Saturday, March 18, 2006

Secret Loans and the Conservatives

The Times reports that the Conservative Party secured loans of nearly £20 million (including £3.5 million from Lord Ashcroft, whose "business interests" are mostly in the central American republic of Belize. But only a proper charlie would speculate as to what these "business interests" might be). Conservative Central Office has apparently ordered its MP's not to go on the attack over Labour's "secret loans" scandal and - like Labour - it refuses to give full details of individual lenders and the terms of repayment (if any). Meanwhile questions about Labour's secret loans multiply: To who were the loans made payable? (To the Labour Party or a separate account? If the Labour Party how could Jack Dromey have been kept in ignorance? Ian McCartney said this morning on Radio 4 this morning that "every penny" was spent on getting Labour MP's elected. How does he know? Has he seen the books?). How exactly was the money spent? Has there been a proper accounting procedure to keep track of expenditure? Who decided how to allocate the money? What are the arrangements for repaying the loans? (If there is no such arrangement then they are not loans but donations and Blair has broken the law. The same is true if repayment was "in kind" i.e. in the form of a peerage). It now turns out, as reported in the Finacial Times, that Labour raised around £17 million in secret "loans" - and is refusing to say where the bulk of the money came from. It is all very dodgy and both parties are culpable. (Both Gordon Brown and John Prescott claim they knew nothing about the secet loans - on Radio 4 this morning John Reid seemed unable to say whether he knew or not. But it looks like a Levy-Blair operation.)


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