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20 November 2010

The Times’s bizarre attack on Ed Miliband

Miliband criticised for not packing the House of Lords with party donors.

By George Eaton

Another day, another anti-Ed Miliband story in the Times. The paper, which was a firm supporter of David Miliband, has been running a series all week on divisions within the Labour Party. But today’s splash (£) is more bizarre than most. The paper effectively criticises Miliband for not packing the House of Lords with party donors.

It reports:

The Labour leader was allowed to nominate ten people for a new list of working peers published yesterday. But he decided against handing seats in the House of Lords to Nigel Doughty and Sir Ronald Cohen — who have given more than £6 million to the party since 2005 — as well as Jon Mendelsohn, Labour’s fundraising chief.

All three had been on a list drawn up by Gordon Brown, but The Times can reveal they were later told they would not be nominated. Sir Gulam Noon was the only significant donor on the new list, to show “Generation Ed was drawing a line under the past”.

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After reading that, one feels moved to state the obvious: party donors do not have, and should not have, any automatic right to sit in the legislature. As Sunder Katwala points out, given the damage that the “cash-for-honours” inquiry did to Labour, it’s rather surprising to see Miliband under fire for not rewarding vested interests. Indeed, had he, like David Cameron, packed the upper house with party donors, one suspects he would soon face accusations of “Labour sleaze”.

New Conservative peers included prominent party donor Sir Michael Bishop, the former boss of the BMI airline and Stanley Fink, the Tory treasurer who has given millions to the party. Cameron also chose to ennoble Robert Edmiston, the multi-millionaire car salesman, whose appointment was blocked in 2005 amid concerns over his tax affairs. He was later questioned by the police during the cash-for-honours affair and led the secretive Midlands Industrial Council. As Martin Bell rightly argued: “This can only add to the public’s perception that high honours can be bought. We are back to the situation we were in with cash-for-honours.”

The Times would do well to turn its attention to this. Does it really want a political system even more in hock to vested interests?