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Thursday, 6 June, 2002, 08:47 GMT 09:47 UK
Was it wise to take Desmond's money?
UK Culture Secretary Tessa Jowell has joined the chorus of criticism of Labour's decision to take money from adult magazine publisher Richard Desmond.

She is the second cabinet minister to express doubts about the wisdom of taking £100.000 from the owner of such titles as Asian Babes and Horny Housewives.

Prime Minister Tony Blair has defended the donation from Mr Desmond, who recently bought Express newspapers.

He has also denied that the donation was in any way related to the government's decision to allow Mr Desmond to buy Express Newspapers.

Was Labour right to take Mr Desmond's money? Should they give it back?

This Talking Point has now closed. Read a selection of your comments below.

The fact that Blair accepted donations from a pornographer fundamentally undercuts his government's supposed commitment to better the conditions of women in society. It is cheap hypocrisy. Blair has become far too big for his boots.
Bea, UK

They took it. Giving it back does not change that fact.

Raj Rijhwani, UK
They took it. Giving it back does not change that fact - nor does it negate any obligations they accepted (tacit or manifest). The dirt is not in the source, but in what was being sold in return for the contribution, or indeed whether there was an obligation. On that point we can never be certain.
Raj Rijhwani, UK

All political parties should be funded by the state. Let's stop the corporate takeover of Britain and give power back to the people.
Leon Noble, Scotland

Democracy means we, the people, get to vote and donate to the party of our choice. If a certain party has policies, or creates an environment, that is conducive to you personally or your business, then you vote and donate. Your vote is secret so why not your donation? You will only vote or donate if that party is doing something for your benefit. So what's the story here? A political party made a decision for money. They do that all the time. "We won¿t raise income tax, vote for us". Where is the difference?
Rob Tyrer, UK

Can I suggest to give it to a charity?

Steven Nicol, UK
Can we really call these large sums of money 'donations' when they keep being given back to the donor? If anyone wants to influence a decision they just need to give a large donation at a well-timed point. Their wishes will be granted and if the donation was big enough or their business is considered unsavoury they will most likely get their donation back without any reversal of any potentially influenced decisions. As it's Labour's money to do with as they wish, can I suggest to the MPs who want to give the donation back to give it to a charity? Say prostate cancer, which does not get a high enough profile...or is that suggestion naive?
Steven Nicol, UK

Accepting Desmond's money is yet another nail in the coffin of Britain as a so-called Christian country. This bloke purports to publish adult magazines, yet any self-respecting adult (in the best sense of the word) wouldn't touch them. Tony should ponder this one before accompanying his wife and family to church on Sundays.
Bernard, UK

Who cares? Pornography is a perfectly acceptable part of our society

Tom, United Kingdom
Oh who cares? Pornography is a perfectly acceptable part of our society and has been for a long time, it's not immoral and no law has been broken by this man's donation. There's no difference between his donation, and a donation from Richard Branson or Lord Sainsbury. I'd suggest that some of the female Labour MPs who are in uproar need to face reality, and stop living in the 1950s.
Tom, United Kingdom

Sleazy money to support a sleazy government seems perfectly reasonable to me.
David Norris, Scotland

The question is not whether Mr Blair should accept donations from a pornographer instead of, say, a defence contractor. The question is how far down the path of corporate ownership of politicians does the UK wish to go? Here in America everything, including our politics, is controlled by corporations. Think long and hard about whether you want to end up like us.
Peter Nelson, USA

Labour, like any other party, is free to accept money from any source. It should, however, do us the courtesy of not claiming to occupy any moral high ground.
Patrick Stevens, UK

The whole concept of businesses making party donations is repulsive

Simon, UK/Finland
I don't see what the problem is - I'm sure many Labour voters read Mr Desmond's publications. In the end it doesn't matter whether the Labour party take money from a porn publisher or an oil company - the whole concept of businesses making party donations is repulsive.
Simon, UK/Finland

Does Tony Blair really care where the cash comes from? I think not. I AM sure that he cares when that knowledge becomes embarrassingly public - and that finely polished, glossy veneer of his image gets scratched.
Ian, UK

It's too late to give the money back as any damage has already been done. In my opinion the problem is not because he publishes porn, but because of the amazing 'coincidence' of the timing of his donation. There seem to be an amazing number of 'coincidental' payments to the Labour party. Something definitely smells bad.
Simon, UK

The source of the money isn't as dirty as its destination - politics.
Alex Kerr, UK

Could it be that Blair is about to discover his Babes have teeth?

Kathy, UK
That the serving government received money from the exploitation of women isn't just wrong, it's embarrassing in its lack of judgement. The money should be returned. But it's interesting that it's the first time women MPs have actually united over anything relating to women's issues. Could it be that Blair is about to discover his Babes have teeth?
Kathy, UK

As far as I know, Richard Desmond's publications don't involve children or animals so why shouldn't he make a contribution to the Labour party? Presumably the "Asian babes" and "horny housewives" featured in his publications get paid for their work and aren't being forced to do it at gunpoint. As for exploitation, are the men featured in Playgirl being exploited or do women have the exclusive rights to exploitation?
Leonard, England

I don't see why it should be returned. Despite how distasteful it is, it is better than taking money from arms dealers and tobacco companies. The people involved are adults free to make their own decisions, thus if they feel exploited they shouldn't do it. If the country is going to be moralistic about party funding then they should be prepared to fund them through taxes. That would be the only way to ensure that distasteful people do not have a privileged place within the party.
Jenni, UK

How do you differentiate between someone who makes money by selling soft porn, and someone who has made money by polluting the world (oil companies, car manufacturers etc)? As long as they have not done illegal activities then the whingers should just shut up.
Neil, UK

This is just carping for the sake of it

Andreas Graham, UK
Of course it was right to take the money. This is typical puritan values, voiced by Daily Mail readers. This man does nothing illegal, he pays his taxes, so why is his money not acceptable? If we are to have a debate about the rights or wrongs of pornography, fine but this is just carping for the sake of it.
Andreas Graham, UK

Would Mr Desmond have made a 'donation' to Labour if he had not been allowed to buy Express Newspapers? We have a morally corrupt Government in this country only interested in retaining power for their own advantage.
Jackie Worrow, England

The acceptance of Desmond's money boils down to both the moral issue of whether or not Labour should accept donations from a porn publisher and also the question of whether or not the donation was in any way linked to Desmond's acquiring of the Express. Labour would have been able to weather the storm if all they had done was accept the donation, but the question of whether or not it had anything to do with Desmond's getting the Express once more opens the question of whether or not there is a "policies for donations" mentality in the Labour Party. It seems as though Blair is almost being highly controversial just so he can get his proposals for state-funded political parties accepted.
Chris L, UK

Mr Desmond has not broken any law of the land. Surely it would therefore be hypocritical to allow him to publish his titles but not contribute to political parties the same as anyone else?
Andrew Day, UK

See also:

31 May 02 | UK Politics
22 May 02 | UK Politics
24 May 02 | UK Politics
17 May 02 | UK Politics
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