Let Lord Levy speak his mind

The at­tacks on Michael Levy’s new mem­oir are ground­less


IN A FEW days’ time, my old school chum, Baron Levy of Mill Hill, will pub­lish a po­lit­i­cal mem­oir. The son of a mi­nor syn­a­gogue of­fi­cial, Michael Levy rose — or, rather, raised him­self — from rel­a­tive ob­scu­rity to be­come the lead­ing An­glo-Jewish plu­to­crat of his gen­er­a­tion. Not con­tent with this, he went much fur­ther than any pre­vi­ous lead­ing plu­to­crat that the Jews of Bri­tain have pro­duced. He be­came the chief fundraiser to the leader of a po­lit­i­cal party that, at the time (we are talk­ing of the mid1990s), seemed un­likely ever again to win of­fice.

Many and var­ied were the Jewish pun­dits who as­sured me, at the time, that my old school chum had backed the wrong horse. Well, he hadn’t. And when Mr Blair trounced the Tories in 1997, and en­tered 10 Down­ing Street, Michael Levy was not far be­hind. With­out ever him­self hold­ing min­is­te­rial of­fice, he be­came the clos­est con­fi­dant of the Prime Min­is­ter. To be able to tele­phone the Prime Min­is­ter when­ever he chose, and be cer­tain of be­ing put through, and of not be­ing fobbed off by a private sec­re­tary — that is power in­deed. To be able to ob­serve the work­ings of 10 Down­ing Street at such close quar­ters and in such in­ti­mate de­tail — that is a rare priv­i­lege.

Nat­u­rally this priv­i­lege and this power came at a price. Ev­ery politi­cian has en­e­mies — it goes (as they say) with the ter­ri­tory. Michael Levy’s en­e­mies, how­ever, were to be found not just within the up­per ech­e­lons of the Labour party and gov­ern­ment — those who re­sented this well-coif­fured Jew- ish up­start from Stoke New­ing­ton who (vir­tu­ally) had the front-door key of No 10. They were also drawn from the ranks of the Jews. That a man called “Levy” should (with­out even both­er­ing to an­gli­cise his sur­name) be so close to the Prime Min­is­ter evoked fear and envy. When Michael Levy was ar­rested dur­ing the cash-for-hon­ours in­ves­ti­ga­tions, some Jews of my ac­quain­tance vis­i­bly gloated, but oth­ers trem­bled. But my old school chum had done noth­ing wrong, and he knew it.

Now he has de­cided to share with the rest of us some of the de­tails of th­ese tur­bu­lent years. His mem­oir, A Ques­tion of Hon­our, will af­ford us all a very novel per­spec­tive on the Blair premiership. Ex­tracts have re­cently ap­peared in the Mail on Sun­day. Based on what they have al­ready read therein, some of Lord Levy’s fel­low Jews ap­pear to be less than pleased at the rev­e­la­tions that the mem­oir prom­ises to re­veal.

Pro­fes­sor Eric Moon­man, the for­mer Labour MP who now heads the Zion­ist Fed­er­a­tion (a body of anoma­lous in­signif­i­cance), has de­nounced what has al­ready ap­peared as “nau­se­at­ing and dis­agree­able … tan­ta­mount to a breach of private con­ver­sa­tions”. “Th­ese rev­e­la­tions could hardly come at a worse time,” ex­plains Pro­fes­sor Moon­man. “The Labour lead­er­ship will not for­give or for­get what has been said.” Lawrie Nerva, trea­surer of a com­pletely in­con­se­quen­tial com- mit­tee called The Jewish Labour Move­ment, has added to this de­nun­ci­a­tion. “At a time when all Labour sup­port­ers should be seen to be clos­ing ranks,” opined Mr Nerva, Lord Levy’s de­ci­sion to pub­lish a mem­oir re­vealed “a to­tal dis­re­gard” of the dam­age that might be done to the stand­ing of the Labour party.

Rarely have I read such sanc­ti­mo­nious twad­dle dressed up as al­legedly se­ri­ous po­lit­i­cal com­ment — and be­lieve me, one doesn’t spend 40 years study­ing Bri­tish po­lit­i­cal his­tory (as I have done) with­out com­ing across a great deal of twad­dle and a goodly mea­sure of com­pletely hyp­o­crit­i­cal high-mind­ed­ness into the bar­gain.

Politi­cians have been pub­lish­ing “tell all” po­lit­i­cal mem­oirs ever since Vis­count Cross, Home Sec­re­tary un­der Ben­jamin Dis­raeli, cir­cu­lated an ac­count of Dis­raeli’s cab­i­nets, re­veal­ing just how shal­low had been the po­lit­i­cal vi­sion that Dis­raeli pro­fessed. That was back in 1903. The prece­dent set by Cross has been fol­lowed by nu­mer­ous other men and women in pub­lic life, and is now well es­tab­lished.

As for the “dam­age” — if any — that Michael Levy’s mem­oir might have done to the Labour party, in­com­pa­ra­bly greater dam­age was — surely — done by those who forced Tony Blair from of­fice and re­placed him with the arch-bun­gler Gor­don Brown.

When Michael Levy’s back was against the ropes, how many of the Labour glit­terati spoke up for him?

Party loy­alty is all very well. But this can never over­ride the prin­ci­ple of open gov­ern­ment. And the gov­ern­ment of the UK is go­ing to be a lit­tle more open once Lord Levy’s mem­oir hits the book­stores.

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