Tag Archive | "john poulson"

“Reggie” Featured on Fivebooks.com

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“Reggie” Featured on Fivebooks.com

Posted on 04 August 2010 by admin

This is a biography that takes you right into the heart of 1950s Conservatism in the same way that Robert Caro’s life of Lyndon Johnson takes you right into the Senate of the same period

Executive Editor of The Times, Daniel Finkenstein, praises Lewis Baston’s Reggie: The Life of Reginald Maudling on prestigious review site Fivebooks.com.

Your next book is very British.

I have deliberately chosen to be a bit arcane with my third book: Reggie by Lewis Baston. If you want to realise how conservative movements all over the world are exceptionalist in the same way that Republicans believe in American exceptionalism, then nothing could be better than reading histories of obscure British politicians. This is a book about Reginald Maudling, who was a very senior politician, singularly undynamic – so much so that when punched by a Member of Parliament over Bloody Sunday [the shooting in Northern Ireland of protesters by members of the British forces] because he was Home Secretary at the time, somebody shouted, ‘My God! She’s woken him up!’

This is a biography that takes you right into the heart of 1950s Conservatism in the same way that Robert Caro’s life of Lyndon Johnson takes you right into the Senate of the same period – it is very difficult to do if you live in another country but very important to understanding something as nationally individualist as conservatism.

Maudling was twice a contender for leader of the Party, once in a very serious way, and he lost because really, although he was thought to be the finest politician, he was thought to be too lazy. He then ran to seed, and ended up having to resign because of his relationship with a corrupt architect called John Poulson. And I think that Lewis Baston makes it pretty clear that Maudling’s business relationships were corrupt, I suppose in the way that Caro does with Johnson as well.

Maudling therefore emerges as a bit of a wasted talent. But, on the other hand, he does reflect the kind of solid centre of Conservatism that wouldn’t be familiar to an American audience in the way that Margaret Thatcher is. It was the Conservatism that preceded her, the equivalent of Eisenhower conservatism. I also recommend it as a wonderful book of British history and it’s very well-written.

When Jim Callaghan, later the Labour Prime Minister, took over from him as Chancellor of the Exchequer in 1964, Maudling, as he was leaving, popped his head around the door and said, ‘Sorry to have left it all in such a mess, old cock.’ And Callaghan thought he meant his office, but he meant the national finances.

Buy Reggie from the Lewis Baston Amazon Bookshop here

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Sleaze: The State of the Nation

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Sleaze: The State of the Nation

Posted on 13 May 2010 by admin

Amazon.co.uk Review

“Power tends to corrupt and absolute power corrupts absolutely”. Never have these words been more true than in the 20th century. If “sleaze” is a term associated with the 1990s, another is “soundbite” and this engaging history of modern political impropriety is replete with ripe quotation, enhanced by the dramatic irony that hindsight brings to bear on the indignant bon mots. Sleaze is a positive delight for those who feed on the political bungee-jumping of the great and the grating.The adage runs that Tories fall to sexual scandal whereas Labour’s achilles heel is financial but, while this is broadly true, there are members who are happy to cross the floor. Lewis Baston assembles the usual suspects of post-war intrigue; some hapless, some unscrupulous, but most lascivious in either boardroom or bedroom: the outrageous Tom Driberg, John Belcher, John Profumo, Bob Boothby, John Poulson and Jeremy Thorpe, through to the familiar faces of the 1980s and 1990s. Understandably, most space is given to recent misdemeanours, including the Mohamed Fayed v Neil Hamilton libel case, but by then the catwalk of audacious miscreants has somewhat blurred through prolificacy. Baston adroitly chronicles the collapse of the symbiotic relationship between the press and MPs, showing how the move from deference to hostility spawned both investigative journalism and its frivolous sibling, “bonk journalism”. Sleaze, in a similar vein to Matthew Parris’s Great Parliamentary Scandals, shows that tales of hypocrisy and hubris can always stand a decent retelling. The best response to the pomposity of this rogues’ gallery is schadenfreuden and Sleaze is as stuffed with delicious bounties as a Mohamed Fayed brown envelope. —David Vincent

Product Description

A TV tie-in to a Channel 4 series, this book is based on recorded testimonies, giving a no-holds barred expose of the British government under both Conservative and Labour leadership. It investigates MP’s private lives as well as their public ones, considers what they are paid for and party funding.

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This watchdog can growl and maul (9 October 2008)

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This watchdog can growl and maul (9 October 2008)

Posted on 09 October 2008 by admin

Forensic accountancy is a difficult business but the Electoral Commission takes its investigative duties seriously

David Hencke and his investigative colleagues at the Guardian have a fine record of unearthing dubious and corrupt practices in British politics. The Conservative party has a longer but not so fine record of being less than transparent and clean in its finances. From the share it took from the sale of honours in the 1920s to the secretive “river companies” set up in the 1940s to channel funds to the massive donations from wealthy foreigners it accepted in the 1990s, it is not surprising that the arrangements over Constituency Campaigning Services (CCS) have attracted suspicion. But sometimes, as Freud observed, a cigar is just a cigar, and even with political finance sometimes a company is just a company.

Forensic accountancy is a difficult business, as I found out when I tried to unravel the business dealings of Reginald Maudling and John Poulson, but the Electoral Commission takes its investigative duties seriously. If the commission’s conclusion is that CCS charged commercial rates for its services, and therefore did not effectively donate to the Conservative party, it is incumbent on its critics to find solid evidence to the contrary.

It is hard to see how paying the going rate amounts to an abuse of the spending limits, or a donation to the party. Whatever the party pays has to be within the spending limits, and any free or discounted services must also be accounted for. Nor is CCS entirely exempt from transparency rules. As with other organisations made up mostly of party members, it must report donations to the commission, which publishes them on its website. In recent years, the Conservative party has tried to be punctilious about following the letter of the rules, in something of the spirit of a reformed alcoholic making long detours to avoid his former favourite pub.

While it is not ideal that CCS does not have to publish its accounts, it is not the commission’s fault that the law fails to require it to do so. The government has the opportunity to tighten this up in its party funding bill.
Given the high profile of the Midlands Industrial Council (MIC) as CCS’s funder, it is easy to see why some think the money has been funnelled into the party, but the commission’s conclusion means that there could be other, potentially more entertaining possibilities. There would, after all, be a gentle irony if the prominent businessmen behind MIC had wasted so much money on keeping an unprofitable business afloat for the sake of party pride.

It is also unfair to blame the commission for the fact that the “cash for honours” affair did not result in any prosecutions. It was mainly focused on the Honours (Prevention of Abuses) Act 1925, a notoriously sloppy piece of legislative drafting that has nothing to do with the commission. And perhaps nothing that bad happened in the first place. Simply labelling something “cash for honours” does not mean that a trade took place. The “cash for questions” affair at least had witnesses and hard evidence.

The Electoral Commission is in a difficult position, in that it has to rule on matters that are highly contentious, and often has to irritate one side or other of the political spectrum. It has to do so within the law as it stands; that is frustrating, perhaps, but it is up to parliament to amend the law. The commission is far from a toothless watchdog, as Hencke says. If anything, there is an argument that its teeth are too sharp. It can growl, by issuing advice, and maul, by referring situations to the police for further action, but it has not been given the power to give minor offenders an admonitory nip to the ankle. However, in the case of CCS, it seems that a growl was really all that the situation called for.


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