Donald Macintyre's Sketch: Tory don't-tell policy holds over 'dodgy donors' allegedly linked to HSBC scandal


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Whether David Cameron’s contacts, or non-contacts, with the former HSBC chairman Lord (Stephen) Green before he was appointed a minister were a classic case of “don’t ask, don’t tell” remained less than clear after today’s notably abusive PMQs.

Ed Miliband ratcheted up the insults, but was if anything overburdened with material, throwing in the latest news about Tory funders allegedly linked to the HSBC scandal – “he is a dodgy Prime Minister surrounded by dodgy donors” – as well as trying to nail the PM on Green.

Which presumably caused the excitement on the Labour front bench after he sat down, with urgent words exchanged between the Labour leader and his Chief Whip, Rosie Winterton, and then between Winterton and Miliband’s Parliamentary Private Secretary Karen Buck, who signalled to Labour’s Sharon Hodgson that she should use her upcoming question to ask about Green yet again.

This was unfortunate, as she probably had an ace question prepared on her Washington and Sunderland West constituency that might have got her lots of coverage on Wearside. But sometimes duty calls.

In fact Hodgson got a result, in so far as there was one. When Cameron replied about the Green appointment: “I consulted the Cabinet Secretary and the director for propriety and ethics, and of course the House of Lords Appointments Commission now looks at an individual’s tax affairs before giving them a peerage.” Implication: with Hercule Poirots like that around, who needs face time with a mere trade minister?

Party funding-wise, Miliband was holding more cards, with seven potential candidates allegedly linked to HSBC’s Swiss subsidiary (even if one, Lord Fink, swiftly threatened to sue if Miliband’s accusation was repeated outside the chamber) – compared with just one former Labour one, Lord Paul, no longer in the party.

Meanwhile the venerable Tory Peter Tapsell suggested that Greece could slip into “the Russian sphere of influence” without urgent steps to rescue it. A timely reminder of a world beyond Westminster.