Former Northampton MP asked the ‘$64,000 question’ by his lawyer as he takes the stand in the political donations trial
David Mackintosh gave his evidence at Warwick Crown Court yesterday
By Sarah Ward
Former MP David Mackintosh has denied knowing that any of the donations made to his election fighting fund came from his businessman friend Howard Grossman.
On day 11 of the political donations trial, David Mackintosh, 44, who represented the Northampton South constituency from 2015 to 2017 and was former leader of the town’s borough council, said he had no knowledge that the donations of £39,000 made to the local conservative association had come through Grossman. The trial has heard the pair met in 2012 and became friends as a result of Grossman’s involvement in the development of the Northampton Town FC Sixfields stadium, which the borough council, when Mackintosh was leader, had agreed to fund with a £12m loan.
Day ten of the trial on Monday had been taken up with legal arguments between the prosecution and defence and in an unusual move yesterday morning, the Honourable Mrs Justice Jennifer Eady instructed the jury to find both defendants not guilty of the indictments they had originally been charged with and they were instead arraigned on two new charges under a different section of the political parties, elections and donations act.
They were newly charged with two counts of withholding information from the treasurer of a political party about the name of a person making donations, with the intent to deceive during a period between April and September 2014. Both pleaded not guilty to the charges against them.
The jury at Warwick Crown Court heard the pair, who first met in September 2012 at an event at Northampton’s Guildhall then met a number of times at Northampton Alive regeneration events in the town between 2013 and 2014, including the opening of the new bus station and the sod cutting at the football stadium.
Mackintosh also attended an Amy Winehouse Foundation event with Grossman (Grossman’s wife Mandy was a trustee of the charity) and in May 2014 he arranged for Mackintosh to visit the Eastenders set with his wife Mandy and his friend Alan Mayfield. The pair also had dinners, including at the Collingtree Golf Club in February 2014.
Mackintosh said the pair often talked about national politics, as Grossman was a Conservative party supporter, and said at their meetings Grossman was particularly concerned about antisemitism within the opposition Labour party. He said Grossman, 61 of Greenacres, Bushey, Middlesex, had suggested that the Amy Winehouse Foundation could do some work in Northampton and he had asked officers at the borough council to write a report concerning the matter.
A meeting in September 2014 between the two at a McDonalds between London and Northampton, after Grossman sent a car to collect Mackintosh and take him to a local government event at the Olympia exhibition centre in London was also detailed.
Mackintosh told the jury Grossman had called him to say he needed to speak to him ‘face to face’ and when Mackintosh said it was a busy week and he did not have time to do so, Grossman said he would send a car for him. Grossman and his business partner Simon Patnick got in the car at the services and they spoke for about an hour.
“He told me he had a falling out with David Cardoza, the chairman of the football club. I got the impression that the two of them were quite competitive. I think he wanted to get his version in first to the council.”
He continued: “It was a fall out between them.”
Mr Nelson asked: “Over what?
Mackintosh said: “I didn't really find out what was going on. It was very cryptic and it ended a few months later in a court case but I don't know the details.”
Mackintosh’s campaign fund was paid three £10,000 donations by associates of Grossman between April and June 2014. Mackintosh told the jury he had at some time either met all three of the donors or their relatives.
Asked about a £10,00 donation from Apple Consultant Ltd owner Gary Platt, his lawyer said he would ask him the $64,000 question.
“Where did you think the £10,000 was coming from?
Mr Mackintosh answered: “Mr Platt.”
Mr Cairns then asked: “Did you think Mr Grossman, as First Land or County, did you think, or did you know Mr Grossman had provided the funds?
Macintosh answered: “No”.
Asked about the series of smaller donations facilitated by a Sharad Bhimjiyani - Grossman’s book keeper who had received a £16,500 payment from Grossman - he said he did not know of Mr Bhimjiyani’s association with Grossman, until Grossman was copied into an email between himself and Bhimjiyani.
Questioned about his relationship with Northampton South Conservative Association chairman Suresh Patel, who was also his election agent, Mackintosh said he ‘got on well’ with Mr Patel until the Autumn of 2015 when there were BBC reports about the donations. He said after that their relationship changed for the worse.
Asked by his defence if he had given any favours to Grossman he replied he had not. He said he thought it was the responsibility of Mr Patel to check whether donors were permissible.
Asked why he gave no comment replies to police when questioned in 2018, he said he had done so following legal advice.
The former MP was also asked why he decided to not stand for re-election in 2017. During this time the BBC had been running news articles about the donations.
He said the local party was making his life ‘unbearable’ and “at the time I had had enough’.
He also said he had been affected by the death of Jo Cox MP, with whom he had worked on an all parliamentary committee to reduce homelessness. The Labour MP was shot in 2016 in her constituency office.
Mr Nelson KC said:
“You have been under investigation now since 2017, six years. How has this affected you?
Mackintosh said: “It has been really, really tough. It is not easy to be accused of something you did not do. I have lost my job, my career and the effect it has had on my family and friends.”
Grossman waived the right to give evidence, with his legal team instead reading out two character witnesses from friends.
One described him as ‘totally unique’ and said he lived life with ‘unwavering intensity’. He said: “Not one to watch life pass by. He actively seeks out opportunities to enrich his own life and those around him”.
The trial continues, with cross examination of Mackintosh by the crown prosecution expected tomorrow.