Our Sutton reporter, BELLE MONT, on the gathering mystery around the conduct of one of the borough’s leading Liberal Democrat politicians
Mystery surrounds Sutton LibDem big cheese Graham Tope, who was made Baron Tope of Sutton in 1994 but who is currently under investigation by the House of Lords Commissioner for Standards.
According to the Commissioner’s website, his Lordship is on the naughty step for “alleged breaches of the Code in relation to use of facilities, parliamentary advice and declaration of interests”.
But no one at Westminster is saying any more than that. Even Private Eye, which publishes a report of some Sutton LibDem council scandal or another on a regular basis, has been unable to relate any more than the Commissioner’s official statement.
An official in the Commissioner’s office told the Sutton desk of Inside Croydon: “We are mindful of the following paragraph from the Guide to the Code of Conduct:
130. From the point that the Commissioner decides to undertake an investigation all evidence and correspondence relating directly to the inquiry is covered by parliamentary privilege. It must remain confidential unless and until it is published. If such evidence or correspondence were to be published or disclosed to anyone else without the agreement of the Committee for Privileges and Conduct or the Commissioner, this would be a contempt of the House. An attempt to obstruct an investigation is a contempt of the House.'”
Which leaves everyone none the wiser.
If an abuse is found to have occurred, Tope’s fellow peers have the powers to force him to apologise to the House, to suspend his membership for a period, or even expell him.
During his long political career, as well as being leader of Sutton Council, Tope was briefly MP for Sutton and Cheam in the 1970s (when Jeremy Thorpe was his Liberal Party leader), and he was leader of the LibDems at the London Assembly until 2016, while he also had a role at the European Union.
In a 2011 book, written by his son, Andrew, Graham Tope explained the secret of his success thus: “As an MP I used to talk about doing things with people, not just for them.”
Tope stood down as a Sutton councillor in 2014, so now aged 74, has to rely solely on the allowance of £300 per day for attending the House of Lords.
He remains closely involved in the affairs of the Sutton Liberal Democrats, as chairman of the local party.
Recently, he was called upon to “investigate” the conduct of one LibDem councillor, Nick Mattey, who was kicked out of the party for blowing the whistle on the hundreds of thousands of pounds which a charity run by incinerator operators Viridor were paying for the refurbishment of a church hall used by Carshalton and Wallington MP Tom Brake and his party activists.
Mattey remains a councillor in the incinerator-blighted ward of Beddington North, as an independent, having retained his seat last May. Two other independents gained council seats in that ward from Tope’s LibDem chums.
Appeals to Sutton FibDems to explain why such a senior figure in their local party faces a House of Lords investigation have gone unanswered.
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Who would Adam and Eve it? Yet another dodgy Sutton Liberal? Even from the old school of the holier than thou type.
The Lib Dems are a litigious lot. I hope that Inside Croydon does not get the Cliff Richard treatment and end up having to pay millions to Topey. Sir Cliff used to live just down the road from Baron Tope’s present abode.
Last time we checked, you cannot libel someone by reporting facts.