What lessons can be learned from the Poulson affair?
The corruption involved in the Poulson affair was deep. It encompassed not only key figures in Local Government but Central Government officials, even the Chancellor Reginald Maudling. What factors in legislation allowed this scandal to happen in the first place and what can we learn from the whole affair, especially from the institutional response after it all started to go wrong?
T. Dan Smith or ‘Mr. Newcastle’, as he was affectionately known, was appointed Chairman of the Housing Committee on Newcastle Council in 1958 and was promoted in 1960 to Leader of the Council. As a young man, he adopted his parents Left-Wing values but, when socialism failed, he “turned with characteristic eagerness to making Capitalism work for T. Dan Smith...if you can’t beat them, join them.” Dan was one of the biggest characters in local Government and when money was made readily available for building work, Smith was in a great position as “throughout the North of England no man had better organised contacts within the Labour Party than (him).” And so, in 1962, Dan added to his business portfolio of his painting & decorating company and established his PR firm to support redevelopment of urban centres in the North East. This company drew the attention of John Poulson and thus the saga began.
Poulson took control of Dan’s company and employed him as a consultant. Smith’s job was to “extend Poulson’s network of contacts on a commission basis.” This was a very good move by Poulson. Smith was adept at getting vital connections; “he could both drink pints with the rank &file and establish contacts at the top.” One connection that Poulson had already made for himself was with Harry Vincent, the then Managing Director of the building firm Bovis. Vincent and his board of Directors were “amongst the first to appreciate the enormous potential involved in the rebuilding of town centres and they wanted as much of...