Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Osborne, Mandelson and Russian yachts

Well, Labour have missed Peter Mandelson haven't they! His revenge for the leaking of the news that he 'dripped poison' into George Osborne's ear about Gordon Brown has been swift and harsh. For what it is worth, I doubt that there is all that much in this story - businessman with substantial UK interests considers making donation to political party, but it is not accepted. However, the timing has been providential for Labour.

BBC coverage has been rather odd I thought. After all they were notably unkeen on making anything at all of Mandelson's own meeting with Deripaska, and are now running with this story as hard as they can. Some have questioned Robert Peston's impartiality in the matter, but what strikes me as oddest is both the apparent triviality of the matter and the way in which the only 'killer' accusation in Rothschild's letter - that the Tories 'solicited' the donation has been denied - to the point of legal action - and subsequently ignored by the media.

So - what did happen? The best way is probably to decipher the Tory statement, notable as much for what it did not say as for what it did:

For clarity – neither Mr Feldman or Mr Osborne have ever discussed with Oleg Deripaska the possibility of him making a political donation. At no point in any of these meetings and discussions did either Mr Osborne or Mr Feldman solicit or attempt to solicit a donation from Mr Deripaska. Nor did they at any stage suggest any way that a donation could be channelled or concealed through a British company.

So, what is not denied there is that it was proposed by Deripaska that he make a donation through a British company - Leyland Daf. This proposed donation was rejected. If that's all there is to this story, then it should peter out pretty quickly. The next thing to watch will be whether the threats of litigation against the Times go anywhere...

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