Lord 'Cashpoint' Levy: Cherie asked me to get £2,000 from party donors for victory umbrellas


Last updated at 22:40 03 May 2008

Some of the things I was asked to raise money for were trivial. This was brought home to me with particular force by a phone call from Cherie just after the 2005 Election.

In the glow of Labour's third successive victory, Tony had arranged the purchase of "thank you" umbrellas as keepsakes for the dozens of key staff, supporters and volunteers who had helped deliver the triumph.

But he was told by Labour's head office that since this wasn't technically a party expense, it would be more appropriate for the Prime Minister to foot the bill.

Cherie, no doubt because she, unlike Tony, had known periods of financial deprivation as a child, was from the start much more concerned about the financial details of their life in Downing Street - and afterwards.

It was a concern that sometimes seemed almost an obsession, even when small sums were involved, and this proved to be no exception.

She wanted me to see whether I could persuade one of the party's donors to foot the bill for the umbrellas. It would, she added, be "a few hundred pounds".

In fact, the bill came to slightly more than £2,000 and, in the end, my wife Gilda and I decided it would be much easier to pay for it ourselves.

Robbery – a terrible way to make a living

Gilda and I had a harrowing experience in the weeks after the invasion of Iraq - but it had nothing to do with the war.

On March 29, 2003, we were at home when three hooded men with East European accents blowtorched their way through a window.

I was wrestled to the ground and then handcuffed, while Gilda was marched upstairs.

Every time I tried to raise my head to hear what was going on, my minder hit me. My hair was soon matted with blood.

Gilda's minder demanded all her money and jewellery, but she reacted with breathtaking calm.

When he pointed to a wall safe and told her to "get your husband to open it", she laughed: "Are you kidding? He doesn't even remember the combination. I'll do it."

And she did, handing him her jewellery and what little money we had in the house.

Clearly having no idea who we were, the man said: "Where's the money from your business?"

Gilda, who was also handcuffed, replied: "My husband is retired" - which I suppose I was.

As they came back downstairs, the man turned to her and said: "I hate this. It's a terrible way to have to make a living."

Gilda gently suggested that maybe he should try another profession. But it was no laughing matter - my head was bloodied and my wrist had been broken.

The gang then led us to the cellar, tied our handcuffs together with rope, barricaded the door and fled.

Gilda remembered that our alarm system alerted the police if our phone lines were cut.

She managed to reach a small knife in a toolkit and cut the lines - within a few minutes officers arrived.

Only days later did either of us realise how lucky we had been to escape much worse injury - and how frightened both of us had been.

Abridged extracts from A Question Of Honour, by Michael Levy, to be published by Simon & Schuster at £18.99 on May 12. To order your copy at the special price of £17.10 with free p&p call The Review Bookstore on 0845 606 4213.

Copyright Lord Michael Levy, 2008.

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