At PMQs today, Gordon Brown stated that Jon Mendelsohn has put out a statement (which I have not been able to confirm or get sight of) stating that on his appointment on 3rd September this year he was told by Peter Watts of the "arrangements" under which David Abrahams donated money to the Labour Party, but that, whilst irregular, these arrangements had been approved by the Electoral Commission. Mendelsohn, although apparently accepting the statement in respect of the Electoral Commission, decided he need to "regularise" the position and took steps to contact Abrahams (which he did by way of a letter delivered to Abrahams, just as the story was breaking).
This account raises the following questions:
- Did Watts give the same explanation to anyone else re Electoral Commission approval?
- Did Mendelsohn really believe this explanation - unlikely since (a) it flies in the face of the whole basis of transparency in political funding and (b) he sought to undo the arrangements.
- Why did Mendelsohn not seek to verify Watt's explanation or mention it to anyone else? Or did he?
The whole thing stinks to high heaven.
UPDATE: Mendelsohn's statement is now on the BBC website and he said in respect of the explanation offered to him by Watts: "He told me these donations fully complied with the law and I had no reason to doubt that information" - except you think as a senior fundraiser, he might know what the laws says and might have dug a bit deeper.
I have a feeling that the Watts/Abrahams defence to all this is going to be that the money was really given to Kidd and Ruddick (although it would be harder to say this with a straight face in the case of the other lady who signed a blank cheque) and they freely made the choice to donate to the Labour Party - except it wasn't and they didn't. As I commented on Iain Dale's Diary earlier this week, it was either a taxable gift or they were given the money as agents. I suspect that Mendelsohn knew that the reason Watts said it was all OK was that it was originally a "gift" from Abrahams to Kidd/Ruddick, but if he says that, he will look even more daft as on any proper legal analysis, they were clearly Abraham's agents.