Levy can­not es­cape the cash ques­tion

The Jewish Chronicle - - NEWS - BY BERNARD JOSEPHS CAM­BRIDGE

THE “CASH for peer­ages” af­fair con­tin­ues to haunt Lord Levy on his re­turn to the pub­lic stage. There was laugh­ter among a largely sup­port­ive au­di­ence at the Cam­bridge Union on Wed­nes­day night when, wav­ing a £10 note, a stu­dent asked if the af­fair had been dam­ag­ing.

Lord Levy joked: “Your £10 will pay for a cou­ple of drinks in the bar, but noth­ing else.” More se­ri­ously, he ad­mit­ted that the po­lice in­ves­ti­ga­tion into the al­le­ga­tions had caused “dam­age and ag­gra­va­tion to me and my fam­ily. But it’s over now, thank good­ness.”

There needed to be a change in the sys­tem to cap po­lit­i­cal spend­ing and fundrais­ing. He favoured a £50,000 limit on do­na­tions.

On the Mid­dle East, he crit­i­cised Pres­i­dent Bush for not hav­ing vis­ited the re­gion. “If you take some­thing se­ri­ously, you have to see with your own eyes what is go­ing on.”

Dur­ing his nine years as Tony Blair’s spe­cial Mid­dle East en­voy, Lord Levy “al­ways wore my Jewish­ness with great pride”, he said.

In­deed, the late Syr­ian Pres­i­dent, Hafez Al-As­sad, used to quiz him about Jewish mat­ters and Arab hosts were al­ways aware of his di­etary re­quire­ments. Crit­i­cism of the post had ran­kled: “Peo­ple asked: ‘Why Levy?’ They said he’s un­elect e d, un­ac­count­able and he’s Jewish.” Yet he had worked hard to build re­la­tions with Arab lead­ers which had ben­e­fited the gov­ern­ment.

“Just be­cause one is a proud Jew and be­lieves in the sur­vival of Is­rael doesn’t mean we have to agree with ev­ery­thing the Is­raeli gov­ern­ment does. If you have mu­tual re­spect for other reli­gions, that leads to un­der­stand­ing.”

How­ever, the role for the UK in the peace process was “very, very mi­nor. We are just a bit player. This is a show run from Wash­ing­ton.”

PHOTO: JOHN RIFKIN

Lord Levy: £10 would not go far

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