The Geopolitics of Sleaze

The Daily Telegraph picks up on a particularly intriguing, not to say sensitive, aspect of the Labour donations’ scandal:

Mr Abrahams is described by friends as a "secretive" person who spends little money on himself but likes to rub shoulders with the great and the good at political and charity events.

Last year he was pictured shaking hands with the then Israeli ambassador, Zvi Heifetz, who was questioned then cleared over money-laundering allegations. Mr Heifetz was recently appointed as an adviser to Mr Blair in his role as Middle East peace envoy.

Yesterday, a Downing Street source said Labour "had not seen any evidence" to suggest the money was not Mr Abrahams’s. He added: "It would be very serious if it were the case. No one is aware of any such arrangement. It will be part of the inquiry." (Telegraph) [Update 12/12 – I should note that nothing has emerged to substantiate the implication of this story, which should probably be put down as a smear.  Nevertheless, the comments below are still relevant.]

The whole episode has shone a spotlight on the key role of the Labour Friends of Israel in funding the party. This is something that came up during the cash for peerages affair, although much of the media was fairly reticent about joining the dots between Lord Levy’s role as Labour’s chief fundraiser, and his role as Middle East envoy during the Lebanon War. This wider geopolitical context has important parallels with the sleaze that emerged during the Major years.

It is now being suggested in some quarters that Tory financial sleaze was primarily a matter of the cash for questions shenanigans of peripheral figures like Neil Hamilton.

In reality, the key underlying issue was the relationship between The Conservative Party, the arms trade, and various Middle Eastern and Far Eastern Governments, notably the Saudis, who negotiated the huge Al-Yamamah arms deal with Mrs Thatcher. One advisor on that deal was Wafic Said, who is estimated to have donated some £500,000 to the Conservatives.

The Tory arms trade was partly exposed after Saddam Hussein’s invasion of Kuwait, leading to the Arms to Iraq affair, over which Robin Cook crucified the Tories in the Commons.

Another related episode was the downfall of Jonathan Aitken, whose recent rehabilitation is a telling commentary on the Tories’ new-found concern about sleaze.

One can’t help wondering what both major parties’ finances would look like if there had been peace in the Middle East for the past 25 years. Perhaps a moratorium on donations should have been on the agenda in Annapolis.






One response to “The Geopolitics of Sleaze”

  1. DougtheDug avatar

    With the evidence detailing the large amount of money that the Labour Friends of Israel steers towards the Labour party and the fact that there are equally important Conservative Friends of Israel and Lib-Dem Friends of Israel any criticism of AIPAC in the States by UK commentators looks like the pot calling the kettle black.
    Though I’ve seen it brought up on blogs the parallels between AIPAC and the FoI have been muted in the mainstream presss. I think the standard response of, “anti-semitism”, to any criticism of Israel scares them off. The fact that FoI is a big influence in both the Conservatives and Labour may also be holding back both the Conservative and Labour supporters in the press.
    Both Abrahams and Mendelsohn were prominent members of Labour Friends of Israel.
    It might explain how the Labour party switched from being sympathetic to the Palestinians to being a strong supporter of the Israeli Government, to the point where Blair failed to call for a ceasefire in Lebanon or condemn the Israeli attacks against civilian houses and refugee convoys.
    It actually makes Blair and the rest more reprehensible. It may be that it wasn’t ideology or devotion to Bush that kept them onside with Israel during the Lebanon conflict, it was love of the filthy lucre.
    I hope any investigation will trace back all these odd donations to source. “Follow the money”, as they say.

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