Tony Blair’s top donor goes Bercow

lord levy

Lord Levy


On the very, very last day of Parliament  John Bercow, the Speaker, who faces the prospect of a contested General Election ( breaking normal precedent) announced some £20,000 in donations from some very surprising and controversial sources.

Released  the day Parliament was dissolved  it was revealed the music impresario Lord Levy – who infamously  and in his view unjustly got involved in the ” Cash for Honours” scandal has given a £5000 donation to John Bercow which presumably will go towards his election campaign.

Lord Levy, well known as Tony Blair’s tennis partner and  New Labour’s chief fund raiser  and at one stage close confidant of the former Labour PM, was arrested but never charged over the scandal which suggested that the party was soliciting donations with the hint of possible peerages for the party backers. The furore that followed led to a breach between Blair and Levy which subsequently, I understand, been healed.

john bercow

John Bercow, the Speaker Image credit: bbc

The second donation  is from property tycoon Sir David Garrard who was also involved in  the ” cash for honours” scandal before the police dropped the investigation. He had switched from supporting the Tories to New Labour.

He is also a fan of  former Labour leader Ed Miliband and gave Labour a whopping £500,000 at the last general election. He has given John Bercow a more modest £5000.

The third £5,000 donor is Sun Mark Ltd, run by entrepreneur Dr Rami Ranger ,who has won no fewer than five Queen’s Awards for Enterprise, for distributing products to supermarkets worldwide. His autobiography, From Nothing to Everything, I suspect, appeals to John Bercow, or at least the title would.

The final £5000 comes  I suspect from Michael Keegan, who is  the head of Fujitsu for the UK and Ireland. It would have been much more fun of it had been Michael Keegan-Kay, an American comedian and actor, who spent six seasons on madTV but that donation would be banned under the rules blocking foreign donors though.


Chilcot and The Blair Rich Project

Blair Inc paperback

Blair Inc: paperback version. Pic Credit: John Blake Books


On Wednesday the  report into the Iraq War  will finally be published and Tony Blair’s role will be finally dissected by a top former civil servant, Sir John Chilcot.

Tonight (Monday)  at 8.0pm  I will be appearing in a Channel 5 documentary called The Blair Rich Project which will look at how  Tony and Cherie Blair have amassed so much wealth since he left office in 2007. You can link to it and view the episode here

The programme includes a number of stories which are covered in our book Blair Inc. The book came out  in paperback last week  and is co-authored by me,Francis Beckett and Nick Kochan.

The programme looks at the Blairs’ property empire, his deals abroad and both he and Cherie’s fascination with amassing wealth.

The book to remind you covers Blair’s former role as Middle East envoy, his failed bid to become European Union president, the Blair Faith Foundation, his deals with other  countries where he has been an apologist for dictators  and also includes a chapter on his close ally and friend Peter Mandelson, his lobbying empire and his relationship with Russian oligarchs. There is an attempt to prise open his far from transparent companies where he amasses his wealth.

As Blair faces questioning over his role in Iraq it is worth reminding people how far the Blairs have come since he left office nine years ago.



Why Labour’s patronising grandees have driven people to vote for Stormin’ Corbyn

Labolur's three grandees- Mandelson, Blair and Campbell  Pic Credit:

Labolur’s three grandees- Mandelson, Blair and Campbell
Pic Credit:


Alastair Campbell, Peter Mandelson,Gordon Brown, David Miliband, Tony Blair and now David Blunkett have all joined in bashing Jeremy Corbyn because he is the front runner in Labour’s leadership election and they are desperate to stop him.

Anyone but Corbyn is Campbell’s cry. Peter Mandelson has been up to his old tricks using back channels to try and get the election cancelled. The only person who has been wise enough to keep quiet is Ed Miliband who is leaving it to the members.

Yet what are these grandee’s credentials today for saying that Corbyn is unfit to lead Labour while the others would be fine.

Alastair Campbell’s reputation for plain dealing took a hit over the Iraq ” dodgy dossier” and is now a freelance journalist, a lobbyist and earns some of his money from dodgy Central European dictatorships like Kazakhstan.

Peter Mandelson has enjoyed a reputation for the ” dark arts” of politics and now is a strategic lobbyist with strong connections to Russian oligarchs who sympathise with Putin. We don’t even know the rest of his client list.

Gordon Brown is nowadays concentrating on education in Africa and stood down at the last election.

David Miliband is living in the United States doing good work in trying to provide humanitarian relief  to Syria.

Tony Blair is concentrating his entire life in making money from any country that will pay him large sums of cash – it is described in detail in  Blair Inc, my new book with Francis Beckett and Nick Kochan.

David Blunkett  along with Gordon Brown appears to have been the least avaricious but spends a lot of his time as an after dinner speaker.

None of them can say they are really in touch with the present mood of  Labour Party members, and some of them, notably Blair and Mandelson, have more in common with the wealthy global elite than a traditional Labour Party supporter.

And Labour Party activists long treated as foot soldiers and not given their head over policy formation by these grandees are revolting.  Ever since Blair reduced their power at party conferences they have had a diminishing say along with the unions.

The main charges from the grandees is that Corbyn will be hated by the  press and that he could never win an election.

Jeremy Corbyn Mp, not a grandee

Jeremy Corbyn Mp, not a grandee

But whoever leads the Labour Party will be monstered by the right wing press. Expect a simple nasty sexist campaign against Yvette Cooper saying ” vote Cooper get Balls” implying that the Ed Balls – just because he is married to her – will be inside Downing Street directing matters.

If it is Andy Burnham it will be that he is in the hands of the unions. If it Liz Kendall it will all be about inexperience etc

So people have remained unimpressed that by NOT voting for Corbyn they will escape the media’s wrath.

The election itself is five years away and Labour has a long time to redefine policy. Also with Corbyn’s promise of elections to the Shadow Cabinet –  Labour will be more diverse than just one faction.

What is quite clear that people want someone who will stand up for the party and launch a distinctive programme. They will not want a pale shadow of the present Conservative government- they can get a proper version already.

Yvette Cooper’s campaign has been disappointing. Instead of promoting women it has attacked men. Andy Burnham’s started well but seems to have gone all over the place. And Liz Kendall has not made the impact one might have expected.

This left Corbyn who no one expected to take off – striding into the lead. There seems to be a hunger out of there for a radical shift of direction. On September 12 we will know whether it has happened.

Naked Promo: My talk on Blair Inc at Waterstones in Berkhamsted

Blair INCIf you want to find out the story behind  my new book Blair Inc which I co-authored with Francis Beckett and Nick Kochan you can come along to my local branch of Waterstones next Thursday ( April 23) at 7.0pm.

For a modest fee of £3 – which can be claimed back as a discount against a copy – I will attempt to explain how we went about gathering information about the former Prime Minister after he left office in 2007 to the present day.

The book is unusual in that it concentrates entirely on Blair after he left government. It attempts to show how he and his family  became rich and the complex structure he and Cherie set up to hide where the money comes from.

It also includes a critical look at his role as Middle East economic envoy – a job which he may well have to give up according to recent press reports – as little progress has been made.

There is also some interesting findings about  how Blair and Peter Mandelson, once his closest friend, have gone their separate ways to make money through advising foreign entrepreneurs, governments , oligarchs and dictators.

This will be your chance to ask any questions you may have – whether you are an ardent Blairite or believe Blair destroyed his reputation over the war in Iraq.. Some come along – it’s a good time to debate his role in the middle of a general election campaign and a change from all those hustings.

Blair Inc: What Tony and Cherie did after Downing Street

Blair INCToday is the eve of the publication of a new book by me, Francis Beckett and Nick Kochan which pulls together the life of Tony and Cherie Blair since they left Downing Street in 2007. It is the first account of what happened since Tony Blair ceased to be PM.

In one sense it is a surreal moment. It is the second book Francis and I have written on Tony Blair – the first originally titled The Blairs and their Court dealt with his time in office- and we have never interviewed him or Cherie as he did not want to see us. And most of  the Blairs’ close friends are equally nervous of telling us anything.

Never has a man who still wants to dominate the world stage and charges – we are told – £500,000 for making a speech – been so determined to hide away from public gaze and go to such lengths to hide his income, his  business dealings and his philanthropic and religious work. Both he and Cherie even wanted to keep secret where their business premises were located in London.

What this book puts together is  a picture of man and a woman   who are as  his once close friend Peter Mandelson famously said is ” intensely relaxed with the filthy rich…”.

It tries to analyse his labyrinthine company structure that both generates his wealth and hides who pays him. It looks at his property empire – which allows him to replicate his life as PM with a  Georgian town house in the heart of London  and a historic house in the country.

It traces his less than effective role as a Middle East envoy and looks at his business deals with dictators across Central Europe, Africa and the Middle East. It examines the roles of the Tony Blair Faith Foundation and his role in African governance and looks at how Cherie – once a  proud feminist and human rights lawyer – is now much more keen on business dealings and setting up a property empire with their eldest son, Euan.

Altogether people – particularly Labour voters – may not find this a particularly attractive story. Apologists for him say he was the most successful PM in modern times and we will have omitted the great work he has done in improving the governance of African nations and his religious role through the Faith Foundation.

The extraordinary fact about Blair is how he has become loathed not only by the Labour left – over Iraq and calling for military intervention in Iran- but by the wider public and the Right for what they see as his hypocrisy as a Labour politician interested almost entirely in amassing wealth and not particularly bothered who was bankrolling him.

We have had three ex PMs who did not need to go into retirement homes. The other two – John Major and Gordon Brown – tread different paths and have escaped criticism. John Major simply did go into business to make money but does not spend his time lecturing the rest of us on political issues. Gordon Brown took another route and is devoting his life to charitable work – education in Africa – and not making have a luxury lifestyle.

Blair seemed to want everything ,wealth, rich friends, money, influence – and ended up a toxic brand. But if you go to enormous lengths  to cover your tracks people have every right to be suspicious of your motives.

You can get our book directly from John Blake Publishing or from all good bookshops. It is also being published in Australia – more details to follow. You can also see extracts of the book on Mail On Line, articles in the Independent, the Guardian  and a riveting lobbying story about what Tony Blair wrote to Hillary Clinton on Exaro news website.

Phone Hacking Trial: Help from Blair and Mandelson, Brooks the “phone hacking mastermind” – Martin Hickman

Tony Blair and Peter Mandelson both offered to help an embattled Rebekah Brooks who was facing questions from the police. She also said she never knew about the activities of hacker Glenn Mulcaire – paid £1m by News International – until he was arrested. And she condemned hubbie Charlie for an ” impulsive ill thought out decision” in stashing away his computers and a bag full of lesbian DVD porn.

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Rebekah BrooksDay 67:   Tony Blair and Peter Mandelson privately offered to help Rebekah Brooks prepare for a grilling by MPs at the height of the phone hacking scandal, the Old Bailey heard today.

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Phone Hacking Trial: Tony Blair and Piers Morgan sent supportive messages to Brooks over Dowler story – Martin Hickman

Rebekah Brooks friends revealed.

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Brooks and MorganDay 62, Part 1:  Rebekah Brooks received messages of support from politicians and journalists, and death threats from the public, in the days after the Milly Dowler story broke, the phone hacking trial heard today.

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The Brooks “Plan B” and “Blair Unofficial Advisor” emails

These are amazing emails released by the Crown prosecution Service today. First a resume of what Blair told her and then admission that the News of the World was looking to close!
Finally an extraordinary email suggesting that after the paper closed it should be blamed on the former chief e3xecutive Les Hinton and Colin Myler, then the editor of the News of the World. Extraordinary

The Criminal Media Nexus

Picture courtesy of Prix Pics Copyright Prixpics – used with kind permission

A clearer copy of email evidence submitted in the jury bundles on the last part of the prosecution case has been released by the CPS. The first email, from 11th of July 2011 shows an exchange between Rebekah Brooks and James Murdoch, which starts with a discussion of the sales for the last edition on the News of the World.

James Murdoch replies, querying why Brooks would put such things on email. The Daily Telegraph had reported that day on the ‘smoking emails’ which caused the closure of the News of the World. It was also the day that The Times led on reports that the police wanted to interview Brooks. 

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Phone Hacking Trial: Tony Blair ‘privately advised’ Rebekah Brooks on phone hacking scandal, court hears – Martin Hickman

This comes as complete bombshell and given recent tensions between Murdoch and Blair – it shows how close Rebekah Brooks thought she was to Tony Blair at the time. Blair’s office has dismissed this as informal advice!

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SOCIAL Newspaper 2 Day 54, Part 1:  Tony Blair was privately advising Rupert Murdoch’s newspapers on the phone hacking scandal days after learning its best-selling Sunday title, the News of the World, had intercepted the messages of a missing girl, the Old Bailey heard today.

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David Kelly: Why Dominic Grieve is right to rule out an inquest


David Kelly:Leave to rest in peace

Sad to say Dominic Grieve’s decision not to hold a further inquest into the death of David Kelly  is the right one. A very detailed letter from Lord Hutton, to the Attorney General and published on the Attorney General Office’s website  this week seems to be clinching evidence that a new inquest would not reveal anything that we do not know already. You can find it  by scrolling through the reports on this link He seems to make quite a convincing case that Dr Kelly’s death was investigated to a higher standard than happens at  a normal coroner’s inquest. Also as I said earlier the quality of the expertise of the investigators could not have been higher, even if the press at the time ignored what had been released as the issue was dominated by Andrew Gilligan’s reports over the Iraq War.

By publishing the pathologist’s report last October  to my mind had already laid to rest some of the more ludicrous conspiracy theories, including one by the present transport minister, Norman Baker.

As I wrote at the time(October 23, 2010)

The pathologist’s report into the death of Dr David Kelly, the scientist at the centre of the row over whether Iraq had weapons of mass destruction, should finally lay to rest conspiracy theorists’ views that he was murdered by the security services.

The report provides harrowing detail of the self-inflicted wounds he sustained and no evidence whatsoever that he had been attacked or fought off attackers.

Unfortunately the failure to publish the report by Lord Hutton’s investigation in 2004 and the decision to keep it secret for 70 years fuelled conspiracy theories that it was a gigantic cover up.

Yet careful examination of the evidence given by Roy Green, a forensic biologist and crime scene specialist, to the Hutton Inquiry on 3 September 2003 – it is still on the inquiry website- will show that many of the details in the pathologist’s report today  were made public at the time.(

It would also be extraordinary that Lord Hutton and the inquiry secretary Lee Hughes, who forced the PM’s aggressive press secretary, Alistair Campbell, to release his private diaries and the intelligence agencies to publish internal Whitehall minutes should be suborned by the government to suppress evidence of a murder. The Hutton inquiry, whatever one feels about its findings, was one of the most open and transparent investigations ever held – and its secretary, is an unsung hero in Whitehall in pressing for a freedom of information act.

The explanation is much more mundane – Lord Hutton wanted to safeguard the privacy of Kelly’s family – but even he knew at the time that his request could be overruled because of the Freedom of Information Act.

The real scandal is not the conspiracy to cover up a murder but the fact that it has distracted everyone from the appalling behaviour of Tony Blair’s administration in using every means possible to silence journalists and investigators from finding out the truth about the government’s lies over Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction and their threat to Britain.

Number Ten effectively used the naming of David Kelly to browbeat the BBC and  blacken the reputation of Andrew Gillighan, a  journalist trying to get to the bottom of the facts, and then were horrified when Kelly took his life.

But as someone who has to deal with moles, some can take a lot of shock and awe but others have to be treated with kid gloves, because their consciences tell them the public should know the facts but they are terrified of being exposed.

 Kelly, from his performance before  MPs, was obviously in the latter group and the fact that he was about to be exposed for lying to MPs that he had talked to another journalist, Susan Watts, was enough for him to kill himself.

The security services did not need to murder Kelly – even if they had wanted to do so, which is highly unlikely – he became sadly another  tragic victim of the Iraq War because he couldn’t take the strain of  being exposed to such  a massive media circus.

The real tragedy is that we have wasted six years going up a blind alley which might be great sport for conspirators, but we have let the people who drove this decent man to his death, escape any retribution for their actions and for not telling the people the truth.  Hutton’s conclusion in this respect left them off the hook.  I would be surprised whether the Chilcot inquiry – which has been far less open about releasing documents does any better.

This blog was first published on the Guardian’s Comment is Free website. For lots of responses see that site.