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Reply with quote  #16 
The difference between a moral man and a man of honor is that the latter regrets a discreditable act, even when it has worked and he has not been caught.
H. L. Mencken (1880 - 1956), 'Prejudices: Fourth Series,' 1924
The problem of power is how to achieve its responsible use rather than its irresponsible and indulgent use - of how to get men of power to live for the public rather than off the public.
Robert F. Kennedy, 'I Remember, I Believe,' The Pursuit of Justice, 1964
US Democratic politician (1925 - 1968)

Hey that shark has pretty teeth dear and he shows 'em pearly white.
Just a jackknife has Macheath dear And he keeps it way out of site.

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Reply with quote  #17 

The Sunday Times April 16, 2006

Leading article: An inspector calls

Follow the money was Deep Throat’s advice to the Washington Post journalists, Woodward and Bernstein. They were hot on the trail of the “plumbers” who burgled the Democratic party’s campaign headquarters at the Watergate hotel. That, of course, led all the way to President Nixon’s White House. We, too, have been following the money in the cash for peerages scandal and now it seems the Metropolitan police Specialist Crime Directorate also has the scent of banknotes in its nostrils.

Last week the police arrested Des Smith, the head teacher who told a Sunday Times undercover journalist that honours could be dished out in return for fat payments to Labour’s flagship city academies. There is a strong likelihood that the police will encourage Mr Smith to sing like the proverbial canary about where the money trail leads. But they may have to request that Mr Smith be granted immunity from prosecution first in order to loosen his tongue. That decision will ultimately rest with Lord Goldsmith, the attorney- general, the most senior law officer in the land and a member of the cabinet. If so, Lord Goldsmith, who has been the target of criticism for his equivocal stance on the legality of the Iraq war, must ensure that justice is done. Doubtless he will acquit himself more nobly than Nixon’s legal team at the time of the Watergate affair. Nixon’s attorney-general went to jail.

If the police investigation widens, as it should, there will be some uncomfortable questions for the government, the opposition parties and their donors. Under the terms of the 1925 Honours (Prevention of Abuses) Act it is not only an offence to offer an honour for cash but also to offer money in order to get one. Doubtless the Lords’ Appointments Commission, which blocked five nominations of peerages, will have to disclose its reasons. The police may also care to investigate “ soft” loans to the political parties under the provisions of the 2000 Political Parties, Elections and Referendum Act. It is alleged that the parties have exploited a loophole in the law whereby a loan does not have to be declared so long as it is advanced on “commercial” terms, even if it exceeds the value of £5,000.

Lord McAlpine, the former Tory treasurer, has asked how much a loan would have cost a political party had a commercial bank been approached. If the benefit of the “soft” loan exceeded £5,000, then it would have to be declared, just as ordinary members of the public find gifts and loans subject to Inland Revenue attention. Some donors to Labour have already admitted to this newspaper that they were told by the party not to give money but to offer a loan instead. Why did the party ask for a loan, not a gift? Surely not to conceal it from the Lords Appointments Commission, thus enabling an honour to be “acquired”?

The tragedy of this sorry scandal is that Mr Blair’s aims are often worthy. But the means to his ends are not. Public sector reform has been mired in indecision, incapacity and infighting between Nos 10 and 11. Noble causes such as the toppling of Saddam Hussein have been tarnished by dodgy dossiers, incompetence and half-truths. The city school academies programme, which might have been hailed as a triumph for a prime minister who forced it through despite opposition from his own party, is now endangered by sleaze.

This disaster has occurred under a “whiter than white” prime minister pledged to root out corruption. Cash for peerages is staining Mr Blair’s legacy. The Harry Houdini of British politics has escaped the Establishment strictures of Lords Butler and Hutton, the parliamentary standards commissioner and the Electoral Commission — remember the near-fraud over postal ballots. As Michael Portillo points out on the facing page, Mr Blair may be counting on another escape through a smokescreen of Lords “reform” and state funding for political parties. But not so fast. Follow the money, inspector. Follow the money.




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Reply with quote  #18 

Once again, Michael Howard makes a mess of everything as Insp. Jacques Clouseau.


This time, a gangster sets up a trap to assassinate him, but kills the wrong person. This sets in motion a few things: Charles Dreyfus (Colin Boyd) is elated at the news of becoming a 'Peer' and leaves the mental institution, and the real Clouseau decides to find out who gave him the 'Peerage'. Naturally, we have to wonder what's going to happen once the two men meet.

Tony Blair returns as Cato, and the female lead here is Margaret Thatcher. As is the case with every movie in the series, the whole thing is really an excuse for Clouseau to be a doofus. Also, "Revenge of the Pink Peer" was the last Pink Panther movie released during 'Tony Blair's' lifetime as Prime Minister. It remains to be seen how Steve Martin will stack up as Jack McConn-ell

Hey that shark has pretty teeth dear and he shows 'em pearly white.
Just a jackknife has Macheath dear And he keeps it way out of site.

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Reply with quote  #19 

Hey Mactheknife, I thought Steve Martin had already done Jerk McConnell in the movie 'The Jerk'.




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Reply with quote  #20 

ferrisconspiracy : UPDATE/Storm Grows As Scots Law Chief is Made a Peer Tories Claims That the Independence of the Lord Advocate is Put in Jeopardy By New Move

THE row was growing today over the appointment of Scotland's top prosecutor to the crossbenches of the House of Lords.

Lord Advocate Colin Boyd QC will become a life peer along with 22 others on the honours list released by Downing Street today.

But the move has sparked questions over the independence of his role as head of the prosecution service in Scotland.

Mr Boyd, who heads Scotland's Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service, was formally nominated by Prime Minister Tony Blair but will sit on the non-partisan crossbenches because of his semi- judicial role.

The Conservatives' David Mundell MP, shadow secretary of state for Scotland, said the move shows Labour's contempt for the House of Lords.

"Either Colin Boyd is a member of the government or he is a crossbencher - you cannot be both, " he said.

Meanwhile, Mr Boyd described his appointment as a natural extension of his job as Lord Advocate. He said: "I remain firmly committed to the full-time role of Lord Advocate.

"I see the appointment to the House of Lords as a natural extension of my duties and a development which will allow me to represent Scotland's interests at home and at UK level."

First Minister Jack McConnell said: "This is appropriate and welcome recognition for Scotland's Lord Advocate.

"Colin Boyd has led an ambitious programme of reform to strengthen our prosecution service and he has proven himself to be a moderniser in the Scottish legal system in general."

Meanwhile, Tory donors who have given the party almost £230,000 in total are among a list of new political appointees to the House of Lords announced today.

More than half of the Conservatives' new working life peers have given money. Among them is party treasurer Jonathan Marland, who faced criticism last month when he refused to name wealthy individuals who secretly lent millions.

Records show he has given the party £154,000 over recent years.

Other donors becoming peers include Mohamed Iltaf Sheikh, chairman of the Conservative Muslim Forum (£37,501), and David James, the troubleshooter who drew up plans to slash Whitehall spending for the party, who has given £18,550.

None of the other parties' new peers appear on the Electoral Commission watchdog's register of individuals who have made donations of over £5000.



The TRUTH is out there...........

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Reply with quote  #21 

The following rendition should be hummed to the tune of 'Glasgow Belongs To Me':


I've been with a couple o' cronies

One or two pals o' ma ain

We went into a hotel

Where we did really well

Then we came all oot again

We then went into anither

And now I know I'm a Peer

We had six dozen red roses

And that's the reason I'm fu'

Then Jack sang a chorus

Now listen I'll sing it for you




I belong to London

Dear Old London town

But what's the matter wi Glasgow

As the Peerages go roun and roun

I'm only a common Lord Advocate

As Stevie Wonder can see

But when I down a couple of clarets

Scotland belongs to me.


There's nothing like keepin yer money

And saving  a shilling or two

If you've got nothing to spend

Then you've nothing to lend

Just as well Peerages come free

There's no harm in it for me

It ends all your trouble and strife

And what a feelin when you get home

I now know the meaning of life




I belong to London

Dear Old London town

But what's the matter wi Glasgow

As the Peerages go roun and roun

I'm only a common Lord Advocate

As Stevie Wonder can see

But when I down a couple of clarets

Scotland belongs to me!



Meanwhile, Mr Boyd described his appointment as a natural extension of his job as Lord Advocate. He said: "I remain firmly committed to the full-time role of Lord Advocate.

"I see the appointment to the House of Lords as a natural extension of my duties and a development which will allow me to represent Scotland's interests at home and at UK level."

First Minister Jack McConnell said: "This is appropriate and welcome recognition for Scotland's Lord Advocate.

"Colin Boyd has led an ambitious programme of reform to strengthen our prosecution service and he has proven himself to be a moderniser in the Scottish legal system in general."



This ambitious reform programme to strengthen and modernise the Scottish Legal system....can you tell us the results? as BOYD has presided over the darkest times in Scottish legal history starting with TC Campbell and Joe Steele being exonerated of the biggest single mass murder outside the Lockerbie bombing.


What rigorous reforms did BOYD make after both men were cleared? Order an immediate public inquiry? No.


The judgment from the appeal court clearly states that there was whole-scale perjury by POLICE OFFICERS from SRATHCLYDE who had given perjured evidence never seen before in a Scottish court....Does that not merit a public inquiry?.......Why not?


Ex-POLICE OFFICER 'Shirley McKie' was wrongfully put on trial for perjury when she was telling the TRUTH and a subsequent report compiled by the investigating POLICE indicated that there was sufficient evidence to prosecute FOUR members of the SCRO fingerprint team.....Why did you ignore the POLICE advice?


Why was there no public inquiry ordered? and why did you ask for DNA samples from the BOGUS fingerprint in an attempt to discredit Shirley McKie?


Who authorized the £750.00 out-of-court settlement? and was this an attempt to keep matters of grave concern from the PUBLIC?


As you know David Asbury who was convicted over the murder of pensioner Marion Ross was freed by the court of appeal as a miscarriage of Justice.


His lawyers are definitely taking his case to an OPEN COURT.


Then we have Nat Fraser and the tale of the missing RINGS! surely as Lord Advocate you would have known about two fellow POLICE OFFICERS in the murder case gave statements before the trial that a Senior detective took them?


The thrust of the PROSECUTION argument was that when the RINGS magically appeared the following week Nat Fraser was accused of faking his wife's disappearance and all the time you must have known the POLICE took them.....or were you too busy dreaming about your PEERAGE to bother.


Did you order an inquiry into this? YES you did why? and why in this case and not with the SCRO FOUR?


Are these the radical changes you have brought to the JUDICIARY in SCOTLAND? Oh and before I'm finished what actually did you get the PEERAGE for? Toeing the PARTY line by bailing out McConnell and covering things up like a good old boy?


You would be doing a great service to yourself and to your country by refusing the PEERAGE in light of what you may just have read and hang your head in shame!



Lord Macaulay (Letters, April 10) joins Lords Mackay and McCluskey and a growing list of Scotland's foremost legal brains in supporting a judicial inquiry and still the first minister, minister for justice, lord advocate and their colleagues in the Scottish Executive persist in a collective act of head-burying. 


Proof of this, if proof were needed, comes in the form of the revelation that the lord advocate has been made a peer in the House of Lords.


Only a few weeks ago in the Scottish Parliament we heard him angrily reject accusations of bias and political expediency in his refusal to prosecute the Scottish Criminal Records Office experts as recommended by the police. He explained in hurt tones that his independence was sacrosanct and essential to the probity of the Scottish justice system.

Now, in an unbelievable act of naked ambition and arrogance, he accepts a political peerage that further compromises his independence and shows just how shallow his parliamentary claims were.

It is because of such breathtaking hypocrisy that we need a judicial inquiry to look at, among other things, the role, responsibilities and independence of the lord advocate and the minister for justice; the effectiveness of the police inquiry into the death of Marion Ross; the lack of independence of the forensic services from the police; the interface between politicians, civil servants and the Crown Office; the separation of powers and responsibility within Scottish government; the validity of Crown Office and executive refusals to publish relevant expert and other reports; the role and effectiveness of civil servants in responding to questions from the public and from MSPs; the misuse of the sub-judice rule to suppress public and parliamentary debate; and what links, if any, exist between the Lockerbie and Shirley McKie cases.

Meanwhile, the fight for a judicial inquiry goes on and regular updates are available on


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Reply with quote  #22 

ferrisconspiracy : UPDATE/ARCHIVE


Key-witness tapes are seized in a police raid.

The Mail on Sunday (London, England); 6/16/2002; Knowles, Matthew


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Search over 35 million Free and Premium articles for "police corruption strathclyde".


SECRET tapes which cast serious doubt on the credibility of the key Crown witness in the Lockerbie trial have been seized by police.

The recordings were taken in a raid on the home of private detective George Thomson.

They revealed how Maltese shop owner Tony Gauci had enjoyed holiday trips to Scotland and lavish hospitality organised by the police.

Last night, a row was raging over the raid and Lord Advocate Colin Boyd has been asked to explain exactly why officers seized the tapes, which had been secretly recorded by Mr Thomson.


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Reply with quote  #23 

Well well well, can money buy you respect? Well if it can't, fear not, just settle for the Peerage instead...


Hi mactheknife, Magpie, Hammer6 & Admin2... thanks for all the excellent and eye-opening posts with regards to 'Can Money Buy You Respect'.  First of all, mactheknife & Magpie, thanks for the laugh with regards to the Steve Martin/movie posts...


On a more serious note, Admin2's post with regards to Lord Advocate Colin Boyd and his Peerage, a fantastic post, if not a little scathing, but then I'd say it was justified - unlike Colin Boyd's Peerage.  As for Jack McConnell's 'big up' for the aforementioned Lord Advocate, I'd say that he was just saying nice things as a thank you for having his arse covered on many an occasion.


Again, call me a cynic, but the proof is in the evidence...


As for the Admin2's post with regards to 'Key Witness Tapes Are Seized in a Police Raid'... very interesting indeed.  Colin Boyd was asked to explain why officers seized the tapes...  Admin would like to by privy to his explanation???

I'd rather be hated for what I am, than loved for what I am not".

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Reply with quote  #24 

Spanish police arrest Lib Dem donor

Press Association
Friday April 21, 2006

Guardian Unlimited

The Liberal Democrats' biggest political donor has been arrested in Spain, it emerged today.

Businessman Michael Brown, who gave £2.4m to the party last year, was detained by Spanish police in Majorca on Wednesday, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office said.

A spokesman said: "He was arrested on April 19 following an extradition request and our consular official has visited him in prison in Majorca on April 20. Next-of-kin have been informed."

The Foreign Office was unable to give further details of the extradition request.

The Electoral Commission launched an investigation last year after it emerged that Mr Brown, who was not even registered to vote in the UK, had bankrolled the Lib Dems' election campaign.

But the watchdog later found it was "permissible" for the party to have accepted the cash from the financier's Swiss-based company 5th Avenue.

Then party leader Charles Kennedy ordered an internal party inquiry into the controversial donation.

The Glasgow-born tax exile, who claims to be worth more than £10m, later said he gave the money because he believed in Mr Kennedy's ability as a future prime minister "but not the muppets who purport to serve him".

Brown spent some of his childhood in the US, where he has reportedly been accused of failing to pay £4,000 to creditors and skipping probation in Florida.

The Serious Organised Crime Agency said the 40-year-old Scot's arrest was not linked to any investigation by British police.

A Liberal Democrat spokesman said: "We are not aware that this has any connection whatsoever with the Liberal Democrats.

"Any further action is a matter for the police and the relevant authorities."


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Reply with quote  #25 

Lib Dem donor set to face charges over £5.7m fraud.....

A SCOTTISH business tycoon who helped to bankroll the Liberal Democrats' election campaign will be extradited to Britain on fraud charges, it has emerged.

The arrest in Spain of Michael Brown, a controversial financier, will fuel the debate over the funding of political parties following the ongoing Scotland Yard inquiry into the cash-for-honours scandal.


So far, the Liberal Democrats have been able to avoid the controversy arising from large secret loans made to Labourand the Tories, because the third party has no such borrowings.

The arrest is believed to relate to a company called 5th Avenue Partners which was based in London and made the £2.4 million donation. Mr Brown's donation to the Lib Dems early last year accounted for almost half the party's entire budget for last year's general election.

"We are not aware that this [arrest] has any connection whatsoever with the Liberal Democrats," said a party spokesman.

While the arrest is a potential headache for Sir Menzies Campbell, the Lib Dem leader, party sources were quick to point out yesterday that Mr Brown's contributions to the party were made during the leadership of Charles Kennedy.

Mr Brown was detained by Spanish police in Majorca on a European Arrest Warrant, the Serious Organised Crime Agency confirmed last night.

Mr Brown is a strong personal supporter of Mr Kennedy, more than once giving the then-leader free rides in his private jet. The gifts caused a storm because of doubts over whether it was legal for the party to accept money from a foreign-based businessman; Mr Kennedy was forced to apologise for failing to register the flights.

Mr Brown is expected to be extradited to London in the next few days to face possible charges relating to alleged fraud worth £5.7 million. A spokesman for the National Police in Majorca said the arrest was made following a European warrant issued by Bow Street magistrates in London. Mr Brown is to be transferred to Madrid where he said he would not challenge the extradition.

The arrest, which reportedly followed months of surveillance by the paramilitary Civil Guard in Spain, relates to a private prosecution involving the HSBC bank. Last month, HSBC went to the High Court to ask for assets belonging to Mr Brown to be frozen.

The Crown Prosecution Service yesterday confirmed that it had acted to obtain the arrest warrant on 51 charges including perjury, perverting the course of justice, forgery and obtaining money by deception. Scotland Yard said the arrest was not connected with the ongoing cash-for-honours inquiry, or any Metropolitan Police investigation.

HSBC yesterday confirmed the CPS statement. A spokesman said: "We have outstanding legal action against Mr Brown."

At the time of Mr Brown's donation to the Lib Dems, questions were raised about whether it was a genuine British firm. Under funding laws, foreigners cannot donate, but companies in the UK can do so. The Electoral Commission later cleared the party of wrongdoing.

But the party last night attempted to distance itself from the arrest of Mr Brown. A spokesman said there was no connection between the police investigation and the Lib Dems.

Mr Brown apparently made his fortune in property development and financial trading in Florida. But his business dealings have raised suspicion there, too - there is a warrant for his arrest regarding more than a dozen bounced cheques for small purchases at local supermarkets.


Despite the bounced cheques, Mr Brown moved from a small flat in Florida to a $2 million house, before later moving to Majorca, where he now owns two homes, a fleet of cars and a jet.

In January, Mr Brown waded into the row over Mr Kennedy's resignation saying he was withdrawing his backing for the party in protest at the former leader's ousting by MPs.

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Reply with quote  #26 

21/04/06 - News section

Cash for honours probe 'will go back five years'

The police investigation into cash-for-honours claims was reported to have been widened to include loans made as far back as 2001.

Scotland Yard will now look at whether wealthy individuals nominated by former Tory leader Iain Duncan Smith for peerages had lent the party millions of pounds.

A report in the Guardian said the watchdog which approved his list of political nominees to become working peers was not told that some had provided secret loans.

And the Times reported that Metropolitan Police detectives - who last week made a first arrest - are also now to examine whether loans were made on proper commercial terms.

Both parties were able to bypass laws requiring major donations to be declared publicly by accepting cash as loans - but the deals on preferential terms would have to be disclosed.

They raised £35 million that way to help pay for their general election campaigns last year but were forced to reveal the contributions when a row broke out over lenders being nominated for seats in the upper chamber.

The Guardian said analysis of the the interest payments in the Conservatives' accounts suggested they had borrowed money at less than market rates. But the party insisted that it believed all loan arrangements were legal.

"We continue to co-operate with the police and are supplying them with all the information they are seeking.

"We have received legal advice from the world's biggest law firm that all our loans comply with the law," a spokesman said.


Scotland Yard refused to comment on the scope of its inquiries.




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Reply with quote  #27 

The Sunday Times April 23, 2006

Tycoons tell Labour: pay us back now

TWO businessmen have demanded immediate repayment of their secret loans to Labour, threatening financial crisis for the party.

The formal demands, for a sum totalling at least £1.5m, will necessitate a fire sale of the party’s London headquarters to pay the debts.

The “loans-for-honours” scandal now threatens to derail the party’s campaign for next month’s local elections. Labour has a slender lead in the latest poll, with support at 35%, ahead of the Conservatives at 33% and the Lib Dems at 17%.

This weekend, speaking from his home in Monaco, Gordon Crawford, a computing tycoon whose wealth is estimated at £95m, said he had formally notified the Labour party that his £500,000 loan must now be repaid with interest. The interest, charged at 6.5%, is thought to add a further £32,500 to Labour’s debt. “The money was a commercial loan and it has already reached the end of its term,” he said. “Last month, I notified the party that it will be repaid. We are now in the period where it is due.”

The identity of the second man demanding repayment is not known. However, it is thought to be Nigel Morris, the American-based founder of
the Capital One financial services group, who lent the party £1m. He was unavailable for comment last week.

A further two of the 12 businessmen who lent Labour a total of almost £14m are also expected to demand that their money is repaid later in the year, although the party has yet to be formally notified. In total, Labour will therefore have to find at least £3.5m by October.

Sir Christopher Evans, the biotech tycoon, said this weekend that he would be demanding the repayment of his £1m loan “this summer”. Rod Aldridge, the outgoing chairman of Capita, an outsourcing company, said he is to ask for his £1m loan, plus interest, to be repaid in October.

Labour is also expecting to repay a £2m loan to Lord Sainsbury, the science minister, in July. However, sources said he was preparing to make a sizable donation to compensate for the loan repayment.

Since the start of the year, the party has struggled to attract donations from wealthy individuals. It is thought to have landed only one six-figure donation, of £250,000 in January. The Tories, by contrast, raised £6.2m from backers between January and March.

The repayment demands have shocked Labour, which initially assumed that most of the money would be written off. One Labour source told The Sunday Times last month: “The clear intention with the loans was that they should not be paid back — at least not until Blair was no longer leader.”

However, yesterday a source said: “It is now clear most of them [the lenders] are going to have their money back. They are already calling the loans in.” The only lenders said to have indicated to the party that they will extend the terms of their loans are the four men put forward for peerages — Sir David Garrard, Sir Gulam Noon, Barry Townsley and Chai Patel. Their nominations were blocked by the House of Lords Appointments Commission which vets potential peers.

On Friday, Lord Heseltine, the Tory former deputy prime minister, described the loans-for-honours scandal as “one of the most corrupt situations” he had seen in his political lifetime. Transparency International, an anti-corruption watchdog, has sent a dossier to Scotland Yard claiming that more than seven separate offences, including bribery and conspiracy to defraud, may have been committed by party officials in the scandal.

Jack Dromey, the Labour party treasurer, said he believed people around Blair “consciously” sought to exploit loopholes in the law by raising cash for the party through loans rather than donations.

Labour is now preparing to sell its Westminster headquarters, valued at £6m, to plug the black hole in its finances. However, the party is understood to have an outstanding mortgage of £5.5m from the Co-operative Bank so the sale will raise only £500,000. It is thought not to have any other saleable assets.

Party sources are confident they can arrange new finance from banks to pay off the loans. One source insisted: “There is no financial crisis. It will not be a problem.” However, senior sources contacted by The Sunday Times declined to explain where the money to repay the lenders would be found. A spokesman for the party declined to comment on Labour’s financial arrangements.

Financial experts believe the party would struggle to borrow from a bank as commercial organisations would be wary of making an unsecured loan. The loans offered by the businessmen attracted a low rate of interest.

The source said Labour turned to wealthy benefactors in the run-up to the 2005 general election, after it was refused extra credit by its bank. He added that the party would have risked losing the election had it not accepted the loans. “The party was desperate in 2005, the situation was terrible,” he said. “It is very simple . . . we wouldn’t have won the election without the loans.”

Those who lent the party money are among the country’s richest people. Crawford, 51, is one of the biggest winners from the boom in high-tech companies and made £76m from the sale of his financial software firm London Bridge Software. He is ranked 609th in this year’s Sunday Times Rich List. Morris, 47, whose fortune is valued at £360m, founded a global credit card company. He was born in Essex but is based largely in Virginia, America.

Labour’s most recent accounts, for 2004, show the party spent £2.8m more than it raised and ended the year more than £12m in debt.

Blair may now be forced to turn back to the trade unions for money, emboldening them to demand stronger influence over policy. The government recently indicated it will surrender to pressure from the unions by dropping plans to cut the generosity of pensions for local government workers.

Labour is drawing up proposals for a reform of political funding. A review is expected to recommend state funding.


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Reply with quote  #28 


'Peerages for those who put millions towards good of country 'absolutely right'............


Tony Blair admits to honouring tycoons who donated to projects Concerns that future donors to academies now deterred by sleaze Met Police investigation continues as Labour pressure increases Key quote "It's not a question of endorsing my policy, it's a question of contributing to society.


It is absolutely right that we say these are people who have done something good for our country." -


TONY BLAIR Story in full: TONY Blair yesterday openly admitted using the honours system to reward tycoons who gave money to support his policies. The Prime Minister's candid statement added fuel to the "cash for honours" row. The SNP last night pledged to refer Mr Blair's comments to a continuing police investigation into possible corruption.


At a Downing Street press conference, Mr Blair said he was perfectly comfortable for people to believe that those who helped finance his city academies scheme were rewarded by the government through the honours system. Giving money to a government scheme, the Prime Minister said, was like donating money to support an art gallery. "It's not a question of endorsing my policy, it's a question of contributing to society," Mr Blair said.


"It is absolutely right that we say these are people who have done something good for our country." The academies are a central plank of Mr Blair's bid to reform English schools. Wealthy business leaders are invited to invest £2 million in a school, in exchange for a role in its management, curriculum and ethos.


At least eight people who have sponsored academies have also received honours from Mr Blair's government, generally knighthoods. Two such backers, Sir David Garrard and Barry Townsley, were also among the 12 men who secretly lent almost £13 million to the Labour Party last year. The 27 city academies that had been created to date were rapidly improving educational standards in deprived areas, the Prime Minister said. Those who supported them, he added, deserved public accolades. "Insofar as the honours reward people who contribute to society, contributing to the education of disadvantaged kids in the inner cities is about as good a contribution to society I can think of," said Mr Blair.


With Labour facing a range of sleaze allegations, Mr Blair and his aides have been planning yesterday's defence of the academies and their financial donors for some time. Contributing to the strategy is the need to reassure prospective future donors. Mr Blair wants to create 200 academies in the coming years, and officials are concerned that bad publicity could deter potential benefactors. However, by defending honours given to those who back his schools policy, Mr Blair risks encouraging those who accuse him of directly selling honours for money.


Those allegations have led the Metropolitan Police to start an investigation into whether a 1925 law prohibiting the sale of honours has been broken by any politician or official. As part of that inquiry, Des Smith, a former adviser to the city academies scheme, was earlier this month arrested and questioned. Earlier this year, he told an undercover reporter that tycoons agreeing to support academies would get knighthoods or even peerages. He denies any wrongdoing.


Angus MacNeil, the SNP MP whose complaint triggered the Scotland Yard investigation into the affair, last night said that there was little difference between Mr Smith's words and what he termed the "straightforward admission" made by the Prime Minister. "Tony Blair is essentially saying that there is a system of cash for honours in this country," said Mr MacNeil. "The clear signal being sent to millionaires is that the way to get an honour is to give money to Tony Blair's pet projects."


The Western Isles MP said he was in regular contact with the detectives investigating the honours system, and would this week pass them a transcript of Mr Blair's remarks.


Downing Street insiders insist they are unconcerned by the police inquiry, privately predicting that no charges will be brought. But even Mr Blair's supporters admit that the general impression of sleaze has the potential to damage his agenda at a time when the Prime Minister is already under intense pressure over the performance of the National Health Service in England.


Yesterday, he was forced to defend Patricia Hewitt, the Health Secretary, who was jeered and barracked by a conference of health workers.


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Reply with quote  #29 

The Times April 24, 2006

Police quiz Man Utd's former chief in Lib Dem donor link

Martin Edwards was arrested, but now believes he has been the victim of investment fraud. Photo: David Kendall/PA
MARTIN EDWARDS, the former chairman of Manchester United, has been arrested on suspicion of money laundering after investing a large sum with the Liberal Democrats’ biggest donor.

As Michael Brown was sitting yesterday in a Madrid cell awaiting extradition to Britain, more details emerged of investigations into his business dealings.

The Lib Dems, faced with financial ruin if the Electoral Commission forces them to repay Mr Brown’s £2.4 million donation, have been thrown into disarray by the developments.

The Times has learnt that the offices of the London company that was used to make the donation to the party was raided by 13 bank officials as part of a fraud investigation last year.

Vincent Cable, the Lib Dem Treasury spokesman, condemned large donations yesterday, although Sir Menzies Campbell, now the party leader, said last autumn that he would “probably” take still more from Mr Brown.

The investigations took a fresh twist early this month when City of London Police arrested Mr Edwards, 60, a Cheshire-based businessman who chaired Manchester United from 1980 to 2000. After questioning, he was bailed.

Mr Edwards was quoted yesterday as saying that he had now been released from bail conditions after the force wrote stating that it believed him to have been a victim of fraud.

Mr Brown, an expatriate Scottish trader, transformed Lib Dem fortunes with a record donation, helping them to win an unparalleled 62 seats in last year’s general election. The money was spent on posters and newspaper advertising.

He was forbidden to donate as an individual because he is not on the electoral roll in Britain, so the party took a corporate gift from his London-based company, 5th Avenue Partners.

The party supporter was seized under a European arrest warrant at his villa in Majorca as he prepared for his 40th birthday celebrations last week. He was flown to the Spanish capital where he told a judge he wanted to return to Britain swiftly to “face the music”.

According to friends of Mr Brown, Mr Edwards was among four investors who asked him to invest $45 million for them. The others were Robert William Mann, Kevin So and Yan Lucy Lu.

Mr Brown was questioned by City of London Police in October but neither arrested nor charged. When he left the police station, staff at 5th Avenue Partners’ offices in Upper Brook Street, near Marble Arch, rang him to say it was full of people carrying out a search warrant.

HSBC had launched a legal action, apparently to prevent the risk of money going missing. Mr Brown’s worldwide assets were frozen and he agreed to surrender his passport. A civil action was pursued by the bank through the High Court in London.

Mr Brown, who works in London during the week but takes his private jet home at weekends to join his wife, Sharon, in Majorca, obtained a duplicate passport. He continued to travel between England and Spain and celebrated Hogmanay in Scotland.

Meanwhile, Mr Edwards told The Independent on Sunday: “I have been through a pretty awful time. I’m not being charged and they think I am the victim of investment fraud.”

The Conservatives are turning the heat up on the Lib Dems. Chris Grayling, the Shadow Transport Secretary, said that there was a “real question” over whether the donation from 5th Avenue Partners was eligible.

Peter Wardle, the chief executive of the Electoral Commission, has told The Times: “The inquiry concerning the status of 5th Avenue Partners is ongoing. The Commission has not closed this case.”

A City of London Police source said that its investigation was continuing.


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It's the morality, stupid

In the run-up to the general election, religion and politics are mixing as never before. But ‘issues of conscience’ are a minefield for every party.... 

TONY Blair is known to be an avid reader of his Bible. How he must be wishing this Easter Sunday morning that more people would pay some attention to Luke 20:25. "Render unto Caesar the things which are Caesar’s, and unto God the things that are God’s," Christ told his disciples. It has long been taken as the definitive judgment on the need to keep the worlds of church and state at arms length. Britons - with their circumspect wariness of religion and moralising - have long approved of Christ’s guidance. Yet five weeks before a likely election at the beginning of May, the unexpected has happened: the country has become locked in an epic spiritual struggle within the moral maze. The economy, inflation and public services are out. Abortion, euthanasia and questions of faith are in. What, in God’s name, is going on?

Like no election campaign in recent memory, the separate worlds of religion and politics are mixing freely. The latest example this morning comes in St Mary’s Cathedral in Edinburgh where Cardinal Keith O’Brien, the leader of Scotland’s Roman Catholics, offers his Easter sermon. His homily (which was conveniently e-mailed to media outlets more than 24 hours beforehand) is less spiritual reflection and more political rally. In it, O’Brien barely draws breath before he tackles Caesar head on. Within the first few minutes, he is addressing the issue of abortion, and alluding to Conservative leader Michael Howard’s approval for a reduction in the time limit from 24 weeks to 20. Then it is swiftly on to cloning, and last week’s report by the House of Commons Science and Technology Committee which calls for more experiments on embryos to be permitted. Then, on to the election. "I urge you all to question your prospective candidates on these issues and demand that the defence of life is placed at the top of the political agenda," O’Brien declares. He is only doing what his English counterpart Cormac Murphy O’Connor started two weeks ago when he commended Howard on abortion.


Interventions in elections by churchmen such as O’Brien are nothing new. But this time, they are more bullish. On the face of it, this would appear entirely unjustified. Religious attendance is inexorably in decline. Across Scotland, cities are pock-marked with redundant churches converted into pubs, DIY outlets and designer flats. Yet church leaders across several other denominations are convinced that the public mood is changing. Morality is back, they claim, because 21st-century Britons, disillusioned with the superficial promise of modern secular materialism, are demanding its return like never before.

Speaking to Scotland on Sunday last week, O’Brien said: "I think religion is becoming ever more important as people realise what the world is developing into because of lack of religion and moral standards." But how does he justify getting involved in politics when his own flock looks to be in decline?

O’Brien insists that he is responding to a growing demand. "Many politicians have congratulated me on what I have said. This is what I have been getting in letters - people saying thank you for the clear statement about what abortion actually is."

The cardinal’s hopes about the growth of such beliefs are swelled by the experience of America. Britain’s new obsession with morality, it is claimed, is the aftershock of that which has taken place in the US.

According to social commentators in America, the rise of religion there can be attributed to the moral malaise of the 1990s - as exemplified by the Columbine shootings, President Clinton’s impeachment battle and examples of corporate crookery. Such experiences led Americans to conclude they had lost their moral compass. As a result, the already God-fearing country became even keener to see religious ideas within the political arena. Last November President George Bush - whose White House includes semi-obligatory Bible classes - was re-elected by an electorate who placed ‘values’ at the top of their list of priorities. Church leaders in Britain took note. "And politicians here should take note as well," said one senior churchman.

Richard Holloway, the former Episcopal Bishop of Edinburgh and now chair of the Scottish Arts Council, agrees that the American experience has emboldened religious leaders on this side of the pond

"There’s a bit of a tidal wash from the American experience from what has happened over there," says Holloway. "And what happened there has given a bit of steel to people who have a political agenda on abortion. Cardinal O’Brien feels he has to flag these issues up endlessly."

But is there any evidence that the American experience will really happen here? Most surveys show that Britons are still indifferent about religion, even though there is evidence of a minority of increasingly devout people who are swelling the ranks of evangelical or traditional church movements. But on moral issues, there are some interesting figures. On abortion, for example, Britons do appear in favour of tougher controls. In an NOP World poll last week, 59% said the time limit for abortion should be cut, as against 24% who backed the status quo.

The situation in Britain is therefore more complex: still suspicious of displays of ostentatious religion, yet increasingly concerned about morality. Former Conservative leader Iain Duncan Smith - a devout Roman Catholic - declares: "We are different. But below the surface people in this country are much closer to the middle ground of American opinion."

Another cause for the rise of moral issues such as abortion may be due to religion’s traditional foe - science. The renewed abortion debate was kicked off largely because of advances in medical technology. Hi-tech scanners now show fully formed foetuses below 24 weeks, while medics are able to keep alive premature babies born while still legally within the abortion limit. Similarly with issues such as cloning and euthanasia, scientific advances are confronting society with new moral dilemmas.

These questions now face the main political parties as they gear up for May’s expected election. With the flames stoked by religious leaders and wafted - perhaps - by the moral unease of the nation, politicians are having to face up to the ‘issues of conscience’ that they would prefer to leave well alone. Labour’s determination to avoid the minefield of religion and morality was summed up in Alastair Campbell’s famous warning to Tony Blair prior to the Iraq war that "we don’t do God".

Last week, Blair, a practising Christian, visited a church in London to offer a speech on the contribution of religious organisations - but then proceeded to warn that religion should not become a major election issue. He may well be acting on advice of the pollsters at Labour’s high command who insist that religion and moral issues are neither "vote-motivators" nor "vote-consolidators".

One senior Labour strategist pointed to the reception granted education secretary Ruth Kelly - a member of the Catholic group Opus Dei - when she was given the job six weeks ago. "She was being pilloried over her religion - the suggestion being that she could not allow her personal beliefs to intrude on her political duties. Over in America at the same time, as soon as Hillary Clinton starts talking about her faith, it is taken as a sure sign that she is preparing to run for the presidency. You cannot overstate how different the situation is over here."

"Religion is a minefield," another campaign worker declared. "It has never been a Labour issue - for electoral reasons as well as philosophical - so it is best left alone. Blair will give an idea of his basic views but he won’t go any further. But the Tories will use it whenever they get the chance."

Indeed, it is within the Conservative party that the rise of morality as an election issue is being pored over with most interest. Aides insist that Howard’s comments on abortion two weeks ago were not planned - and nor was the subsequent media firestorm. "People give us too much credit if they think we planned that," a Howard aide said. "Michael was asked the question and gave an honest answer. He never plays up religion or morality as an issue."

However, many others are now thinking differently. The backlash against the Conservatives’ infamous ‘back to basics’ campaign in the early 1990s may still haunt some. Others, however, are more bullish. "I am a Conservative because we stand for family values," a veteran MP said. "We used to be proud to speak our minds on matters that needed a moral lead.

"I can see the signs that Michael is getting back to that position in this campaign. What are the Tories for if we are not talking up the importance of family and religion and the feelings of the silent majority?"

Yet the Tories are still to genuinely seize the issue wholeheartedly. It reflects the mood across the political spectrum. The leading Scottish politicians asked by Scotland on Sunday to give their views on topical moral issues all reiterated that their views were personal. Alex Salmond said: "While they may tell you something about Alex Salmond, they tell you nothing at all about the Scottish National Party - in my father’s house there are many mansions and in the SNP, on these issues, many different points of view."

Similarly, Scots Tory leader David McLetchie added: "I do believe that they are all matters of conscience for individual decision rather than for division on party political lines."

Liberal religious thinkers such as Holloway support them, and he is urging them to resist the American path.

"I do think that religious figures should be careful the way they operate in a society that allows them to practise discriminations that other people reject for ethical reasons. It’s creating a muddled atmosphere and I wish politicians would be very robust and say we operate a plural, tolerant society that allows a variety of value systems, including religious ones, but they should not jump to the conclusion that they are the only people with values."

Despite the efforts of Cardinal O’Brien, the polls suggest that the politicians will follow Holloway’s advice. In America, George Washington ad-libbed the line "So help me God" at the end of his swearing-in, and Thomas Jefferson extolled Jesus as the most important philosopher in his life. In Britain, however, they tread more warily in His path.



The TRUTH is out there...........
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