Wednesday 22 October 2008

Discretion still matters

Follow the money to the gossip

The press is agog with the news that the Shadow Chancellor, George Osborne [1] met with a Russian oligarch and solicited funds for the Tory Party.

The Tory leader in defending his Chancellor made use of the word judgement a couple of times and one can well say that is what this whole episode is about.

To go to the heart of the matter, none of this should have made the news at all if George Osborne in all his privileged schooling and background and imbued the unspoken qualities of belonging to that clique of people.

Earlier this year, George Osborne was a guest of Nat Rothschild and got introduced to Oleg Deripaska [2], reputedly the richest Russian businessman who is banned from visiting the United States.

Private whispers, public bellows

Somehow, George Osborne met with Peter, now Baron Mandelson [3] at Mr. Rothschild’s family villa in Corfu and Peter supposedly said the most dastardly things about Gordon Brown, the Prime Minister of Great Britain.

Mr. Rothschild [4] is an heir to the Rothschild banking fortune but he probably has made a personal fortune that surpasses his inheritance and he was brought up in aristocratic and privileged circles – he has known George Osborne from his time at Oxford University.

A few weeks ago, Gordon Brown called Peter Mandelson into his cabinet [5] from his posting as the European commissioner for trade; this gave the press opportunity for sensation, scheming and tittle-tattle along with the general political banter that accompanies the appointment of a rather controversial figure.

Unfortunately, George Osborne broke the cardinal gentleman’s rule of discretion; he revealed details of the private conversation with Peter Mandelson at Mr. Rothschild’s villa to the press.

Telling tales creates gales

It would appear Nat Rothschild was none too pleased about this indiscretion that he wrote a letter to the Times [6] revealing a number of meetings with the Russian and the solicitation of political donations which seems to be buttressed by the fact that Mr. Osborne met the Russian in the company of the Tory Party’s chief executive and fund raiser.

The legalities of those meetings are subject to inquiry and it might well spell the end of Mr. Osborne’s fledgling political career.

Mr. Rothschild’s patrician use of English shows that he is both piqued and quite annoyed. This letter is understated but devastating in its effect; a man whose mother’s donations furnished the offices of Mr. Osborne first opined with an archaic expression that it ill behoves that political parties to make capital at the expense of another in those circumstances and damningly strikes the mortal blow, “Perhaps in future it would be better if all involved accepted the age-old adage that private parties are just that.”

The matter of discretion

Now, that is a real telling off, simply put, when I invite guests to my house, I expect them to be properly behaved; but it highlights that people of “substance” should not gossip, they should hold their counsel, be trusted to be privy to conversation without blabbing out to others and recognise that when they are guests, it betrays their hosts if events in company are published without the consent of the host.

The press would suggest that Baroness Mandelson has served her revenge as a stone cold dish, methinks, Nat just felt that the whole story be told and basically, he was not going to stand for seemingly schooled by rather uncouth behaviour from a friend who should have known better.

The moral of the tale is that public school can produce people who attain positions of great authority but it does not guarantee they would be of integrity – Discretion really does still matter - gentlemen are expected to be gentlemen, else they are good for the dogs.


[1] George Osborne fighting for his political life - Telegraph

[2] Oleg Deripaska - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

[3] Peter Mandelson - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

[4] Nat Rothschild profile - Telegraph

[5] BBC NEWS | UK | UK Politics | 'Proud' Mandelson back in cabinet

[6] Nathaniel Rothschild's letter about Oleg Deripaska's party - Telegraph

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