An old scandal revisited

Ten years ago British Prime Minister Tony Blair ran into his first scandal in office when Bernie Ecclestone donated £1m to the Labour Party and, coincidentally, the party changed its views about tobacco advertising at racing circuits. Alistair Campbell, Blair's celebrated "spin doctor" has just published his diaries, covering that period and this seems to suggest that Gordon Brown, who recently replaced Blair as Prime Minister was not telling the truth about the scandal.

The book claims that Blair, Brown, Campbell and Peter Mandelson agreed a media strategy about the donation three days before Brown gave an interview to BBC radio denying all knowledge of the donation.

Brown said that "I've not been told and I certainly don't know what the true position is" when asked about the donation but Campbell's book suggests that three days earlier.

"I spoke to Gordon Brown and Peter Mandelson and at one point during the day, all four of us were agreed," Campbell wrote in his diary. "One problem was that that the circle of people who knew was widening."

The bad news about this is that it will not help motor racing get a fairer attitude from the government, something that had been hoped for once Blair left office.

Over the Silverstone weekend McLaren's Ron Dennis called on the British government to help out Silverstone.

"Do I think it’s appropriate for the government to invest in Silverstone?" said Dennis. "Yes. If they can invest in the Olympic Games. If they can invest in other areas that they feel are required to make England the pinnacle of any sport, then why not one where we traditionally have had that position?

"That doesn’t mean to say a complete free hand-out," Dennis added, "but there could be efforts made on planning, there could be support on infrastructure and there certainly could be a pound-for-pound match on any money that the club raises. There are people who are members of this club who have that capability and I strongly believe that Silverstone and the British Grand Prix has a future, but everybody’s got to come to the party."

As part of their strategy to protect the future of the British Grand Prix when the existing contract comes up for renewal in 2009 the BRDC is considering a joint venture proposal from former Focus/Wickes DIY chain chairman Bill Archer. If successful, the proposal would enable the BRDC to form a joint venture with Archer and business partner Mike Rockall, provide immediate funding for essential improvements and create a new promoter for the event. Bernie Ecclestone, with whom the BRDC agrees the contract, said recently that he no longer wished to negotiate with the club.

It is worth noting that Peter Hain MP, the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions and Secretary of State for Wales, said in an interview with Radio Silverstone that he personally was in favour of some governmental assistance for the race and voiced his concern for the future of the motorsport business in the UK.

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