The minister, the party donor and the £1bn property row
26 June 2020
Professor Tim Bale, from Queen Mary University of London, is among a panel of experts, examining the recent scandal surrounding Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick and former owner of Express Newspapers, Richard Desmond, over plans to redevelop the site of Westferry Printers in Tower Hamlets, a Labour stronghold. Desmond has described Tower Hamlets Council as "Marxist" in his quest to obtain planning permission and to avoid paying a hefty development levy. The controversy surrounds text message exchanges between Desmond and Jenrick, following a meeting at a dinner late last year, and there have been calls for Jenrick's resignation. Professor Bale said: "It does look a little bit like there was a relationship that some would suggest was too close between the developer and the Minister. It's always problematic, given the funding regime we have in this country. We don't have state funding of political parties and therefore political parties need to appeal to high-net-worth individuals to make donations, so there are always going to be these events where politicians rub together with very rich people, and of course, that does always open up the possibility of undue influence."