As the Cash for Peerages Inquiry becomes murkier by the day it is bceoming clear that Tony Blair's LINE OF DEFENCE that the Peerages were awarded for services to the Labour Party rather than for Public Service is becoming very shaky indeed. I have only just got around to reading yesterday's Independent on Sunday properly, but it will have made for very worrying reading indeed for Number Ten.
Mr Blair's evidence has baffled the donors, who believe they were nominated for the contribution they made to British society, not to the party. The curry magnate Sir Gulam Noon, who lent £250,000 to Labour, told the IoS he had been nominated for a peerage "for my charitable work [and] my building of the business".
A spokesman for the other businessmen at the centre of the cash-for-honours affair, Sir David Garrard and Barry Townsley, said: "My recollection was they were told it was for services to education." Earlier this year, Dr Chai Patel gave a BBC interview in which he outlined the achievements that had led to him being nominated - including founding the Priory Group of clinics. His office refused to comment on his nomination, but a friend said: "When he was nominated he thought it was for public service."
Last night, opposition politicians queried the nature of the "party service" provided by the millionaires, as none has a clear track record of Labour Party activism. It is not clear whether Sir David Garrard is even a Labour Party member, while Sir Gulam Noon has also given cash to the Liberal Democrats.
Downing Street said the "party service" referred to their willingness to serve as working Labour Party peers. A party spokesman said: "I am not going to get into how many leaflets they have delivered."
Dr Chai Patel's official citation lists his contribution to mental health services as well as his advisory positions. The citation for Sir David Garrard notes his £2.4m contribution to the Business Academy in Bexley, and other work. Barry Townsley's citation says he "is involved with numerous charitable organisations and good causes". It concludes: "He would be [sic] active contributor to the Lords speaking on education and business matters." Sir Gulam Noon's citation says "he would be an active member of the Lords bringing wide ranging business experience".
And while we are on the subject, Nick Robinson and others were quick to mention on 'Bur Bad News Thursday' that the PM was in the clear because he hadn't been arrested under caution. May I point out, as several people in the Comments have done so, that the man just arrested in Ipswich had been questioned by the Police four times in the last week without being under caution. That didn't stop him being arrested a few days later. It now seems that Jonathan Powell will be the next one to be questioned under caution.
So, to go back to the original title of this post, here's the question: Did Tony Blair award these peerages for public service or services to the Labour Party?