Monday, March 20, 2006

The names are out

In 2002, I wrote a book called 'Labour Party plc: New Labour as a party of business' . In the conclusion, I argued:

'Much as it craves the love of a good businesswoman, New Labour's problem is this. The Tories have networks within the establishment that date back centuries. Labour still has no real organic links with the ruling class.

'After starting almost from scratch, even after a decade its business base is still relatively limited. Accordingly, most of the controversial donations have come not from the FTSE 100 crowd, but from the sort of business wide boys still anxious enough about their social position to pay to shore it up.'

Wanna know something? I'm not actually sure that statement still stands. Labour has now released the names of 12 businessmen who, entirely because of their commitment to Labour values of course, lent the party money in secret. They are:

Rod Aldridge - £1m
Richard Caring - £2m
Gordon Crawford - £500,000
Professor Sir Christopher Evans - £1m
Sir David Garrard - £2.3m
Nigel Morris - £1m
Sir Gulan Noon - £250,000
Dr Chai Patel - £1.5m
Andrew Rosenfeld - £1m
Lord David Sainsbury - £2m
Barry Townsley - £1m
Derek Tullett - £400,000
Total: £13,950,000

And here what The Times has to say about some of them:

'A businessman whose company won more than £1bn of government contracts was revealed last night as one of Labour’s “rich list” who secretly backed the party with loans before the 2005 general election.

'Rod Aldridge, the founding chairman of the technology company Capita, whose contracts include administering the Home Office Criminal Records Bureau and handling the miners’ compensation claims, handed over £1m in response to an urgent plea for funding to help Tony Blair to win a third term.

Can't deliver on the honours right now, guys. Never mind. Plenty of PFI contracts to go round.

'The list of a dozen supporters, rushed out before today’s critical meeting of the Labour National Executive Committee, also includes a venture capitalist whose company is under investigation by the Serious Fraud Office.

'Sir Christopher Evans, head of Merlin Biosciences, also lent £1m. He denies the misappropriation of £2.5m from investors in a fund that he manages.

'Other names on Labour’s list include Richard Caring, the owner of some of London’s most fashionable restaurants, including The Ivy and Le Caprice, who lent £2m, and Andrew Rosenfeld, who was interviewed four years ago for the post of Conservative Party treasurer, contributed £1m.

Probably hasn't changed his political ideas much. Just his political party.

'As previously reported in The Times Lord Sainsbury of Turville, the Science Minister, lent £2m on top of his £6.5m donations. Three of the lenders, including Mr Aldridge, have given millions to Mr Blair’s flagship city academy projects.'

Meanwhile, Paul Anderson surely speaks for many Labour supporters when he observes:

'I'm shocked, and disinclined to get my finger out for the local elections. I can't see any alternative to Labour, as long as it is cleaned up ... but it needs to be cleaned up fast for me and everyone else I know who works for the party.

'This looks like a Lloyd George-style loans-for-peerages scam that stinks of old-fashioned corruption, a betrayal of all we hold dear — even though we've given up the rheoric of betrayal. Blair has some work to do to regain any kind of credibility. And I think it's beyond him.'

If I were still a Labour Party member, I'd be feeling like that too.


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