Sunday, April 16, 2006


Shades of Maundy Gregory in Des Smith's arrest

I wonder if this cash for honours scandal is going to lead all the way up to Blair and become his Watergate? The whole question is fascinating with implications for the future of this government and echoes of past scandals. The person in the spotlight for the moment is Des Smith, former headmaster and member of the Specialist Schools and Academies Trust(SSAT) from which he resigned in January having been caught in a sting operation by an undercover reporter. It is alleged Smith offered honours to potential Academy sponsors- a gong for one but five would make a sponsor a 'certainty' for a peerage- see S. Times.

I'm sure David Miliband, cited by Smith in today's story, is safe but Smith himself might go the way of Maundy Gregory. Who he? He was a clergyman's son at the turn of the last century who flunked out of Oxford and then became involved in the newly formed secret service. By the twenties he was selling honours for Lloyd George with a well worked out price list. Victor Grayson, the maverick Labour MP began to investigate but was, strangely, beaten up and then, when he failed to stop making accusations, probably 'rubbed out', after last being seen entering a house owned by Gregory.

Finally, this political 'Del Boy' of his times approached Lt Commander Edward Leake, an updstanding member of the Establishment who immediately shopped him to the Peelers. Gregory got six months but was out in two and was met at the prison gates by representatives of the Conservative Party who arranged for him to live in Paris on a £2000 a year pension. He died in 1941 in an internment camp. An amazing story which ought to be made into a film but I doubt if Mr Smith is in the same league regarding interest or severity of (alleged) crime.

What is interesting is if the trail leads from Smith back into Whitehall and up the political chain. Will it reach Blair? I'm sure Blair and his aides are clever enough to have avoided any direct linkage. It was probably a 'nod and a wink' sort of thing and these unspoken rules would be hard to prove in court. Blair is almost certainly the 'Mr Big' in this drama but, like most of the shadowy mister bigs, I reckon he'll stay in the background, naturally enough, protesting both innocence and outrage.

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