Wednesday, 28 November 2007

A question for Mr Mendelsohn

This is the full text of the statement issued this morning by Jon Mendelsohn, the Bottler's Director of Labour Party General Election Resources. On the whole, I would say there was a very strong case it is bollocks more or less from start to finish.

When it was announced yesterday that Lord Whitty would be investigating the background to these donations to inform the work of Bishop Harries and Lord McCluskey, I immediately offered to provide all of the details I had.

I started in my role as Director of General Election Resources on the 3 September 2007, work I undertake in a voluntary capacity.

When I was researching previous gifts and plans I enquired into the names of individuals I did not know or otherwise recognise which included Janet Kidd, Raymond Ruddick and latterly John McCarthy.

I was informed by Peter Watt to whom I reported that this was an arrangement with David Abrahams which was long-standing and which was appropriately dealt with in relation to the Party's reporting requirements. He told me these donations fully complied with the law and I had no reason to doubt that information.

However I was unhappy with the arrangement whereby donations were taken through a third party and was determined it would not play a part in our future plans. I was very concerned that these arrangements did not meet the strict transparency test that I wished to see in place.

I did not discuss this with the officers of the National Executive Committee or party leadership but I decided to tell Mr Abrahams that his method of contribution was unacceptable. I had no intention of asking Mr Abrahams for donations and wanted to give him the courtesy of explaining this personally.

At the beginning of November I asked my assistant to try and fix a personal meeting with Mr Abrahams so that I could tell him this. He was only given the general reason for the meeting that I wanted to update him on our plans. He declined to have a meeting on this basis. He specifically asked if it was for asking for money and was given the reply that it was to update him on our plans.

I had considered it likely that given our personal history of past disagreements he would be reluctant to meet. I signed a typed letter on the 22nd November. The letter does not ask for funds, but is a polite and courteous request to organise a meeting at which I was planning to tell him of my decision.

I am submitting all this evidence to Lord Whitty.

A number of points, m'lud.

Though it is not clear precisely when Mendelsohn was told by baby-face Watt that Abrahams was the actual donor behind Kidd, Ruddick and McCarthy's apparent donations, it seems that it was some time last month. At that point, according to the statement, Mendelsohn had no reason to believe there was anything unlawful about the donations.

Nonetheless, on Saturday, ie once aware that the story was about to break, Mendelsohn wrote to Abrahams – a handwritten letter according to Abrahams, typed according to Mandelsohn (a discrepancy which only adds to the more-than-slightly surreal air hanging over the entire affair). Abrahams received the letter yesterday, Tuesday (well done the GPO!).

This is the text.

Dear David,

Thank you for your message which Oliver passed onto me. The party is of course very appreciative of all the support you have given over many years. At some point I would like to have the opportunity to talk with you personally about what we are doing and our plans for the time between now and the next general election. I know your diary is very busy but as one of the party’s strongest supporters it is only right that you are kept informed of what we are doing and the priorities that we are assigning to our resources. Any time that your diary allows, when you are next in London, I would very much like to meet to discuss this with you.

Warmest regards,
The Director of General Election Resources

Intriguingly, Labour party 'sources' are apparently claiming the letter was written on Thursday last week and only franked on Saturday, which, if true, wouldn't say much for the efficiency of the party's mail room even if it suggests a rare devotion to duty for staff to have been working over the weekend.

Not entirely unreasonably I'd say, Abrahams interpreted the letter as an invitation to donate more money to Labour. According to Mendelsohn, however, it was to arrange a meeting with Abrahams in which he, Mendelsohn, would tell Abrahams that the party didn't want any more of his money and he could in effect sod off.

And this because, despite Watt's assurances that Abrahams's donations 'fully complied with the law', Mendelsohn had become 'unhappy' about them, in fact so 'unhappy' he had decided further such donations 'would not play a part in our future plans' and that Abrahams's 'method of contribution was unacceptable'.

Crucially, he did this entirely off his own bat, telling no one. In a phrase that might almost have been dictated by the Bottler, he states: 'I did not discuss this with the officers of the National Executive Committee or party leadership'.

So, here is the third-biggest donor to the Labour party since the start of the Bottler's premierships and, entirely on his own initiative, despite the financial crisis facing the party, Mendelsohn decides the party will take no more of his money.

Here is a question for Mendelsohn. It is not hard. When did he write the letter? If it was on Thursday, then it is just about credible that his very pally handwritten/typed letter was
actually no more than the overture to telling Abrahams to bugger off and take his money with him. It is equally credible, however, that the letter was what Abrahams took it for: an invitation to set up a meeting in which more money would be asked for.

But if it was written on Saturday – and if it was typed then presumably there is a date on the letter itself rather than just on the envelope – then no one other than the congenitally simple-minded could conceivably believe that it was anything other than a panicked response to the news that the Mail story was about to break, almost certainly taking the Director of Labour Party General Election Resources with it.

So, Thursday or Saturday?

It would be interesting to know.

1 comment:

Peter Horne said...

Does Brown know he's fucked?

Interesting post here in case you missed it.