Almost every Labour donor has been thrown a gong - Loudmouth David Puttnam got his after £25,000 in Labour donations, Ruth Rendell after £15,000, Melvyn Bragg £32,500, Lord Waheed Alli - free films... I could go on... Blair said in December that the peerages awarded were "party peerages" (as few of the donors actually did any party work it would appear he has no defence against the cash for honours charge.Ruth Rendell has been a member of the party for years - she helped the launch of Red Pepper in 1994 with Hilary Wainwright
And socialist, well yes, of course, it's not a fashionable word but I am very much of the Left.
David Puttnam has a similar record - he even took part in a 1992 election broadcast. Since he got his peerage, he's been a very active 'working' Labour peer. Both Melvyn Bragg and Waheed Alli have made no secret of their status as supporters of the Labour Party and have given money and, in the case of Lord Alli, practical support in terms of film-making. Their ennoblement was a demonstration of the change at the heart of the party and part of a desire to put new blood into the Lords. Lord Alli was the youngest peer and the first openly gay one. All of those listed by Praguetory enhance the Labour representation in the Upper House and provide strong voices for the party. Whatever else may be argued about them, they are high-profile, long-serving party supporters who have done well financially and want to financially support the party.
Even as the Tory commentators get all holier-than-thou over the whole thing, perhaps we should query some of those Tory peers?
How about Stanley Kalms - knighted by the Major administration and ennobled in 2004? He's been a major donor to the Tory party over decades, but we don't know how much. All we can say is that his donations since they were regulated exceed half a million quid - mostly before he got his peerage (after he'd served as Party Treasurer and helped to sort out their huge debts).
Or there's Conrad Black, who changed nationality to take up a seat on the Tory benches in the Lords (and is now trying to change back, because if he is convicted, Canada won't allow him back in). He ensured that the Telegraph maintained a firm right-wing stance and was rewarded with a peerage. He's now awaiting trial on fraud charges.
Then we have the Marquess of Salisbury - given a life peerage to match his hereditary one so that he could stay in the Lords - who has been on leave of absence since 2001 as he does not wish to declare his interests. He's one of the key figures behind the Stalbury Trust, which has donated £200,000 since 2001 and could have given up to a million pounds during the 1990s. He's also involved with a dining club that has donated £150,000 since 2001. Both organisations are reticent about their membership and the source of their funding - rather like the Midlands Industrial Council. Robert Edmiston had his nomination for a peerage blocked after he made a £2 million loan/donation to the Tory Party himself and ensured that other funds were channelled in the right direction. If we don't know who is giving the money, there's no way to ascertain what (if anything) those donors get in return - or what they expect. Well, actually we do, because membership of the MIC seems to buy you access to the leadership of the Tory Party.
Of course, if you are a LibDem donor, even if you hand over £2.4 million, you can't even translate that into a better quality of cell when you get sent down for fraud. [Hat tip to FibDems] Despite their record of
Anyone who has been reading this blog will be only too aware of my view that the PM should go and I'm in no way defending the sale of honours or conspiracy to pervert the course of justice, but the current behaviour of the press and some of the blogosphere is bordering on hysteria compared to what we actually know. No charges have been laid as yet, but the reporting of the case can only have prejudiced any chance of a conviction - something that any half-decent lawyer would be forced to argue on behalf of their client. Despite the views of other respected observers, like Paul Linford, my gut reaction is that the police won't have enough of a case to satisfy the CPS.