Sunday, November 25, 2007

More Labour Sleaze ...

A builder who has never voted in his life and lives in a £12,000 ex-council house is at the centre of mysterious donations said to amount to £196,000 made to the Labour Party.

Newcastle man Ray Ruddick is listed as the third largest donor to the Labour Party since Gordon Brown came to power. Yet the man whose financial donations are only bettered by multimillionaires Lord Sainsbury and Mahmoud Khayami claims to have never voted in his life, doesn’t like politicians and especially doesn’t like the Labour Party.

Of the £196,000 which is said to have been donated to Labour in his name £104,000 have been handed over since Gordon Brown became Prime Minister. Mr Ruddick, 55, from the Blakelaw area of Newcastle works with wealthy property developer David Abrahams, a prominent member of the Labour Party in the North. Last night Mr Abrahams, 53, refused to say whether the donations were actually made by him using Mr Ruddick’s name.

The latest list of Labour donations, which was published on Tuesday, reveals that Mr Ruddick and a woman named as Janet Kidd both made donations of £80,000 on the same day in July. In the past four years donations totalling £381,850 have been made in their names. Mrs Kidd, who is believed to work as a secretary for Mr Abrahams is also reported to have made a donation of £5000 to Deputy Labour Leader Harriet Harman. The figures were all reported in The Mail on Sunday newspaper.

When approached by a reporter about the donations made in his name Mr Ruddick said: “I can honestly tell you that under no circumstances have I made any donations to the Labour Party. That’s quite possible that Janet and myself have been set up. I can’t go into this any more. I don’t know the ins and outs of it. I’ve got a mortgage to pay. I have never voted in my life. I can’t stand Labour. I can’t stand politicians.”

After initially denying all knowledge of making the huge donations Mr Ruddick said he could remember making a donation of £80,000 to the Labour Party. He said: “I made donations to Labour on that day which totalled £80,000. Janet also made the same size donations on the same day. These are the first payments either Janet or I have given to Labour.”

Neither Mr Abrahams nor Ms Kidd could be contacted last night.

Yet more sleaze. What's really depressing is that Labour knew he faced charges when he jumped ship from the Lib Dems - a move which gave them control of the council. Presumably keeping his job was a quid pro quo :

An Oldham councillor who was found guilty of benefit fraud has kept his position on the local authority. Labour’s councillor Aqeel Salamat was convicted last week of falsely claiming council tax benefits. Oldham Magistrates’ Court heard how he failed to notify the council – which he represents – that he worked as a taxi driver while picking up benefits.

But despite the conviction, the 34-year-old remains the Labour representative for St Mary’s ward. He has also retained his position as a ‘community champion’ on St Mary’s Community Council – a position which pays a ‘special allowance’. Liberal Democrat leader, Cllr Howard Sykes, said he could not understand why Salamat had not been sacked. He said: "There is a whole issue of confidence and integrity here. I can tell you one thing, if he was with the Lib Dems he wouldn’t be on my council."

The offences took place between July, 2004, and January, 2005, when Cllr Salamat sat on the council as a Liberal Democrat. When the allegations came to light the party suspended him and reported him to the Standards Board for England, but an inquiry yielded insufficient evidence to have him removed. Salamat then became an independent candidate in St Mary’s. He was re-elected in 2006 but switched his allegiance to the Labour party following the May, 2007, election. Labour had needed one more seat for an overall majority and the move effectively put his new party in control.

Cllr Sykes described the switch as Labour’s "thinly disguised, grubby, distasteful and desperate manoeuvre to keep control of the council". Last week Cllr Salamat was fined £1,000 by magistrates, ordered to pay £500 in costs and £295 back to the council. He said he had made a "mistake" and added that he was looking forward to carrying on in his post.