Fears donations linked to Sixfields businessman would look 'very murky to the public', trial hears
The ongoing crown court trial hears that former MP David Mackintosh's political aide was concerned donations from Grossman would look 'murky'
By Sarah Ward
The political assistant of former Northampton MP David Mackintosh was concerned any donations linked to a businessman involved with the Sixfields development, would ‘cause considerable political damage’ and ‘would look very murky to the public’ an ongoing court trial has heard.
On day six of the trial of David Mackintosh, his former political aide Justin Gleich said Mackintosh told him that Howard Grossman had some associates who wanted to donate to his campaign.
Mackintosh, 44 of Station Court, Northampton is jointly accused with Grossman, 61, of Greenacres, Bushey Middlesex, under the political parties, elections and referendum act 2000, of concealing nine donations worth £39,000 from Grossman to Mackintosh’s election campaign fighting fund during a period between April and September 2014.
In May 2015 Macintosh, who had been leader of Northampton Borough Council since 2011, took a political step up to parliament and was elected MP for Northampton South.
The court heard that when standing MP for the Northampton South constituency Brian Binley announced that he was not going to stand in the 2015 General Election, that donations to the local conservative association that would have helped with campaign efforts dropped off. Local volunteers were also getting older and there was concern from Mackintosh that he would therefore not be able to get leaflets delivered around all of the constituency. Consequently direct mail, which was more costly, would be needed.
Mr Gleich - who first met Mackintosh in 2006, when he became political assistant to the conservative group on Northampton Borough Council and then went on to help Mackintosh in his election campaign before being employed as office manager when Mackintosh became MP - said there was a need to identify new donors and concern about funding the necessary campaign.
He told the jury:
“I remember, I think it would have been during the first part of 2014, I remember receiving a call from Mr Mackintosh and he was ‘relieved’. My recollection is he explained to me that at some point he had mentioned to Mr Grossman that there was a shortfall and Mr Grossman as a result of that had identified some associates of his who would be prepared to make donations.”
He then said when questioned by prosecutor William Boyce KC:
“I remember being concerned that it would be easy for Labour, or the press to identify a link between these donations and Mr Grossman and that would cause political damage during the campaign if that happened.
Mr Boyce asked: “On what basis?”
Mr Gleich replied: “On the basis that it would look very murky to the public because of the connection Mr Mackintosh had with the development of Sixfields and Mr Grossman’s involvement with it.”
Cross examined by Mackintosh’s lawyer Cairns Nelson KC about a statement he made to police concerning the conversation about donations from Grossman’s associates:
“There was no suggestion or discussion at this point that the donations were anything other than genuine and above board. Do you agree?
Mr Gleich replied: “ I do yes.”
During the hearing Mackintosh’s former political aide told the court that Mackintosh and Grossman became friendly after becoming known to each other politically through the development of the football stadium, which the NBC cabinet had approved a £12m loan to fund in 2013. He said he thought their introduction to each other had come through David Cardoza (then chairman of the football club).
He said that when Grossman went into the borough council offices to meet with council officers, Grossman would pop in to see Mackintosh, or call him on the phone.
When cross examined, Mr Gleich agreed with Grossman’s campaign defence lawyer Neil Hawes KC, that the stadium was a ‘political hot potato’ and that it had ‘seen the demise’ of at least two earlier administrations on the borough council.
The court also heard about the unpopularity of Mackintosh as the parliamentary candidate among the senior group of the Northampton South Conservative Association. The jury heard that Stephen Mold [who two years later went on to become elected as the police and crime commissioner for Northamptonshire] was the preferred candidate. In his witness statement, Mr Gleich said he had overheard a phone call in which Mr Clarke, who was then chair of the Northampton South Conservative Association had said he wanted to ‘get rid of’ Mr Mackintosh.
After Mr Gleich’s testimony a witness statement was read into court from Andy Kilbride, the director of a local printing firm, and also a conservative councillor elected in 2015. In his witness statement in June 2019 Mr Kilbride said he had provided thousands of pieces of printed election material for Mackintosh’s 2015 campaign to be the MP and there was still a sum of more than £10,000 outstanding to be paid.
Both Grossman and Mackintosh deny all charges against them. The trial continues.