Cash for peerages row hits Clegg – Sunday Times

cropped-Houses-of-Parliament_tonemapped2.jpgFrom the Sunday Times (£):

TWO of the Liberal Democrats’ biggest donors are being lined up for peerages, plunging Nick Clegg into a “cash for honours” controversy.

Rumi Verjee, a multimillionaire who brought the Domino’s pizza chain to Britain, is top of a list of seven names compiled by the Lib Dems who are expected to be awarded honours within weeks. He has given £770,000 to the party since May 2010.

Sudhir Choudhrie, whose family has donated £650,000 to the party since 2004, has been placed on an internal party list of future peers. Until three years ago Choudhrie, who has personally given £95,000 of that sum, was not domiciled in Britain for tax purposes.

Clegg, who has campaigned for a crackdown on offshore tax-avoidance schemes, faces embarrassment because businesses operated by both the Verjee and Choudhrie families have links to foreign tax havens.

It should be noted that Rumi Verjee is already a Commander of the British Empire. He was one of the Asians slung out of Uganda by Idi Amin and given a home in the UK. During that process he and his family lost “90 per cent” of what they owned. He has built up his commercial empire from those days, first with Domino’s Pizza (can’t stand them myself) and now with Thomas Goode and Company of Mayfair. He has an impressive history of philantrophy with his Rumi Foundation.

I am not sure who Sudhir Choudhrie is. Googles for the name return a colourful mix of items and I can’t quite work out if the items refer to one person or several.

As a Liberal Democrat activist, I tend to prefer the “attend twenty conferences and get a free ermin coat” route to peerages (as noted by Simon Hoggart). If you can sit through 50 LibDem debates on standing orders and goldfish sales at fairgrounds, then you deserve some light relief and a bit of a snooze on the red benches.

In passing I mention that the party has a distinguished connection between its peers and fast food chains. Lord Jacobs was a very distinguished peer for the party (from 1997 until he resigned from the party in 2011), as well as having many conference attendances under his belt, and ran at some time Spudulike. I remember him from conferences as a very nice cove, who made impassioned speeches, if memory serves. Some wits called him “Lord Spudulike”. Presumably, in the event of a peerage Mr Verjee will be known as “Lord Half and half”.

Regarding pizza, the party, of course, has a long association with the rather more upmarket Pizza Express.

Important note: none of these attempted bad jokes have appeared on Liberal England at the time of writing.

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