Tuesday, 10 July 2007

Behind the Headlines

The Daily Mail has some shock! horror! news.

"Mr Blair's decision to put his close friend forward is likely to provoke accusations of cronyism at a time when prosecutors are deciding whether to press charges in the cash-for-honours affair."

The claim is that Tony Blair will submit Peter Mandelson's name as part of the 'resignation honours list' to become a member of the House of Lords. It is a long established tradition that a retiring Prime Minister has one final list of honours he proposes that the Queen bestows.

Of course, a European Commissioner being given a peerage isn't exactly news - Currently the House of Lords has amongst its membership - Leon Brittain (1989-99) Chris Patten (1999-2004); Christopher Tugendhat (1977-85); Stanley Clinton Davis (1985-9); Neil Kinnock (1995-2004); Ivor Richard (1981-85) - in fact, of the 12 British citizens who have served as European Commissioners only Peter Mandelson and Bruce Millan (1989-95) have not yet become Peers.

In researching for this post I came across a number of blogs from Conservatives who were already attacking Mr Blair for a honours list that has yet to appear. Perhaps the following from the Churchill Society's website will sober them up

"Margaret Thatcher, was the first woman to become Prime Minister holding this office from 1979 to 1990. Sadly she will also be remembered as the Prime Minister who, with the exception of Lloyd George, exploited the honours system quite ruthlessly to raise funds for the Conservative Party."

In 'The Queen has been pleased', John Walker reviews her political awards only from 1979 to 1985. But her policy towards the use of honours can be judged from the two tables he produced. In the first he lists the names of :-

11 private sector industrialists given peerages all of whom, directed companies which gave total donations of £1.9 million pounds to the Conservative Party funds'

Here are examples listed by Walker in his book, of the larger amounts paid out by companies:-

Sir Edwin McAlpine, Sir Robert McAlpine Ltd, £205,000.Victor Matthews, Trafalgar House, £210,000.Sir William Cayzer British Commonwealth Shipping £410,531.Sir Frank Taylor Taylor Woodrow £367,510.Sir James Hanson Hanson Trust £217,000.

Another 64 industrialists were given knighthoods, including 44 men who directed companies which gave a total of £4.4 million to Conservative Party funds. Among those who contributed major sums are names such as:-

The late Patrick Meaney of Thomas Tilling and Rank Organisation £190,000.Keith Showering Allied Lyons, £424,000.Nigel Broakes Trafalgar House:, £210,000.

Margaret Thatcher continued as Prime Minister for a further five years, during which even larger amounts of money flowed into her party's funds in exchange for honours to industrialists.
And we learned from the Public Enquiry and Report of the Nolan Committee on Standards in Public Life, (now chaired by Lord Neill), that during John Major's period as Prime Minister massive contributions were made to Conservative party funds from overseas businessmen seeking government grants for industrial bases in the UK for their operations.

Paul Johnson again:
'Not too many politicians or business people do good deeds by stealth because there is no chance of honour in it. Honours are now given to rich men who have used their - or their companies' - riches to buy them'.