Monday, March 27, 2006

Blindingly obvious

Here’s an official Labour Party press release, issued last Tuesday:

'John Prescott MP, Deputy Leader of the Labour Party, today called on David Cameron to publish details of all Conservative Party loans.

'John Prescott MP said: "Following Labour's decision in the interests of transparency to publish the full list of names and amounts of all the loans received, we call on David Cameron to match his words on openness with actions by publishing details of all the Tories' loans."

'The Conservative Party has referred queries about loans it has received to its annual accounts for 2004. However the Tories have not revealed the total amount of all the loans received by the party since the Political Parties, Elections and Referendums Act came into force, including the figures for 2005 - neither has it so far revealed the names of those who gave loans.'

What? John Prescott? Proprietor of the John Prescott Campaign Research Trust in the 1990s, which has never revealed the wealthy individuals that filled its coffers with secret donations? Surely not. That would be tantamount to double standards, wouldn’t it?

My book, Labour Party plc, recaps most of what little that is known about ithe JPCRT:

‘MP Alan Meale, trustee of the John Prescott Campaign Research Trust, argues that most of the money that came in was generated by Prescott's outside earnings, such as fees for speeches and articles.

‘But at least £10,000 was given by Haris Sophoclides, a British-based Greek-Cypriot property developer. Prescott has holidayed on several occasions at Sophoclides villa in Cyprus, after getting a taste for the country during his days as a steward on cruise ships in the eastern Mediterranean.

‘Sophoclides owns J&P Ltd, one of the Middle East's largest property and construction firms, building hotels, airports, hospitals and military bases worldwide.

'He also plays an influential role in the Greek diaspora as president of the Greek Cypriot Brotherhood, an organisation which is in its own right a corporate donor to the Labour Party, and is vice-president of the World Council of Hellenes Abroad, described as a non-governmental organisation, albeit one "created by a 1995 presidential decree".

‘His son Tony Sophoclides spent four years as a Prescott aide before becoming a lobbyist. While working for the Deputy Prime Minister in 1997, Tony led a delegation of Labour MPs - including Meale, Rudy Vis, Stephen Twigg and Joan Ryan - to the island, where they met top Cypriot politicians.

'Sophoclides senior has been officially accredited as a parliamentary researcher too, with privileged access to the Commons courtesy of a pass provided by Meale.’

The ever-indispensible Guido also draws attention to a letter from Margaret Beckett to Tory leader David Cameron on Friday, requesting that he reveal the source of loans to the Tories under Michael Howard.

Ms B has the chutzpah to demand:

‘I am sure you will recognise that failure to do so would seriously compromise your party's credibility and remove all legitimacy from any call you made to argue the case for openness and reform to the system ... We understand that some of these loans may have been given on the basis of confidentiality. But it is clear that the public interest in outlining the full extent of loans received, as we have done, is sufficiently strong to justify any such undertakings you have given being overridden.’

Margaret Beckett was in the 1990s the beneficiary of the Margaret Beckett Research and Administration Trust. Needless to say, almost a decade on the electorate still doesn’t have a scoobie who funded this set up.

While we’re at it, I could mention the Labour Front Bench Research Fund, an umbrella fund that financed John Smith’s shadow cabinet.

OK, Labour. You’re right. The Tories should immediately ‘fess up in full. But then so should you. Who paid? How much? And when?

(Hat tip: Tim Worstall)


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