Blair fundraiser arrested again

Stephen Beard Jan 31, 2007

TEXT OF INTERVIEW

SCOTT JAGOW: The main fundraiser for British Prime Minister Tony Blair has been arrested for a second time. Lord Michael Levy says he’s done nothing wrong, but police suspect him of covering up a campaign finance scandal. Our Correspondent Stephen Beard is London is on the line. Stephen, covering up what exactly?

STEPHEN BEARD: The allegation is that he and others may have arranged for wealthy party donors to receive a title like a knighthood or even a peerage in return for a party donation. This would be pretty serious considering that a peerage involves having a seat in the House of Lords, a vote in the legislature.

JAGOW: How close is this getting to Tony Blair?

BEARD: Well Tony Blair has himself been questioned by the police. That’s the first time that’s happened in British history, a serving Prime Minister being interviewed by the police about a case. No charges have been laid yet, but this is getting uncomfortably close to Tony Blair.

JAGOW: Here in the States we’re used to hearing about campaign fundraising scandals. How unusual is this in Britain?

BEARD: Pretty unusual. I mean 10 or 15 years ago you rarely heard of anything of this kind. Campaign finance wasn’t really an issue. British political campaigns were very low-key, there wasn’t a huge amount of money involved. This has changed over the years and especially under Tony Blair whose premiership has been more like a U.S. presidency. The campaigns have been much more expensive and therefore the parties have had to raise a lot more money.

JAGOW: OK Stephen, thank you.

BEARD: OK Scott.

JAGOW: Marketplace’s Stephen Beard in London.

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