Around a month after the 1987 general election, Tory prime minister Margaret Thatcher sat down to write a letter Asil Nadir, boss of fashion firm Polly Peck.
“I cannot thank you enough,” she wrote. “Your contribution helped to secure our decisive victory.” Nadir had donated £440,000 to the Tories—almost £1 million in today’s money.
Just three years later, the firm collapsed into liquidation owing £1.3 billion. Nadir stood accused of fraud after secretly transferring money out of the firm before it went bust.
He fled to Cyprus in 1993 to dodge the charges, where the billionaire lived high on the hog for almost two decades.
This week the tycoon was finally jailed for ten years on charges of stealing £29 million. The prosecution alleged the real total was likely more than £150 million.
Sentencing him, the judge called Nadir “a wealthy man who stole out of pure greed”. No wonder he and Thatcher were such good pals. In fact reports from the time say Nadir was feted around Westminster as a hero of the City.
Now the Tories are facing calls to return the cash. But they say they accepted the donations “in good faith”. So that’s alright then.
Just good Mates
There’s one Tory who will be even less happy to see Asil Nadir behind bars. Michael Mates had to quit as a minister in 1993 after it emerged that he had sent Nadir a watch inscribed, “Don’t let the buggers get you down”.
Mates is now standing in the election for police and crime commissioner in Hampshire.
In the red
Roulette-based telly game show Red or Black? has a new sponsor—payday loan firm Wonga. The ITV show, hosted by the people’s millionaires Ant and Dec, sees contestants win £500,000 on the spin of a wheel.
Coincidentally, that’s how much money you would owe Wonga if you borrowed £6.70 from the firm for three years at its 4,214 percent interest.
Too few cooks
The BBC apparently refused a statue of George Orwell for its new HQ as he was “too left wing”. But Orwell wasn’t so keen on statues anyway.
“You see statues everywhere to politicians, poets, bishops, but none to cooks,” he wrote in The Road to Wigan Pier. It’s not clear if BBC canteen workers are under consideration.
Raab makes work for idle Tory MPs
The Tory MPs who called workers in Britain “idlers” weren’t just speaking off the cuff. The attack is the basis of a whole new faction within the party, the Free Enterprise Group—and its manifesto, Britannia Unchained.
“Too many people in Britain, we argue, prefer a lie-in to hard work,” it says. It calls instead for workers’ conditions to be cut so “we” can “compete” with the likes of China. Dominic Raab, the group’s leader, says he is “a big Thatcher fan”.
The book, written by five Tory MPs, calls for workers to “rediscover the lost virtue of hard graft”. Raab once complained that constituents who email him are “a real nuisance”. And all the MPs are currently on an 11-week summer holiday from parliament.
Remember David Cameron’s “Big Society”? Charities were going to step in while the state butted out. The latest figures reveal that over 7,000 charities closed last year—many thanks to funding cuts.
Bingo baron grabs London fire engines
There’s more to the story of a private firm buying London’s fire engines for £2.
It turns out that the company, AB&A Investments, is run by one man—the implausibly named Sir Aubrey Thomas Brocklebank. The firm was only set up last month and has not filed any accounts.
Brocklebank is an old Etonian and baronet who runs a bingo hall company. In fact he has been a director of 69 companies—38 of them now dissolved. And how many have been in liquidation? Man alive, five.
One last bit on the Olympics. Rokeby School in east London has a gym so hot that pupils have collapsed in it.
But for the Olympics it was used for athletes training—so air conditioning was fitted. But now the Olympics are over, it’s been taken out again. What a legacy.
Lib Dems face ‘wipeout’ in 2015 election
The Liberal Democrats are on course to lose 80 percent of their seats at the next election, poll firm YouGov says. The party is running at 10 percent support, which would see it win just ten MPs in the election, scheduled for 2015.
In 2010 the party got 24 percent of the vote and 57 MPs were elected. But its support has nose-dived.
This news came as a poll by Liberal Democrat Voice showed half of the Lib Dems’ own supporters want party leader Nick Clegg to quit.