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Monday, 26 June, 2000, 17:16 GMT 18:16 UK
Lord Levy: Labour's fund raiser

Lord Levy is said to have collected 7m for Labour
Following in the footsteps of such people as Michael Ashcroft, Lord Levy is the latest tin-rattler for a political party to find himself on the wrong side of an inquisitive newspaper.

Prior to last weekend - despite his crucial work raising millions of pounds for the Labour Party - the 55-year-old tennis partner of the prime minister had rarely found himself in the headlines.

And even then The Sunday Times was only able to publish details of the one-time record company boss's tax return for 1998-1999 after he failed to get a publication ban in place through the courts.

Despite his insistence that he had done nothing wrong and has not moved any of his funds off shore, the fact that he only paid 5,000 in tax last year - equivalent to that paid on a salary of 21,000 - has brought the shadow, if not the substance, of sleaze back to Westminster.

The timing of the disclosure could not have been worse for the government, coming as it does as the Neill Committee turns its attention to the House of Lords.

Alvin Stardust sang for Lord Levy's record company
But Foreign Secretary Robin Cook, sticking up for a man who puts in unpaid hours for his department, was keen to point out on Monday that this figure compared to an average tax bill paid by Lord Levy of 250,000 over the last decade.

Born in Hackney, east London, to parents of modest means, millionaire Lord Levy now lives in a north London mansion complete with swimming pool and tennis courts.

He is one of the dozens of new peers the prime minister has created since Labour came to power in 1997.

Superficially, the man who gave the public Alvin Stardust, Chris Rea and Bad Manners may seem a eccentric choice as the prime minister's official envoy for the Middle East, but ministers say he has made a positive contribution to the peace process during his eight visits to the region on official business.

But his main claim to fame caused the government a great deal of embarassment.

It was Lord Levy who secured the 1m donation to Labour from Formula One millionaire Bernie Ecclestone.

The money was repaid by the party to avoid accusations that it had been used to buy policies.

The peer, whom it is said, has the prime minister's ear, has also worked for Jewish charities, including Jewish Care.

He is married with two children.

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See also:

25 Jun 00 | UK Politics
Tax row peer 'did nothing wrong'
25 Jun 00 | UK Politics
Row over peer's tax bill
26 Jun 00 | UK Politics
Lords should 'expect public scrutiny'
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