Harman and May clash over campaign donation

A protester holds a rainbow flag outside the Houses of Parliament in central London on June 3, 2013, as protesters gather in support of same-sex marriage

Two women who speak on equality issues on opposite sides of the House of Commons had a heated exchange earlier today over party donations from a controversial businessman.

Secretary of State for Equality Harriet Harman, who is also Leader of the House of Commons and chair of the Labour party, faced her Tory shadow Theresa May this morning at Business Questions.

It has emerged that a £5,000 donation to Ms Harman’s deputy leadership campaign, in the name of Janet Kidd, actually came from businessman David Abrahams.

Mr Abrahams also donated more than £650,000 to the Labour party through third parties, a clear breach of the law.

The Political Parties, Elections and Referendum Act 2000 requires details of a donor acting through a proxy or third party to be recorded by the political party and reported to the Electoral Commission.

Ms Harman, who won the deputy leadership contest in June, told MPs that she “acted at all times within both the letter and the spirit of the law.”

Ms May asked Ms Harman to make a statement to the House about the donation.

“The Leader of the House, the Prime Minister and the Labour party treasurer are like the three wise monkeys,” she said.

“They see no evil, hear no evil, and speak no evil. Quite simply it won’t wash.

“The public knows sleaze when they see it. The people know spin when they hear it.

“And the voters will know what to do when they have their say. They’ll get rid of this sleazy Labour government.”

Ms Harman defended her campaign team, saying they checked Ms Kidd was a registered voter and that she had donated money to the party before.

“You can huff and puff but you will not blow this Leader of the House down,” she told Ms May.

The £185,000 that Ms Kidd had donated to the Labour party since 2003 all came from Mr Abrahams.

Ms Harman’s husband, Treasurer of the Labour party Jack Dromey, claimed yesterday that he was in the dark about the illegal donations.

The party’s general secretary Peter Watt resigned on Monday after admitting he had known about the third party donations.

Ms Harman has indicated that she will pay back the £5,000 donated to her campaign, though it is unclear if the money will be returned to Ms Kidd or to Mr Abrahams.

On his blog, BBC political correspondent Nick Assinder speculated that today’s exchanges are unlikely to be the last Ms Harman hears about the matter.

“Her future remains a matter of great speculation in Westminster, particularly as the dodgy donations affair is far from over and questions remain over why she accepted money from David Abrahams’ proxy when others refused,” he wrote.