Wednesday, February 03, 2010

Brown is in a Pickle Over 'Slush Fund'

The Prime Minister
10, Downing Street
London, SW1A 2AA

3 February 2010


Dear Mr Brown,

At Prime Minister’s Questions today, you told the House of Commons that you knew nothing about the secret fund, worth a reported £50,000, which was held by the Labour Party for your benefit. When asked why you did not declare this on the Register of Members’ Financial Interests (RMFI), you said specifically: ‘I know nothing about what he [the questioner] is talking about.’

This simply cannot be true.

It is clear from Peter Watt, the Labour Party’s former General Secretary, that you were the beneficiary of a secret fund held by the Labour Party. He has said explicitly:

‘Before becoming Prime Minister, Gordon went to some lengths to insulate himself and the Treasury from our financial troubles, setting up his own personal pot of cash at party HQ. This was money we could not dip into, since it was set aside for the Chancellor’s own pet projects. Murray Elder helped secure donations from the Chancellor’s supporters’ (Inside Out, January 2010, page 105).

He went on to claim that it may have been used to finance your ‘long-term campaign to become party leader’ (Inside Out, Peter Watt, 2010, page 105).

Mr Watt’s assertions were widely reported. Indeed, across several pages in the Mail on Sunday, Mr Watt claimed that you used ‘up to £50,000-a-year of Labour money to pay for private polling’ (Mail on Sunday, 17 January 2010).

The allegations were explicitly confirmed as truthful by a Labour official who said in the same article: ‘It [the fund] was funded through donations to the Party.’

In the light of these allegations, my colleague, Greg Hands MP, wrote to you more than two weeks ago, on 17 January, to query why you had failed to declare the fund properly the Register of Members’ Financial Interests. This letter was publicised in several newspapers on 18 January.

As you did not respond, Greg Hands submitted a complaint to John Lyon, the Parliamentary Commissioner this week. I attach a copy of this complaint for your reference. Again, this complaint was reported.

Yesterday in a speech titled ‘Transforming Politics’, you said that you would ‘do all that is necessary to restore trust’ in politics and the conduct of MPs. If you wish to restore trust in politics, you should stop treating people like fools by claiming that you were unaware of this fund when all the evidence points to the contrary.

I therefore urge you to admit to this fund’s existence, apologise for misleading the House and co-operate with any inquiries that John Lyon may wish to make.

Yours sincerely,

Eric Pickles
Chairman, The Conservative Party
Member of Parliament for Brentwood and Ongar

38 comments:

titus-aduxas said...

"I therefore urge you to admit to this fund’s existence, apologise for misleading the House and call an election"

Oliver Drew said...

Wow. Didn't expect that - and so quick too!

Michael Heaver said...

Could be an interesting one this.

Ean Craigie said...

Did anyone else notice the look on Jack Straws face when he said it. Could this be the Straw that breaks Jonahs back??

Fenrir said...

Mr Pickles has brightened up what was turning out to be a fairly dull day. Thank you Eric.

How appropriate that the word verification was "rednest", a nest of red vipers if ever I saw one.

James D said...

Hmmm... I'd thought it was actually the "Help from the Labour Party for research" (and variations on a theme) that he declared for about three years. Clearly I overestimated his intelligence.

OldSlaughter said...

Nice.

This is a man who truly believes he is honest and is willing to lie to prove it.

This from the party than introduced the concept of temporary resignations.

strapworld said...

I agree this could be v e r y interesting!

I think Inspector Knacker of the Yard must be consulted and an investigation launched. Surely the Labour Party has been cheated out of £50.000 or, if Brown's aide's are right and they tore up the cheque?, the exchequer has been denied that money.

Brown looks quite shaky on this.
He must sue the author and let the rusty sword of truth la de la!

Money money money...is the root of all evil.

The Purpleline said...

Well done the Conservatives caught Brown perfectly there, especially so close to his new politics speech yesterday. If Brown had not done his famous Macavity disappearing act last Wednesday hiding at Hillsborough, we might have seen him squirm before the latest opinion polls. Why is the Mainstream media not making anything of this ‘Secret Fund’ is it because the source is via independent small niche publisher and blogger.

I do sense the gloves are now going to come off. PMQ was good today from a Tory perspective, Brown had some sound bite jokes awfully executed, Campbell will not be happy. Nevertheless, I know this is old news, but Brown looked like a man going to have a nervous breakdown today, he was ranting.


Iain as a question if they ever did manage to get AV through could the conservative’s field more than one candidate, per constituency. A male and a female candidate as AV is a preference choice, it is not a party choice I for one would never put a cross or number next to a Labour or Libdem candidate. I would like to choose between two competing Tory candidates on their respective merits. This would also avoid women only lists.

The Grim Reaper said...

Some people are saying this is the Manuel defence that Brown is using. I disgree. I'd say it's rather offensive to compare the two. Manuel is a warm, friendly although linguistically-challenged character whereas Broon is cold and deceitful - although also linguistically-challenged. Hence his constant habit of just using the same simplistic sentences over and over again.

To me, this is the Comical Ali defence. He was once questioned by a reporter about US aeroplanes landing at Baghdad airport. He replied by saying "they are not here in Iraq". When the reporter pointed out that he could physically see the planes in the distance, Ali merely responded saying "I do not see them, they are not there".

Much the same as Brown did today. He'd claim night was day if he thought there were votes in it.

The Grim Reaper said...

P.s. The name Agnetha Dale suits you. ;-)

pete-s said...

Caught unaware, just shows McDoom's instinctive reaction, deny and lie. What a pathetic excuse of a PM this Labour scum have heaped on us.

john said...

Y a w n

As a floating voter I don't find this petty point scoring nonsense makes the Conservatives look like a government-in-waiting. What difference does it make to my pay packet, mortgage or family? Zilch. If Pickles totally focussed on a credible plan to sort out the economy. Nothing else matters.

Richard Manns said...

Someone make sure that the complaint is acted upon before 6th May...

Jimmy said...

Obviously as the polls tighten the tories realise they have to get away from policy and back to personal smears.

Cynic said...

Its not a personal smear if a senior politician has a secret and illegal slush fund and then lies to Parliament about it.

Were the declarations declared?

Nick said...

Is there any basis on which Gordon Brown's answer to the slush fund question can have been honest and accurate?

Sunray said...

Mention of The Fund With No Name at the start of PMQ's today really threw Brown. He was disorientated and distracted for the remainder of the session. This one looks as though it could cause him serious problems. Shame that.

p smith said...

It's a good thing that Cameron and the Tories have no questions to answer as to Michael Ashcroft's tax status.

It doesn't excuse Brown if he is lying (and at this stage we are talking about his word against the word of a disgruntled ex party official) but what is more relevant. A £50,000 fund or millions in party contributions to the Tory party from a non-domicile.

Glasshouses can be a bugger.

Frugal Dougal said...

I wonder what other pots there may be to find...

Alan Douglas said...

James, catching the leader of the country in a bare-faced lie to the House of Commons is hardly just a smear - you are a labour troll and I claim my £ 5.00.

Alan Douglas

Unsworth said...

@ Jimmy

So it's not a lie, then?

trevorsden said...

Fight fire with fire, Jimmy.

Anyway - why did Gordon not declare his slush fund? I wonder was it passed over in brown envelopes??

... or was it simply as case of Brown's envelopes??

Jimmy said...

Well the first point to make is that although our esteemed host understandably takes the view that the Peter Who whingefest is the most significant political story of the millenium (judging by the acreage devoted to it), it is entirely possible that the PM has not yet found the time to read it. Secondly as I read it (and I confess to having merely skimmed the Hitler on Sunday extract), the claim goes no higher than suggesting that a segregated portion of party funds was spent under the PMs personal direction. That does not on the face of it seem to me registerable even if the fund existed. Anyone who uses the term "slush fund" other than in jest needs to lie down in a darkened room for a while.

Leaving all this aside, Pickles letter makes it clear that this is a co-ordinated CCHQ attack. If Cameron believes it has substance he should make it himself. If (as I suspect) he does not, then to get a backbencher to do his dirty work was cowardly and contemptible. Yet another illustration of his unfitness for office.

Unsworth said...

@ Jimmy

Hilarious. So you think that Brown doesn't use his back benchers in exactly the same way, week after week? Maybe you should take up Botany.

So what if it's 'co-ordinated', does that actually alter the substance of the accusation in any way?

And the PM 'hasn't had time to read it'? Well what are all those Downing Street staff doing - when not having to defend themselves from Brown's verbal and physical assaults, that is? Or is it the case that under the current regime it's only the despotic Brown who does anything at all - because everyone else is terrified of him? Then again, maybe that would account for the deep manure this country is now in.

Moriarty said...

@John

I'm always curious when people make the effort to say they can't be bothered. That you don't care that you are lied to by your Prime Minister is duly noted. I await your next non-intervention with baited breath.

Moriarty said...

@Jimmy

An interesting abrogation of logic there. Your "argument" reduces to the following: the Watt story is a non-story so how dare Cameron not bring it up.

Nice one. With you going in to bat for them the Class Warrior Maguire's job is safe.

Don't give up the day job.

Mick Turatian said...

Well the first point to make is that although our esteemed host understandably takes the view that the Peter Who whingefest is the most significant political story of the millenium (judging by the acreage devoted to it), it is entirely possible that the PM has not yet found the time to read it.

Yes, entirely possible that Gordon Brown has not read this book but it's not really credible that he is entirely aware that the book exists and that it contains material that is not entirely complimentary. If you want to argue that the Prime Minister was not briefed on the contents of a book written by a disaffected former senior official of the Labour Party, then you have to concede that he's a rotten manager of the organisation he supposedly leads.

Secondly as I read it (and I confess to having merely skimmed the Hitler on Sunday extract...)

Ah, The Hitler on Sunday? So you're not a Mail on Sunday fan, then? Well, that's OK but let's not lose sight of the fact that the MoS is only serialising the book. They haven't marched into the Sudetenland and seized it. This isn't authorial Anschluß. But let's not digress.

... the claim goes no higher than suggesting that a segregated portion of party funds was spent under the PMs personal direction.

Well, I think he was Chancellor at the time but if you don't want to be picky about where the money went, why be picky about the job title, eh? More pertinent is that the spending wasn't accounted for, do you see? How was it spent? What did it buy?

That does not on the face of it seem to me registerable even if the fund existed.

Fair enough, but this speaks volumes about you. When there's a casting call for a trinity of wise monkies, be sure not to miss it!

Anyone who uses the term "slush fund" other than in jest needs to lie down in a darkened room for a while.

Why? It's been stock in trade for the left ever since BL was castigated for buying overseas orders. Ah! Pike's Rule Applies.

Leaving all this aside, Pickles letter makes it clear that this is a co-ordinated CCHQ attack. If Cameron believes it has substance he should make it himself.

Beastly! Can you sing this dreary refrain to the tune of the Eton Boating Song?

If (as I suspect) he does not, then to get a backbencher...

backbencher?

...to do his dirty work was cowardly and contemptible. Yet another illustration of his unfitness for office.

Unfitness for office? Yup, lot's of us will be holding our noses when we vote for the Conservatives. But vote for them we shall if only to turf out the unspeakable, venal, meretricious rabble currently in power and to poke a stick in the eye of their dreary sheep-like apologists.

Jimmy said...

@Unsworth,

I'm not aware of him doing anything like that and wouldn't approve if he did. Even planted PMQs set my teeth on edge but what happened today is worse. And no it doesn't affect the "substance" but that rather begs the question as to whether there is any substance there at all. Unfortunately Pickles letter is so badly written its hard to tell precisely what the accusation is.

"Well what are all those Downing Street staff doing"

I know this will sound impossibly naive but I'd like to think they were running the country.

Jimmy said...

"More pertinent is that the spending wasn't accounted for, do you see? How was it spent? What did it buy?"

I've no idea, but then I wasn't ever General Secretary or in charge of compliance.

trevorsden said...

Desperate stuff from Jimmy. A co-ordinated Conservative attack!! Shock horror.

The point is - its true. Sorry pardon Jimmy that Brown declared Peter Watt a criminal to the assembled public. (he was cleared). now he faces the consequences of his activities being made public.

Attacking the man is a poor substitute for addressing the issues.

trevorsden said...

mick -- I think its perfectly possible that Brown thinks he is the mad hatter and mandelsons real name is Alice.

And the moon is made of green cheese.

On the other hand he could think that its us who are a load of thick as two short plank mugs

Mick Turatian said...

"More pertinent is that the spending wasn't accounted for, do you see? How was it spent? What did it buy?"

I've no idea, but then I wasn't ever General Secretary or in charge of compliance.

So in that case, it's not important? The General Secretary at the time, Peter Who, as you called him in an earlier post, was invited to ignore this fund so that's OK with you then?

Are you actually angling for the job of General Secretary yourself? You look like a shoo-in.

Jimmy said...

"Peter Who, as you called him in an earlier post, was invited to ignore this fund"

He was? I missed that bit. By whom?

titus-aduxas said...

"Jimmy said...
"Well what are all those Downing Street staff doing"

I know this will sound impossibly naive but I'd like to think they were running the country."

Yes, it is impossibly naive. Downing Street is where McBride worked. Is a group, dedicated to smearing the opposition "running the country"?

Oh, sorry, you're a Labour luvvie, so, that'll be "yes".

Moriarty said...

Jimmy you need to refresh yourself intellectually. Maybe you can start by dropping the 1970s leftist groupthink: politicians and officials do not "run the country". The rest of us do that. They tend to get in the way.

Mick Turatian said...

Jimmy: "Peter Who, as you called him in an earlier post, was invited to ignore this fund"

He was? I missed that bit. By whom?


I think you miss quite a lot of bits, if you're honest.

In this instance, if the General Secreary of an organisation is not in a position to account for a chunk of his budget, you might have groped your way to concluding that he was told not to bother by a person or persons unknown, higher up the hierarchy.

Alternatively, you could say that the general secretary was balefully lacking in curiosity. Not unlike the rationale you would have to deploy to explain the position of Mr Harriet Harman, in a similar role, all those years ago when cash-for-peerages was providing us with fun.

Jimmy said...

Mick,

That rather looks like a very long winded way of admitting you just made it up. If somebody had told him that he would doubtless have said so. Your conclusion is based on wishful thinking rather than logic. The obvious conclusion is that he had no concerns until it came to grasping for complaints to pad out his book.