BBC NEWS Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific
BBCi NEWS   SPORT   WEATHER   WORLD SERVICE   A-Z INDEX     

BBC News World Edition
 You are in: Programmes: World at One: Programme highlights  
News Front Page
Africa
Americas
Asia-Pacific
Europe
Middle East
South Asia
UK
Business
Entertainment
Science/Nature
Technology
Health
-------------
Talking Point
-------------
Country Profiles
In Depth
-------------
Programmes
-------------
BBC Sport
BBC Weather
SERVICES
-------------
EDITIONS
Programme highlights Tuesday, 2 January, 2001, 18:08 GMT
Labour's 2m donor revealed
Labour donation
After a highly uncomfortable 48 hours, the Labour Party has decided to grasp the nettle, and to name its 2 million donor.

The publisher, Lord Hamlyn, said that he was the mystery man and that the donation was one of a number he had made to political and other causes.

The story of a large gift from an unnamed supporter surfaced in the New Year's Eve edition of the Sunday Telegraph, and gave rise to a flurry of speculation.

Complaints

Significantly, it was not denied - but Labour's failure to confirm the name of the donor gave rise to a flurry of complaints, not just from opposition parties, but from within Labour's own ranks.

The complaint was quite simple. Anonymity will no longer be possible when the law changes in February:

Under the existing legislation I'm under no obligation to disclose the sum I have donated but I'm happy to do so

Lord Hamlyn
how could the party justify a secret donation which appeared to breach the spirit of its own new anti-sleaze rules?

After feverish speculation, Lord Hamlyn -- who was made a Labour peer in 1998 -- issued a statement... under a Labour Party letterhead.

Proud

It said: I'm proud to be a long-standing supporter of the Labour Party and the Labour Government.

"Under the existing legislation I'm under no obligation to disclose the sum I have donated but I'm happy to do so.
Lord Hamlyn
Lord Hamlyn
I have said nothing until now because I'm overseas recovering from serious illness. For that reason I will be making no further comment.

"I make no apologies for supporting the Labour Party in this way. Our democracy depends on vibrant political parties and for years the Conservatives had a virtual monopoly on large donations from individuals.

"I'm glad that has changed and I'm proud of the role I have played in helping the Labour Party."

High-profile

After a series of high-profile interventions from senior Labour figures, it's not hard to see why the decision has been taken to reveal Paul Hamlyn's name.

The former minister, Glenda Jackson, made a compelling case this morning for openness: surely, she argued, Labour should be celebrating the fact that someone has so much faith in the Government.

Other critics queued up to warn of the dangers of silence: remember Bernie Ecclestone, they cried. The failure to come clean about the Formula One boss's million-pound donation in 1997 produced one of the worst periods of Tony Blair's first year in office.

To begin with, officials simply pointed out that the rules on naming donors didn't come into force until next month.

Unconvinced

Among others unconvinced were the backbench MPs' chairman, Clive Soley, the Health Select Committee Chairman, David Hinchliffe and two more former ministers, David Clark - and Peter Kilfoyle, who was worried about the effect this issue might have on party members.

When the Sunday Telegraph article appeared, the assumption was that the donor had asked for anonymity, and technically speaking he could

I don't think he's necessarily sought to diguise his gifts, but he doesn't brag about them

Sir Terence Conran
have had it: it's only after February 16th that the new rules - heralded by Labour as the dawning of a brave new era of openness - come into force.

Thereafter, significant donors AND the amounts they give to political parties will have to be made public every quarter.

But Dr Henry Drucker -- a former fund-raising adviser to the Labour party, who now chairs the management consultancy, Oxford Philanthropic -- told the World At One that Lord Hamlyn's name would have come out in due course.

He said that it was Labour custom to declare every September the names of donors who gave more than 5,000... although the size of the donation would not necessarily be revealed.

Regular

Lord Hamlyn has been a regular donor to the Labour Party: in each of the past four years he has been listed - in accordance with the current rules - as one of those giving 'more than 5,000'.

One of his close friends -- the restaurateur and design guru, Sir Terence Conran, who has known Paul Hamlyn for 30 years -- said he was not surprised at the donation.

He told the World At One: "I don't think he's necessarily sought to diguise his gifts, but he doesn't brag about them."

And he added: "I think that gifts to a political party should be made public so that people don't get accused of giving money for the wrong reasons."

Trouble

Keeping quiet about a 2 million gift in the meantime was clearly going to be a problem, always likely to trouble ministers until the matter was resolved.

The echoes of Ecclestone are unmistakeable. Gordon Brown, in particular, had a highly uncomfortable time when he was questioned on the Today Programme - at the height of THAT row in November 1997.

That interview featured prominently in the book 'Servants of the People', by the journalist Andrew Rawnsley.

His claim that Mr Brown gave misleading answers - even though it was strenuously denied - gave rise to another bout of unwelcome headlines for Labour as recently as last autumn.

The problem for ministers is that a general election is looming, and costs are already starting to rise.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
Audio
Sir Henry Drucker
Audio
Sir Terence Conran
Links to more Programme highlights stories are at the foot of the page.


E-mail this story to a friend

Links to more Programme highlights stories

© BBC ^^ Back to top

News Front Page | Africa | Americas | Asia-Pacific | Europe | Middle East |
South Asia | UK | Business | Entertainment | Science/Nature |
Technology | Health | Talking Point | Country Profiles | In Depth |
Programmes