View from the house

The story about Lord Levy’s tax affairs and the fact that he, a millionaire, had paid only £5,000 to the Inland Revenue in 1998-99 was launched last month with a great fanfare, and amid sinister suggestions of dirty tricks in high places.

Now it is emerging that Lord Levy may have been the victim, rather than the perpetrator, of dirty tricks.

First of all he said that he was not earning that year – which would turn the ‘story’ into a ‘non-story’ at a stroke. And secondly it is also emerging that information about his private tax affairs was probably obtained by foul means rather than fair, if not actually illegally.

Screaming headlines have been replaced by more sober, even apologetic headlines.

Unfortunately for Lord Levy, the damage had been done. One must assume that he was speaking the truth when he gave his public explanation. But, as Ann Widdecombe, the shadow Home Secretary, pointed out in the Commons, this allegation would, at the very least, cause eyebrows to be raised. His Lordship is fast finding out that when a dollop of mud is hurled at you, it is impossible to scrape off every single fragment. All of which goes to show that being a millionaire and working for a political party, in a voluntary capacity as a fund-raiser is a combination which, to put it mildly, does not enhance personal popularity.

And the story, however ill-conceived and however much Lord Levy was the victim of a ruthless vendetta, has done little to help the government and the Labour party now battling through its worst period in its three years of power.

It has been said that millionaires, often through no fault of their own, bring nothing but grief to the political parties they support. Think also of Michael Ashcroft, Ken Follett, Geoffrey Robinson, Lord Archer of Weston-super-Mare and Bernie Ecclestone. The Lord Levy affair is merely one of the latest instalments in that gripping, ongoing political soap: The Curse of the Millionaires …

– Chris Moncrieff is senior political analyst at PA News.

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