Breaking Disraeli’s rule

“Never apologise, never explain”, said Queen Victoria’s favourite politician. On the other hand, I have always thought Disraeli to have been an unprincipled rogue, despite the fact that one or two of his novels are quite good. I am a Gladstone man, myself.

That being so, I do feel inclined to correct a small misrepresentation that the Bedlam Brigade have made, concerning my blog post “The Elephant in the Room”. Over the past couple of days, they have several times referred to my having claimed that CJ did not put any of his own money into Sheffield. That is not what I have claimed.

“Some people are Tories. Get over it”. (Photo: infobritain.co.uk)

I do not doubt that CJ did put some of his own money in. I understand that he paid his own expenses, to attend the event. I also understand that he paid Ray Keene’s expenses for attending the opening ceremony. I suspect he spent money on wining and dining the top GMs, and there may be other items as well. I don’t know how much all this amounts to – probably in the low thousands, I would imagine, but maybe more.  In itself, this is a generous gesture, and I applaud it. I also never denied it, or intended to do so. What my “Elephant” blog post said was that I did not think he had contributed £15k-£16k to the championships, as has been widely claimed. The “man on the Clapham omnibus” has been led to believe that he put in such a sum, and that it was that which enabled us to have the strongest-ever British Championship at Sheffield. It is this claim that I am unconvinced about. My understanding is that the Darwin sponsorship saved CJ from needing to spend anything like such a sum on the event, and it is Darwin to whom the principal part of the credit must go, for the strength of the 2011 British.

Nor do I deny that CJ has put plenty of money into British chess more generally, since he became President. I believe, for example, that he never claimed any expenses during his first year in office, during which time he travelled extensively around the country, attending chess events.  So, I am sure that his total personal expenditure over his time as President runs into many thousands, which is a fine gesture on his part. Unfortunately, I believe his behaviour over T-shirtgate has more than wiped out all the good he had previously done, but nonetheless, he has put in plenty of personal money. I just don’t think he put as much into Sheffield itself as popularly believed.

The Bedlam Brigade’s post this morning, entitled “Rumours II”, poses some pertinent questions to the Egregious Chess Federation Board, regarding the Sheffield financing. Whether they will get them answered is another matter. The truth is, the Board itself probably does not know all the answers. My sources tell me that the draft accounts for Sheffield, produced by David Welch, the co-Manager of the congress, before he stepped down, are of necessity seriously incomplete, because he lacked documentation regarding the monies allegedly put in by CJ, and what they were spent on. It would appear that CJ dealt personally with the payments of fees and expenses to some of the top GMs, by-passing the Congress Managers, who themselves, to this day, do not know how much was spent, or to whom it went. This is the crux of the problem. Some might argue that a private sponsor is entitled to spend his money how he wishes, but that misses a couple of points. Firstly, there are potential tax and VAT implications for the Congress, which need to be dealt with. Secondly, if the sponsor is claiming to have “donated” money to the Congress, then that money becomes the Congress’s money, and should appear in the Congress accounts.

“I knew I should never have agreed to become a Non-Executive Director of the ECF”. (photo: marvunapp.com)

I understand that a couple of the ECF’s non-execs have been wheeled in, to clean out the Augean Stables and produce some more complete accounts for Sheffield. It remains to be seen how much these will reveal. In the meantime, I will return to reading John Morley’s three-volume, 2,100 page biography of William Ewart Gladstone. I’m just getting to the juicy bit, where he starts “rescuing” prostitutes…

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