Levy cannot escape the cash question
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.”
Lord Levy: £10 would not go far