Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Is There No End To The Sleaziness of Nu Labour ?

Seemingly not.

Alright, I guess I expected David Abrahams' "I'm just a simple property millionaire who didn't have the rule book in front of me" defence on BBC Radio (RealAudio) this morning. Property millionaires are renowned for not knowing the rules and their general naivety. You expect no more from them. Not the first property man up Newcastle way to get his feet under the Labour table, and probably not the last.

But the news that Peter Watt, general secretary of the Labour Party, was privy to this deception - well.

And to put the tin lid on it, along came MP and ex-Europe minister Denis MacShane on the PM programme (BBC Radio Player for a week - 55 minutes in) at five to six. Amid the blather and attempts to broaden it into a bipartisan issue ('Lord Ashcroft ...') one theme stood out.

"We'll only carry on cheating with the present funding system. We want taxpayer cash then we won't have to cheat any more".

This wasn't the way he spun it, or course. "The twentieth-century way of financing party politics can't work any longer" - although he didn't explain why. The fuddy-duddy idea that individuals should put their own hands in their pockets to fund parties was like, so yesterday. Democracy should pay for democracy, he said, and if we weren't grown up enough to accept that, we would have problems like this 'year after year after year'.

You have to admire his whatever-the-Polish-for chutzpah-is. Politicians have rarely been held in lower esteem, and he thinks the time is right to ask taxpayers to subsidise them. He seems not to be aware of the enormity, the outrageousness, of what he's saying.

"We're cheating b******s, so give us some money !" The dirty dog.

UPDATE - Guido has more - and one of Mr Abrahams' directors bunged Harriet Harman too.

UPDATE 2 - the money was £194,000 yesterday. Currently £550,000 and rising. Guido reports that Hilary Benn was also a recipient. The Abrahamic inheritance is spread broadly - and Mr Abrahams himself appears to be a bit of a chancer too.

He was chosen as Labour’s prospective parliamentary candidate for Richmond, North Yorks, but a series of newspaper reports led to him being deselected in 1991, a year before the general election, when the seat was won by William Hague. A local newspaper reported that he was using two different names. To his tenants, he was known as David Martin, a name under which he has also held company directorships. Mr Abrahams said he used a different name because his father had wanted him to be successful "independent of the family name", though he stood for parliament under his real name.

Then a blonde divorcee alleged that Mr Abrahams had persuaded her to pose as his wife at the selection meeting and at subsequent talks with the local party chairman. Anthea Bailey told a local newspaper that she had agreed to get engaged to Mr Abrahams as a "business arrangement" so he could create "the right impression". At the time of his selection, a press statement was issued reportedly stating that he lived with his wife and son, although he had never been married. Mr Abrahams described the allegations as "false" and part of a smear campaign. When he survived a deselection meeting by a single vote his agent, press officer, chairman, two vice-chairmen, treasurer and secretary resigned in protest. He was ousted in a second vote.

But his political ambitions did not end there. In the mid-1990s he stood for selection as the Labour candidate for the safe seat of Wansbeck but failed. One former Labour official said yesterday: "Bennie Abrahams was a larger-than-life character and maybe the son was trying too hard to follow in his footsteps." Mr Abrahams gives his date of birth as 1954. However, friends say he is much older and official records appear to show that he was born in Newcastle in 1944.

UPDATE 3 - and like a pantomime villain, up pops Francis Maude (RealAudio) on Today to say that Labour should have listened to the Tories and introduced State funding. Can't he get it into his skull that no-one thinks it's a good idea except the main parties ? Another dirty dog. I'm in serious danger of running low on contempt.