Monday 5 February 2007

It isn't just whether loans were obtained for peerages, it is that people believe this could have happened under a Labour government.

Nearly a week on from the arrest of Lord Levy and the revelation of the second Police interview of the Prime Minister, the furore over the loans for peerages is unabated. All through last week I was continuously asked by the media whether I thought the Prime Minister should step down.

My response was that for at least two years I have been calling for the Prime Minister to go because I disagreed with his political ideology and many of the policies which stem from it but with regard to the loans for peerages issue I adhered to the straightforward principle of innocent until proven guilty whether it is the Prime Minister or any other citizen.

I left it at that. However I made it clear it was critical that the Police should be allowed to get on with their investigation and that they should be given the fullest co-operation.

My main concern was for the reputation of the Labour Party and the standing of politics more generally. That is why on Tuesday I urged that the Labour Party should act to protect its reputation by appointing an independent person to liaise directly with the Police inquiry so that we could demonstrate that the Party was doing everything it could to co-operate with the inquiry and to be completely open and transparent. In this way we could overcome any allegations that the Party was involved in any cover up.

Many New Labour advisers, surrounding both Blair and Brown, hope that nothing will come of the Police inquiry and once it is over they can return to politics as normal. This misses an important lesson of this whole episode.

A critical concern for every Labour member and supporter must be not just whether loans were obtained for peerages but the fact that a large proportion of the electorate believe that under a Labour government this could have occurred at all.

We need to think very carefully about how we have so lost the trust of a large section of our community that they could even contemplate this happening under a Labour government.