This gentleman is Bennie Abrahams, father of David Abrahams aka David Martin, Labour’s “property developer” peculiar donor, whose ability to get planning permission for major developments in areas next to the A1 where development is banned, is of course in no way related to his secret donations to New Labour.
Bennie Abrahams was a Labour Councillor in Newcastle for decades including throughout the 1960s, when he was one of T Dan Smith’s men in what was perhaps the most famously corrupt local government in British history, with the Poulson scandal only a chip off the tip of a very large iceberg. David inherited most of his massive property portfolio from the beautiful Bennie whose relationship with T Dan Smith was unlikely to have been unhelpful to the development of those property interests.
It is particularly interesting to me as I met T Dan Smith, as a small child, in our house in Peterlee. I am not sure if I also met Poulson. My father had a gaming business, Cam Automatics of Seaham Harbour, operating in Newcastle and throughout the North East, and he had to “keep happy” the Labour Party bigwigs who controlled all the various licensing bodies, including Newcastle City Council. He told me that Get Carter was an absolutely accurate portrayal of the atmosphere of those times, of the complex interlinking between all types of organised crime and local government, and of the levels of violence often involved.
It may have a smoother face now, but I learnt in standing for election in Blackburn that the corruption, both financial and procedural, arising from long term Labour domination of councils is as hard-nosed and vicious as ever. Scotland has countered this by introducing proportional representation for local elections, effectively eliminating one party mini-states. England is of course a comparatively benighted country.
As our political parties have become ever more monolithic, with huge staffs and huge advertising budgets, they have also all become less popular, with party memberships and voting turnout both tumbling. These two developments are linked. The major political parties are no longer groups of people working for a common belief, but large corporations attempting to get their hands on the levers of power for the enormous personal benefit this brings to those who control them. The local campaign and efforts of local people in a constituency, on the whole, is now drowned out by the massive national advertising and coverage of huge, expensively glitzy rallies.
The answer is to cap donations, from companies, individuals and trade unions, at £10,000 a year, and for parties simply to shed their armies of spinners and researchers, and dispense with control of every billboard in the country at election time. A candidate in a constituency election has “strict liability* for offences like bribery and treating. He has no defence of ignorance if someone from his campaign does it. Similarly any donation offences should be of strict liability, with Party Leader, Chairman and Treasurer all liable to three years imprisonment for any offence.