Tuesday, October 21, 2008

When GOO Met Oleg: Specifics of Denial Suggest More

Gideon George Oliver Osborne is being highly specific in denying that donations were either sought or received from a specific Russian individual, whose hospitality he has certainly enjoyed, albeit he claims briefly and accompanied by his Party's fundraiser, who apparently made a special trip to be present.

Doh! Wouldn't the man have to be on the UK Electoral Register to be eligible to donate as an individual anyway? So, assuming he is not, any donation triggered by this gentleman would have to come via or strictly from a company or association operating in the United Kingdom. The Tories are denying any Company route. So that's that then? Or is it?

Why would Mr Nathaniel Rothschild tell fibs on what he regards a matter of honour and privacy? Essentially giving a demonstration of why throwing stones at Mandleson was an error of judgement. A point that Nick Robinson echoes on his BBC blog who also confirmed that following legal threats the letter was tweaked by Nat.

Could Mr Rothschild make a mistake on such a very simple matter? Is it not the case that a donation from Oleg was OFFERED? But not yet taken up. Nick Robinson is also now explaining on BBC News 24 how Osborne did not deny variations on the "donations discussion" theme.

Ways forward for the Tories: Could a donation be made via an Unincorporated Association? Or in via some promise of unofficial Swift Boating come an election? Or perhaps in the time-honoured honouring-the rules-in-their-breach form of help with overseas travel?

As used by the dissembling Lord Ashcroft. Still dragging his feet and breaking his and Mr William Hague's promises to the government.

GOO must surely come a cropper on this, and although Caroline Spelman and all those MEPs are still in place, this could give Cameron an excuse to move him out of the shadow treasury role. Could Cameron even be in league with Rothschild to achieve this?

Here is the Times letter and the original Conservative rebuttal:

Here are the full texts of the letter sent by financier Nathaniel Rothschild to The Times (as amended following legal threats, here in situ) and the Conservative Party's statement in response to that edited version:


Sir, Since your paper - along with your sister publication The Sunday Times - has made much out of what may or may not have happened at a private gathering of my friends this summer in Corfu, I thought I should make the following observations. I am surprised that you focus on the fact that one of my guests, Peter Mandelson, is a friend of another, Oleg Deripaska. Not once in the acres of coverage did you mention that George Osborne, who also accepted my hospitality, found the opportunity of meeting with Mr Deripaska so good that he invited the Conservatives' fundraiser Andrew Feldman, who was staying nearby, to accompany him on to Mr Deripaska's boat to solicit a donation. Since Mr Deripaska is not a British citizen, it was suggested by Mr Feldman, in a subsequent conversation at which Mr Deripaska was not present, that the donation was "channelled" through one of Mr Deripaska's British companies. Mr Deripaska declined to make any donation. I mention this because it turns out that your obsession with Mr Mandelson is trivial in light of Mr Osborne's actions. I also think it ill behoves all political parties to try and make capital at the expense of another in such circumstances. Perhaps in future it would be better if all involved accepted the age-old adage that private parties are just that.


The allegations made in Mr Rothschild's letter to the Times are completely untrue. Both Andrew Feldman and George Osborne deny absolutely that they attempted to solicit a donation from Oleg Deripaska. Nor did they suggest a method by which he could conceal a donation via a British company. They spent a short period of time on Mr Deripaska's boat at the invitation of Mr Rothschild. Donations to the Conservative Party were not discussed with Mr Deripaska. In a conversation on September 18, Mr Rothschild suggested to Andrew Feldman that Mr Deripaska wanted to make a donation to the party through one of his British companies. The offer was not taken up.
For clarity - the Conservative Party has neither sought or received any donations from Mr Deripaska nor any of his companies.

POSTSCRIPT: Guido claims Mandy got Blair to request this intervention from Rothschild, who was of course a Bullingdon contemporary of GOO, rather than Cameron. And that £50,000 is not the correct quantum of solace for such a high level connection with such an extraordinarily wealthy individual. Rather like 1p damages in a litigation ... derisory. Can't see the un-edited letter anywhere just yet. Any pointers?

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