Historic Tory Sleaze

Cash for Questions: David Tredinnick and Graham Riddick

In July 1994 a businessman, posing as a Sunday Times reporter offered ten Tory MPs and ten Labour MPs £1000 to ask a question at Prime Minister’s Question Time. Out of the 20, two Tories, David Tredinnick and Graham Riddick, both Parliamentary Private Secretaries (PPS) accepted.

When the story was published by the newspaper, Tredinnick immediately denied the allegation. However, the next day the Sunday Times released a tape of Tredinnick asking for the cheque to be sent to his private address, Riddick had also accepted a cheque (although he later had second thoughts and sent it back.)

In an effort to escape their wrongdoing both MPs accused the Sunday Times of entrapment but this did not stop Tory chief whip Richard Ryder from suspending both MPs as PPSs. The wrongdoers were suspended for two weeks by the Committee of Privileges and fined Tredinnick $1800 and Riddick $900.

Cash for Questions Continued: Tory MPs and Saudi Businessmen

Picture of Neil Hamilton
Picture of Neil Hamilton

After Northern Ireland minister, Tim Smith resigned as a result of accepting cash for questions money, paid by Egyptian businessman Mohamed Al-Fayed, more Tory sleaze was about to be revealed. In 1994, The Guardian directed similar allegations that Tim Smith was accused of towards the Tory Trade Minister Neil Hamilton. Hamilton immediately denied the allegations and issued a writ for defamation against The Guardian. The writ pointed out that Hamilton and his wife had stayed at a hotel owned by Al-Fayed and that the charge of $3000 had been settled by the management of the hotel. Hamilton claimed that he had stayed in the hotel as Al-Fayed’s guest, much the same as he would in a private house. However, Hamilton was shortly after sacked from the government amidst the dubious relationship between himself and Al-Fayed and then further allegations of sleaze were laid against him, Hamilton admitted accepting £10,000 as a lobbyist and then two years later, in 1996, three of Al-Fayed’s employees claimed that they had processed cash payments to Hamilton, Hamilton then immediately dropped the case against The Guardian.

Picture of Jonathan Aitken in 1999 outside the Old Bailey
Picture of Jonathan Aitken in 1999 outside the Old Bailey

A short time later it became knowledge that Tory Chief Executive to the Treasury, Jonathan Aitken, had also been staying at the Mohamed Al-Fayed owned Ritz Hotel in Paris. The Guardian stated that the £1000 bill had not been paid by Al-Fayed but by a Saudi businessman called Said Mohamed Ayas. Aitken denied this and stated that his wife had paid the bill. It was later reported that Aitken sat on a board of directors who’s company had been illegally exporting arms to Iran. These allegations were reported by The Independent and Grananda TV programme: World in Action. However, Aitken immediately denied the accusations laid upon him and sued The Guardian and Granada TV. Whilst this was taking place The Sunday Mirror reported that Aitken had had an affair with a prostitute 15 years earlier. He claimed that his wife had forgiven him for this but it was then revealed that Aitken had had a love child with a friend of the family. Jonathan Aitken emerged from the law courts brusied and battered and it came out in the libel trial that his wife had not paid the bill at the Ritz hotel like he had claimed since she was not even in the same city as him at the time. Aitken had asked his wife and daughter to perjure themselves to back his story. His case collapsed and he later admitted to perjury and attempting to pervert the course of justice.

The Privatization of British Telecom (BT)

Keith Best, Tory MP for Anglesey
Keith Best, Tory MP for Anglesey

In 1984 the Tory government under the Thatcher administration sold off BT for £4 billion. In total there was 51,000 pages of applications from people who had made share applications for BT so the magazine Labour Magazine started the tedious task of checking through the names to make sure there was no Tory MP caught with their fingers in the cookie jar. The rules of the privatization meant that any one individual could only make one application. 34 year old Keith Best was the Conservative MP for Anglesey and had somewhat over subscribed to the privatization of BT.  Labour Research found Keith Best’s name, they also found ‘Keith Lander Best’ and L’ander Best’. Furthermore, not only had Best used three different variations of his name but he had also used four different addresses and six different bank accounts. As a result of this he had bought six times more shares than permitted which resulted in a profit of over £3000. It was later revealed that Best had also made multiple applications in the Jaguar cars sell-off and his dealings in other government sell-offs came under investigation. Due to these misdemeanors, Best announced he would donate the profits he made from the sell-off of BT to charity and stated that he would not seek re-election. However, in October 1987 best was found guilty and sentenced to four months in jail as well as being fined $3000. Although the prison sentence was later dropped and the fine increased.

It was around the same time that Labour magazine discovered that another Conservative MP, Eric Cockham, had bought more than his fair share of British Gas shares. Cockham claimed that they were for his grandchildren and like Keith Best, Cockham too stated that he would not stand in the upcoming election. Cockham, however, was never prosecuted.

Chancellor of the Exchequer Maulding

Reginald Maulding was the Chancellor of the Exchequer in 1964 when the Tory’s lost power. He used the financial expertise and status that he had gained at the treasury to enrich himself during his time as shadow chancellor. In 1965, within months of losing the leadership battle to Sir Edward Heath, Maulding was earning four times his parliamentary wage by using his name and status to get himself on the board of directors for several companies. By the end of the 1960s he was a name at Lloyds and a pronounced banker. But Maulding’s wealth also came from dubious actions. One of his directorships was with Peachey Properties, a company ran by businessman Eric Miller. Maulding wanted to avoid income tax and was anxious to protect his two homes from the new Capital Gains tax which the Labour government was planning to introduce. Therefore, he offered to work as a consultant for Peachey Properties for free. In exchange, Peachey would buy the freehold on his country house, the house that was already in his wife’s name. Peachey would then make repairs and improvements to the house. The whole deal cost Maulding  total of a years salary, tax free, in advance but he was able to avoid the taxation which he initially set out to do.

Picture of Reginald Maulding
Picture of Reginald Maulding

Eventually, Maulding created what was regarded as a Ponzi scheme with the help of other businessmen and in 1972 it all came crashing down on him and Maulding resigned from office. However in the debate following his resignation, Sir Edward Heath described Maulding as an “honourable man”. Maulding was consigned to the backbenches and died in 1979.

If you have any stories of Tory sleaze yourself please tell us them in the comments section below.

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