I hope if I’m arrested for a criminal offence Labour MPs, like Jon Cruddas, will be popping up on the BBC to praise my integrity. A noble act of friendship toward his best mate Des Smith, and in no way an attempt to influence Scotland Yard, whose officers had just arrested Mr Smith, under the 1925 sale of peerages act.
Mr Smith, adviser to the Specialist Schools and Academies Trust (SSAT) had admitted telling a journalist that if they put up a large sum of money for City Academies there would be a “a certainty” of a peerage or a knighthood in it. I’m sure that the police will discover that this was the result of stress brought on by the demands of his work.
It is a surely a disgrace that a man of Mr Smith’s integrity should be treated this way by the constabulary, clearly working under direct orders from Gordon Brown. I mean, how can we expect people to offer themselves for public service if they are going to be pilloried and arrested merely for offering honours for money?
Not that Mr Smith ever intended to do that during his brief moment of madness. Whatever it was he did was motivated by his passion for improving the lot of the educationally deprived. It had absolutely nothing to do with the cash for peerages scandal which is, anyway, a fiction of the Brownite press designed to damage the PM.
Anyway, no one in government has ever heard of Mr Smith. He was a frequent visitor to Number Ten and advised Tony Blair personally on schools policy, but you can’t remember every Tom, Des or Harry who comes to the PM with offers of millions of pounds. The anonymous Mr Smith worked for Lord Levy, who is President of the SSAT and also Tony Blair’s fund raiser and private banker, but there is no evidence that Lord Cashpoint ever set eyes on his employee.
And let there be no snide talk about “following the money” for I’m sure they never discussed how the PM was going to raise cash for academies from rich donors. It’s just not on for cynical individuals to now go running round putting two and two together and making four all over the place. We all know that two and two make whatever the Prime Minister wants it to make. Indeed, in this case it made just under fourteen million, which is a very respectable sum, given by responsible people to Lord Cashpoint’s fund for the educationally disadvantaged, c/o 10 Downing St. London.
The Prime Minister certainly wouldn’t have talked to either Mr Smith or Lord Levy about awarding honours to benefactors. It is also pure coincidence that, according to the independent Power Commission, every plutocrat who has donated more than a million pounds to the Labour Party has received either a knighthood or a seat in the Lords. Well, what of it? Come on then, let’s hear the latest conspiracy theory. Nyah, nyah, nyah, hearditalbefore.
There may appear to have been conflicts of interest, but these things are very much in the eye of the beholder. The property developer Sir David Garrard, for example, sponsored a City Academy, and also gave Labour a secret loan of £2.3m. But these donations were in no way connected, even though they were both solicited by Lord Levy, directly and through his agent Mr Smith. It is pure coincidence that Sir David later appeared on the PM’s nominations list for peerages.
It is a matter of record that Mr Smith’s boss, Lord Levy, had been advising wealthy philanthropists that it would be kind of them to give secret loans of millions of pounds to the Prime Minister so that their names wouldn’t have to be disclosed. But this was simply for their own good, since publicity can be highly bothersome and intrusive. Whereas, giving donations to City Academies is the kind of thing that it is highly appropriate to publicise since it shows just how philanthropic and public spirited the businessman really is. And how suitable for a place in the House of Lords because of “services to education”.
The Prime Minister has already said the system of secret loans is to be scrapped in future, so that surely confirms the system is working as it should. Otherwise he would hardly be scrapping it would he? Tony Blair has demonstrated his honesty and integrity in the clearest way possible: as soon as he was found out he took action to change the law so he would never do it again. What more can you expect of a Prime Minister than that?
Really, it sometimes makes you despair for the future of democracy the way that people impugn the good names of politicians without a shred of evidence of any wrong doing - except of course the evidence that led to the arrest of Des Smith. And even if Mr Smith is guilty, he was definitely not obeying orders.
Never let it be said that in Britain you can buy your way into the House of Lords, and we never will say it because it has never needed to be said. A nod is as good as a wink to a blind fraud squad officer. And where does it say in the 1925 act that you can’t give a nod to a chap that his cash could come in very handy and would make the Prime Minister very happy indeed? A happy Prime Minister is surely a good Prime Minister.
And, when it comes down to it, why shouldn’t rich men be given seats in the House of Lords? They have become rich through their hard work running philanthropic bodies like expensive restaurants, property development companies, commercial old peoples’ homes, and through nurturing cultural icons like Bad Manners and Alvin Stardust. Aren’t these precisely the kind of figures we want our young people to aspire to?
We don’t want the House of Lords populated by the same old judges, scientists, university vice chancellors and former ministers. Boring, boring, boring! We need to bring the House of Lords into the 21st Century, by showing that money talks - in politics as in business, and that it speaks in a language that the government can understand. What better way to ‘put something back’ for society than to place an anonymous million or two into Tony Blair’s private Labour fund?
You know, it’s not that long ago that Labour was the kind of organisation that wouldn’t have wanted a million pounds from Bernie Ecclestone, let alone two. It believed a mass political party should be financed by the fund-raising efforts of ordinary members, by trades union subscriptions and party membership dues. How hopelessly out of date. Indeed, how offensive to Britain’s wealth community to exclude them in this way from the centres of power.
No one surely wants to go back to the bad old days when rich people had to hide their heads in shame. So let’s stop this witch hunt now, and let Tony and his friends get on with the job, whatever it is.