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Gulam Noon lets the cat out of the bag

Sir Noon said he was made to keep the loan of #2,50,000 confidential by a senior Labour official, reports Vijay Dutt.
None | By Vijay Dutt, London
PUBLISHED ON MAR 21, 2006 06:10 PM IST

Tony Blair's secret list of 12 multi-millionaires who bankrolled him for the election last year was made public on Monday evening, in an attempt to prevent allegations of sleaze from destroying whatever is left of Blair's premiership.

The damage caused to his credibility could hasten his departure from Downing Street. The worst part in the whole funding of almost £14 million is that it was kept secret even from John Prescott, Deputy Prime Minister, Chancellor Gordon Brown and the elected treasurer of the party.

The disclosures have also made 12 identified wealthy men extremely bitter with Blair. Two of them, the Indian-origin Sir Gulam K Noon, and Dr Chai Patel are livid and have spoken publicly about being let down, their only fault being loyalty to the party.

Sir Noon said he was made to keep the loan of £2,50,000 confidential by a senior Labour official who asked him to keep quiet. The official said it was refundable and therefore circumvented funding rules.

The greater damage to Blair is the disclosure that one controversial name was also in the list of those who gave loans. A few are said to be linked with companies which allegedly had business with government departments. 

The Government has now rushed forward legislation requiring parties to disclose all future loans and possibly past ones. But Tories have refused to let out the identities of past donors. They have suggested capping the amount of donations and increased state funding of elections.

But it is to be seen how long can Blair last. The party's ruling National Executive Committee meeting was said to be very heated. Lady Helena Kennedy, a Labour peer who chaired recently an inquiry into public disengagement with politics told BBC it was now time for Blair to leave office.

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