Monday, June 09, 2008


Remember the cash for peerages scandal? Labour Prime Minister Tony Blair nominated a number of people for peerages who had just coincidentally loaned his party large amounts of money during an election year. Coincidentally around the same time the House of Lords Appointments Commission had proposed changes to the vetting process which required party leaders to certify the amount of money given by each nominee so as to ensure there were no conflicts of interest or sale of peerages. Now it turns out that Blair manipulated that process to distance himself and avoid responsibility for his grubby backhander.

The BBC's Open Secrets blog has the details: in a response to HoLAC's proposal, Downing Street officials lobbied for donor certificates to be signed by the party whip - or at least anyone other than the leader. Their reason [PDF]?

if it turned out that a particular certificate was not entirely accurate, it would be helpful if the Prime Minister had not signed it.
Helpful indeed. In fact, Labour's certificates were inaccurate, but thanks to this, the blame fell on the party chair, rather than Blair. In light of this, its difficult to see Downing Street's move as anything other than pre-meditation.

Interestingly, this passage had originally been deleted from HoLAC's release. But this sort of information is exactly what freedom of information law exists to reveal, and its good to see the UK's Information Tribunal standing up for the right of the public to hold politicians to account.