law. Any government or party serious about presenting an image of probity needs to demonstrate that breaking/bending the rules even uninentionally is not acceptable. Politics be damned, the public simply see what they think is corruption being condoned.

And before the trolls start screaming, "what about Conway?" Cameron needs to deasl with that problem fairly, but very firmly. I happen to believe there should be one law for politicians and another for the rest - just that the law for politicians should be much harsher.

jafo said...

Iain, thanks for the extra info (for Scary Biscuits perhaps, but useful for us all) that the Deputy Leader - Labour Party job doesn't carry a salary.

It makes me even more curious as to why six people were prepared to land themselves into debt in order to get it, and why they all seemed to think it necessary to spend so much money.

I know a politician's lust for power seems greater than an alcoholic's lust for drink, but this is ridiculous!