An Old (1997) Labour Memo – Rubbish or Relevant?
- Private Meetings with Blair for High-Cash Donors report
Monday, April 23, 2007
Strategists in the Labour Party planned to give top donors access to Prime Minister Tony Blair, a document published yesterday showed in the latest twist in the “cash-for-honours” row.The long-running “cash-for-honours” allegations have marred Tony Blair’s final year in office and the crown prosecution service is currently deciding whether to bring any charges following the police investigation into the case.
The Sunday Telegraph newspaper published a 1997 memo from a former head of Labour’s high-value fund-raising programme, which stressed the importance of using private meetings with Blair and visits to his Number 10 Downing Street office to “flatter” potential donors into committing cash.
Labour Dismissed this Report in 1998
Labour said the document had been made public in 1998, when it was dismissed as being “naively written.”
But the full text was revealed under the front-page headline “Revealed: birth of Labour’s plot to sell access to Blair,” as several newspapers said his chief of staff Jonathan Powell was among five members of his inner circle who could face charges.
Police investigating the allegations handed a file on Friday to the Crown Prosecution Service.
The inquiry was launched a year ago amidst claims that political parties had illegally offered financial supporters seats in parliament’s unelected upper House of Lords.
Lord Michael Levy, Labour’s chief fund-raiser and Blair’s Middle East envoy, Ruth Turner, the Downing Street director of government relations, and Christopher Evans, biotech tycoon and Labour backer, remain on bail. All three deny any wrongdoing.
The memo was written by Amanda Delew and titled “Post-Election Strategy for High-Value Donors.”
Highlighting the need to raise millions of pounds ahead of the next general election, which took place in 2001, it said the success of the fund-raising program depended on firstly Levy, then secondly the support of Blair and Powell, which was described as being of a “critical” nature.
“Major donors need to feel that they are at the heart of things,” it said.
“Jonathan [Powell] offers an opportunity for them to meet someone at the focus of all activity who will answer their questions whilst providing a reason for them to visit Number 10.
“Major donors expect to be invited to Number 10, if this cannot take place then income levels may be affected.”
It said some donors were brought on board by being offered a role in Labour’s business strategy, “flattering their desire to offer policy advice.
“Tony Blair needs to attend a small number of big events [to be agreed] and must continue to have private meetings with some of the more interesting donors where possible.”
Labour said the document was dismissed in 1998 by their chief spokesman, who said it was “naively written and was spiked before it reached senior members of the party.”
“No-one who gave money to the party is given preferential treatment and no-one can buy access to Downing Street.”
A Labour spokesman added on Sunday: “Since then, and in the nine years since the original story, absolutely nothing has changed.”
Tony Blair was interviewed twice as a witness in the “cash-for-honours” probe.
He is the first sitting prime minister to be questioned as part of a criminal inquiry, as the police gradually closed in on Downing Street.