Friday, March 13, 2009

Mandy's Blind Trust Could Backfire

Mandy is investing in his future with a secret portfolio which he hopes will make him a nice little earner for his old age, all neatly hidden away from the prying eyes of both Peter and the public. But putting his blind faith in a blind trust could backfire, as Blair found to his cost. 

It took a long time coming but the first published register of ministers' interests didn't disappoint and journalists were quick to rake up any dirt. 

But the whole point is it did take a long time, after Brown first made the promise after he wrestled the crown from Blair. And that gave everyone plenty of time to come up squeaky clean. 

Mandelson, it's revealed, has a portfolio of investments and that does not sit well with his high profile job as business secretary where what he does is everybody's business. 

Downing Street was quick to point out that there was no conflict of interests because Peter has put them all in the private portfolio of a blind trust. Mandelson doesn't know what they are and therefore it doesn't affect his decisions as a minister, according to the bullshitters. 

But the whole point of a blind trust is to hide away the hard-earned earnings and allow ministers to hide behind the mask of no conflict of interest. 

Ministers have put shares in blind trusts before to wriggle out of allegations of a conflict of interests but they can come unstuck. 

The Orange Party well remembers Blair putting his trust and pilling all the cash in investments in a blind trust used to buy the Cheriegate flats when Cherie Blair purchased two flats in Bristol with the help of a convicted fraudster.

Downing Street's mighty spinning effort to wriggle out of the row came unstuck when it emerged that Blair's blind trust was used to buy them.

Mandy doesn't have that luxury. He's not exactly Mr Popular and so far he's managed to escape the whiffs of scandal over dodgy dealings despite the best efforts of some to dish up the dirt. He's been slimed with green custard but so far has escaped getting egg on his face. 

What happens if it's revealed Mandy's blind faith in a blind trust has invested in, say, a car manufacturer like Land Rover or the Royal Mail's Dutch 'private partner' TNT? 

Having shares in Land Rover after you've spent £27 million of taxpayers' cash to green the Range Rover wouldn't go down well. Having shares in TNT would have to come with Mandy's suicide note. On the other hand he could have lost it all by having it invested in Bernard Madoff's poxy ponzi scam. How we would laugh. 

It's not as if Mandelson needs to squirrel away the dosh for his old age. With a comfortable pension pot from the EU and from his times as three times a minister, that should keep him in the style to which he is accustomed. 

The government is on its beam ends and any dodgy dealings or whiff of sleaze and scandal would be the straw that broke Brown's back.

Mandelson is skating on thin ice. He's an unelected and unaccountable cabinet minister and the knives are out for him, not least from within his own Party. 

Everything he does as business secretary in public is everybody's business not least the taxpayers who pay his salary. And that includes all his investments and share dealings even if they are hidden from his view. 

But Mandy is not alone in having blind faith in the blind trust trick. New Labour lords have leapt in, including trade minister Lord Davies, Lord Darzi and city minister Lord Myners. And health minister Ben Bradshaw.

Tories have attacked Brown's promises of greater transparency as looking "threadbare". LibDems have accused Mandelson and his bunch of ministers of concealing their financial interests. And that begs the question what have Brown's ministers got to hide?

LibDem forensic ferret, Norman Baker, quite rightly wants to know "when he [Mandelson] transferred responsibility to the trust and who manages it. We have a right to know who is looking after his interests. If it is by one of his mates then it is not really arm's-length at all."

Meanwhile it's revealed the ministerial code was changed under Brown to take out all references to blind trusts. Earlier versions had clearly warned: "Even with a trust the minister could be assumed to know the contents of the portfolio for at least a period after its creation, so the protection a trust offers against conflict of interest is not complete." Now there's a surprise.


Oldrightie said...

My supposition is that some of his notorious friends may well have influence on where and how his fortune was obtained. They also have had dealings with him on EU as well as UK matters. The slowly growing smell may well become an overwhelming stench.

Anonymous said...

The Dishonorable, and briefly green, M'Lord Mandelson is the best argument I've yet heard for an elected House of Lords. He certainly wouldn't get in !

Mitch said...

Blind to us and the taxman maybe.It was the slime I felt sorry for.