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A KNIGHTHOOD? HOW MUCH WILL IT COST ME?
The “Cash for honours” enquiry by New Scotland Yard, The Cabinet Office and a House of Commons Committee has been in progress now for at least a year and the British people could be forgiven for thinking that no one will ever find the truth though if it were to be discovered there are many that would be of the opinion that it is in a very strange place.
It seems the truth of the matter is as illusive as the fabled knighthood itself and a matter of some dispute as to whether the version determined by New Scotland Yard is the same truth that is becoming clearer to The House Committee and both have come to accept that is not the brand of truth offered by The Cabinet Office.
It has been necessary for the policemen investigating the diverse circumstances of bestowing a knighthood on an elevated member of society to interview many members of the government, several senior civil servants and several prominent members of the knighthood that had been elevated to the peerage from the ranks of business, medicine and commerce. The bone of contention lies not in the fact that they were elevated but why they were granted knighthoods. The suspicion being that the reasons for such advancement was purely fiscal. If it proved to be the case that it was then not only does it call into question the intrinsic value of an “Honour” but it may also have been a crime under the Honours [Prevention of Abuses] Act of 1925.
It might be thought that if such a suspicion existed that it would be in the interests of both the government and the peerage to allay any suggestion of irregular practise as quickly as possible in order to maintain the value of any future elevations but that has not proved to be the case. There is a distinct reticence to clear the matter and the question that must be asked is, why?
Since the matter was raised by the former Independent MP for Tatton, Martin Bell
in an interview with the “Times Newspaper” it has become obvious that the Prime Ministers office were well aware that “Charges of cash for peerages” was at best downright “sleaze” and something Tony Blair had assured the UK electorate that he would eradicate. To now have to admit that far from dispelling sleaze the squeaky clean party of New Labour had merely adopted a different way of hiding it would do nothing for the credibility of the Prime Minister. It was for such reasons that would be donors were advised that a loan to the party funds would be preferable to an open donation but a loan by its very essence is a commercial transaction involving a fixed term, a sum to be placed at the borrowers disposal and interest accrued. To call the transactions made by most of the donors to the present administration “A loan” would be stretching a point past recognition. To date no repayments have been made, no effort has been made to recover the overdue amount and there has been no legal remedy sought though all of the creditors have just cause. The inescapable conclusion must be that these sums of money placed at the disposal of a political party were in fact donations and not loans but were called loans to avoid disclosure. If they were donations to a political cause anything in excess of £200 pounds should have been included in a quarterly return to the Electoral Commission but there is no mention of any of the “Loans” under scrutiny because the donors have maintained that they were instructed by the “Fund raiser” that a loan was exempt from the regulations and as such the anonymity of the “Creditor” could be protected.
In its report of 2004 The Power Commission recommended that all donations to political parties should be capped at a maximum of £10,000 and such donations would have to be declared.
If the suspicions of the investigators into the “Cash for Peerages” affair are confirmed then it would make a mockery of the intent to cap the donations because it is almost certain that several donations [sorry loans] were in excess of £1,000,000 and none were declared. If however, the list of secret donors is cross matched with the list of new peers taking seats in the Lords there are many common to both lists.
The Office of The Prime Minister have been at great pains to deny any wrong doing and maintain that no impropriety has taken place but the Chief Fundraiser for New Labour, Lord Levy [in party circles known as Sir Cash] has been arrested several times but later released without charge, the circumstances of his detent would have incurred interviews under caution.
The police have interviewed almost one hundred people, some whilst under formal arrest, some whilst under police caution and some informally. To date no charges have been brought but some weeks ago saw the arrest of a close aide to Tony Blair so close that it was surmised that she knew where all of the metaphorical bodies were buried. Shortly after her interview it became clear that the police were lead to her by an email sent between two party officials that mentioned the affair and her misgivings about certain misrepresentations of fact.
When Ruth Turner [Tony Blair’s “Gatekeeper] was released it was apparent that the police knew a lot more after the interview than they did before which was evident from the way in which the investigation progressed.
It can be deduced that New Scotland Yard is no longer prepared to rely solely upon statements issued by any of the parties involved and policemen with a very high security clearance are actively monitoring email traffic into and out of certain computers located in10 Downing Street.
Around three weeks ago the Attorney General, Oliver Goldsmith applied to the High Court for a writ preventing The BBC Panorama programme screening a update upon the investigation, the same writ was also applicable to certain newspapers who were in possession of the same material. It was maintained that such an expose` could prejudice the police investigation which was now at an advanced stage and leak information likely to benefit the subjects of that investigation. The ban was granted but later lifted and the program did go on air. It was not that long ago that the same man was interviewed in connection with the same matter. Casting back to the invasion of Iraq, opinion was sought as to whether the action was legal, the opinion was “That it was legally unsupportable” yet just four days later it had become a justified response. The opinion sought was that of the Attorney General.
This week it was reported that police were waiting to interview the Prime Minister in connection with the investigation. It is unusual to say the least for an incumbent Prime Minister to be interviewed at all but in order to ensure that they are told the truth the police want the interview to be conducted under caution. The Prime Ministers aides however have made it known that if the Prime Minister is interviewed under caution then it may accelerate his resignation. The Prime Minister has already been interviewed twice, at the first he was treated as a witness. The interview was recorded and a transcript of what took place was typed and sent to 10 Downing Street for approval as a true and accurate record. No approval has yet been forthcoming. He was interviewed again within six weeks also as a witness.
The police now want to interview under caution to clarify remarks made in the first interview regarding the possibility that certain aides may have obstructed the enquiry and therefore either willingly or unwillingly participated in a conspiracy to pervert the course of justice. The PM has said little further on the matter but the consensus of opinion emanating from number ten is that if cautioned his position would become untenable and force his resignation. It is seen by police as a ploy to hamper the progress of the enquiry but there is an alternative strategy under consideration. It is known that the PM intends to step down but “When” is not clear, if it is the contention that his position would be compromised by an interview under caution whilst in office then it is equally viable that after he has vacated the office it would not.
The working relationship between 10 Downing Street and New Scotland Yard has deteriorated during this enquiry to a point where the list of suspects has enlarged but propriety and honour could be satisfied if the interview of Tony Blair is delayed until he has left office. For whatever reasons the claustrophobic atmosphere of the Prime Minister’s office seems unwilling to see the investigation concluded whilst Tony Blair remains in office. However the longer it is delayed the damage limitation exercise that is the obvious intent of the parties involved is entering a phase that will increase the detriment to the political reputation of New Labour and Tony Blair. It is time to come clean and clear this matter up once and for all. No one is above the law.
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