STREET TALK

The fortnightly column that puts words in your mouth. This week: DENIAL

April in Paris, chestnuts in blossom ... Yip Harburg, who wrote that song in Manhattan, had never been to Paris and nor have I. Never. It's all a tissue of lies, a monstrous falsehood dreamt up by the yellow press who are using their purple prose to blacken my name.

I categorically deny these allegations that I have been involved in any sort of monkey business. This is all tittle-tattle and scuttlebutt. I repeat, there have been no bungs or backhanders, no freebies, sweeteners, baksheesh or kickbacks. I have never been involved in any underhand backstairs deals or in any doubledealing and to those who claim that I used a little palm oil in order to feather my own nest I ask: where is the smoking gun?

Which brings me to the outrageous claim that my company took moolah from the mullahs in exchange for a selection of heaters and other hardware. This was done on a need-to-know basis and I didn't need to know. I was not in the frame, I was out of the loop and kept in the dark. Nor have I ever abused my position to cream a little off the top or line my pockets out of the public purse.

My relationship with our partners has at all times been kosher, that is, on the level and above board. Yet when I have helped them, in the national interest, to purchase some trifle - Hampstead, for example - the Grub Street hacks start bleating that I have my snout in the trough, that I'm on the take or shaking the money tree and am somehow pulling a snow job on my own people and government.

This talk of scams is utter flimflam. I have always done everything by the book, up front and straight from the shoulder. I am clean as a whistle, and that is gospel, chapter and verse, the honest-to-God truth, and anyone who says otherwise will be hearing at length from my brief.

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