As Tony Blair nears the end of his premiership, he is in grave danger of being remembered for the “Cash for Honours” scandal which is edging ever closer to the PM’s Office. Ruth Turner, the Director of Government Relations in the PM’s office was recently arrested on suspicion of perverting the course of justice, in connection with alleged offences under the Honours (Prevention of Abuses) Act 1925.
While Ms Turner was later released without charge, the investigation has now taken in some on Tony Blair’s closest allies, and is edging closer to the centre of the Labour Government. While the Number 10 “Spin Doctors” continue to refute any allegations of wrong doings, more and more rumours are appearing daily in the press. After almost 10 years in office, Mr Blair is at risk of leaving behind a legacy of mistrust and controversy.
The most recent arrest is the fourth in this long running saga which appears to be digging deeper and deeper into the murky world of party funding, with all involved under investigation. While Mr Blair has also been questioned by Police, as a witness rather than under caution, it is alleged that the Prime Minister’s version of events differs greatly from that of the Labour Party donors who have been dragged into the investigation.
Although there has been no report to the Crown Prosecution Service as yet, there is speculation that the Police are putting together a detailed dossier of the affair, which may well lead to some prosecutions. Seen by many as a “shot across the bows” of Tony Blair, the arrest of his closest ally may have severe consequences for the PM, with colleagues saying that Ms Turner would not have done anything without the knowledge of Mr Blair.
As a consequence of the scandal, the Labour Party have seen a major fall in “funding loans” which has put the Party finances under severe pressure. As many donors are pushing for the repayment of their “secret loans”, 2007 will be a difficult year for the party. After parting company with the unions in a bid to increase their attraction to the middle ground of voters, many suspect that “New Labour” will soon be returning to more traditional values under the expected leadership of Gordon Brown.
Many are also sceptical about the recent push for tax payer funded political parties, which correlates with the dramatic downturn in Labour Party funding - is this just a coincidence?
Tony Blair Arrested?