Wednesday, October 22, 2008
The Curious Case of Toffs Falling Out
It's always reassuring for Labour Party members to see top Tories falling out, but the current case of Osborne, Rothschild and Feldman with Mandelson floating aound, malignly on the outskirts, is a bit hard to fathom. As far as I can see it, these are the pertinent facts:
1. Osborne met Oleg Peripaska on his luxury yacht in Corfu during the summer in the company of top Tory fundraiser, Andrew Feldman. It is alleged the two Tories anticipated eliciting a donation from the Russian oligarch, to Conserrvative party funds.
2. Osborne subsequently briefed ST journalists in the late summer that Mandeslon, also on the yacht, had 'dripped pure poison' about Gordon into his ear. Mandelson has denied the story which headlined the ST soon after Mandy was brought back into the Cabinet. Sadly Mandelson's bad-mouthing is only too believable, eevn to Labour loyalists.
3. Nat Rothschild, a life-long friend of Osborne(fellow Bulingdonite), was furious at his breach of confidence regarding Mandeslon and has sought revenge for his friend's discourtesy. This has consisted of a claim that Osborne deliberately solicited a donation from the billionaire, something which would be in contravention of the Political parties, Elections and Referendums Act, 2001. Osborne has denied this, suggested it was Rothschild who was the real initiator of the idea, but has not denied discussioins took place, at least hypothetically that a donation might be made. It would not be impossible, for example, that the Russuian could channel sums via his British companies.
So where does it all this leave us? Well, it's a charming piece of political trivia to ingest with our breakfasts and it could get worse for Osborne, who is on the back foot and might suffer from further revelations. But if this is all there is, I don't think George need worry too mjuch about his job just yet. Michael Heseltine, on the PM programme yesterday, was right to say there isn't really a story here. People met on a yacht, they chatted and possibly explored possibilities, but in the end no law was broken and the fuss is essentially press generated. The same thing happens with the government as the target; this time it's the Opposition.
Osborne might reflect however, that he is being undermined by his deviation from the rule of gentlemanly discretion. His old mate is so incensed he is seeking to end Osborne's political career. I suspect there is more to the history of this spat than meets the eye. He might also reflect that Peter Mandelson is a dangerous kind of friend to have. Incidentally, Hezza's dismissal of the yacht as 'not particularly luxurious' was a bit of an eye-opener. This is a 238 foot vessel costing in the region of £20million. It's a different world isn't it?