A scandal far from London is edging closer and close to the door of Number 10. In amongst the plants and moans that normally take up the latter stages of PMQs there was a rare gem of a very intriguing question from the SNP's Angus Robertson asking Gordon about a conference call to discuss the suitability of Labour's disgraced cocaine king
Steven Purcellas the candidate in the Glasgow East by-election in 2008. As the Screws
reporteda 'Labour insider' claimed:
"At that point, rumours about Steven had reached the party headquarters. So a discussion was had with him - and he was asked outright about the drug rumours. And after that, any idea of him being the candidate was ABANDONED immediately."Robertson asked:
AR: "Given that the Prime Minister will have looked closely at the tragic case. Will he confirm whether a Downing Street staffer took part in a conference in July 2008 which discussed the suitability of Stephen Purcell?
GB: I know nothing of what he says but I shall look at it.Always one for a dodging a question, what was Gordon so coy about? Why so subdued? Surely this was a great chance to attack the SNP for appalling smears, as they are so often, and tell them to put up or shut up. TB understands that at the post-PMQ briefing afterwards Scottish journalists were palmed off with: “There are more important questions”. For once someone doing the briefing was correct. There are some very interesting questions still surrounding this case indeed.
Could it be that Brown knows more than he is letting on? The story of Steven Purcell's resignation has led to a constant drip drip about just what was going on at Glasgow City Council and its relationship with big donors to the Labour party. The Scottish Sunday papers are having a field ay about big Labour donors and lucrative public sector contracts. Million pound
linkedto shady companies. And it goes further than that -
blackmail and organised crime.
What TB can't understand is why the caledonian editors are so reluctant to get down and dirty and blow the lid of this story once and for all. It's not like they
didn't know: "Politicians, journalists and lawyers alike, apparently, had direct or indirect knowledge for years about the personal habits of the leader of Glasgow City Council and chose to ignore it." Great.
But this whole saga has plenty more questions that are still needing to be answered. Not just about Labour donors getting taxpayers cash but about Labour donors and their connections with gangsters. "The Digger", a small A5 Glasgow newssheet has just revealed that Labour donor James Mortimer is the uncle of the common law wife of a well known Glasgow gangster.
As well as being a high profile attendee, along with the Prime Minister, at the Labour fundraising dinner the day before Steven Purcell's little moment of cirsis, Mr Mortimer has entertained some intriguingly high profile people at his
Club 29in Glasgow.
Such links between the Scottish Labour party and the mob have been raising eyebrows for the
last few years. Like the Red Rose Dinner attended by Labour First Minister Jack McConnell and John Reid. It was also attended by a drug dealer by the name of Justin McAlroy who ended up dead six days later. James Mortimer also attended that dinner.
His father, Tommy McAlroy, who is a close friend of Labour whip Frank Roy, has also been
implicatedin drug baroncy. And it’s also not the first time John Reid – a former Home Secretary for goodness sake – has had family connections reported that
raise eyebrows- his father in law was arrested in a drugs bust.
So you might be getting an idea why Gordon Brown was not exactly keen on drawing attention to the UK media about a story which has him and numerous senior Labour leaders wining and dining with people who have some seriously dodgy connections and backgrounds. If its full implications broke before the sixth of May it may not just destroy Scottish Labour but bring down Brown.
But there are three important questions that still remain unanswered over two weeks after these events broke. So TB will have to ask them publicly in order that the media in London do what Glasgow news editors have been too afraid to do.
1. Who is paying for Steven Purcell's bills? Public relations, top media lawyers, stays in rehab clinics and lengthy trips abroad cost money and Steven is now unemployed - his whereabouts still unknown. Most of his money went up his nose so how is he paying his way. Why did he turn down the help the council's media officers offered?
2. Under Steven Purcell's leadership of Glasgow City Council what deals have the council,
City Building LLPand any other arms length organisations set up by the council done - particularly with major Labour donors like James Mortimer, Brian Dempsey and Willie Haughey?
3. Who was sitting at the top table with Gordon Brown and Steven Purcell at the Labour party fundraiser the night before Steven Purcell's announcement to his colleagues and did anything happen at the dinner to hasten his departure from the council?
Dig dig dig.