David Abrahams - a humble prole?

Writing in today’s Guardian, David Abrahams, the Newcastle-born millionaire property developer, who is at the centre of the £600,000+ Labour Party donor scandal, makes an interesting claim. He says in his defence:

“I do not want my wealth to change the way I, as a working-class boy, lead my life, or to get in the way of my many friendships with people from a similar background.”

Working class boy? Now there’s a thing. What hypocrisy! I say this because I well remember Mr Abrahams from a two-year Trade Union and Labour Studies course we were both students on at Northumbria University in the mid 90’s and he sat next to me often. He even took the Socialist Standard, for what good it did him.

I well remember the class debating the ‘class‘ issue one evening – whether there were two classes in society or three or four or whatever. We did a straw poll at the start of the debate and only two of us supported the two class model - something that struck me as odd at the time, considering the number of trade union activists and shop stewards on the course. But we had a heated debate, me and a young females student arguing there were two classes and that each class was determined by its position in the relations of production, and the eighteen or so other students putting across various sociological explanations as to why there were three and four classes, Abrahams the most vociferous amongst them.

At the end of the debate, a straw poll was again conducted. All but one student agreed there were two classes in society, working class and capitalist class – how’s that for Marxist persuasion – and this tenacious multi-class apologist, who insisted he was not working class to boot, was none other than David Abrahams. But this was Abrahams all over, for I often remember him arguing the odds from an un-winnable position in class, ever seemingly wanting to stand out.

I remember too that ginormous bloody filofax he carried around with him, packed with his important contact’s telephone numbers and that damned brick-sized mobile phone he always had on show, in the days when they were a novelty – all to remind us that he was more important than us – and how he would infuriate lecturers and students alike with the incessant calls he would interrupt lessons with until a lecturer threatened to throw it out of the window if it went off again. I think this was the last time we seen him – he never finished the course.

I’ve read a lot about Mr Abrahams since the donor scandal story made it to the front pages – a lot of it common knowledge even 14 years ago – but nothing that surprises me. And if he is still the man I remember, he will be revelling in this new-found fame. If he is the private man, the man who seeks anonymity, which he claims, then you have to ask why the hell he decided offer himself up for an interview with Newsnight's rottweiler presenter Jeremy Paxman and to impart on live TV the full content of a private letter from Gordon Brown's chief fundraiser Jon Mendelsohn and which extolled him as "one of the (Labour) party's strongest supporters”.

The journalist Stephen Pollard has described him as "the pushiest person (he) ever came across" at Fabian meetings in the early 1990's and tells how "he would ring up the office asking about meetings and contacts. At those meetings he would make a bee-line for the most senior politicians in the room. He was, in short, keen to be noticed."

The unassuming working class Geordie he certainly is not. His credentials show him to be an attention-seeking capitalist, ever on the look out to make the right contacts with those in positions of power to further his own interests. He is director of six property companies in Newcastle, which have earned him enough money to afford a home in the up-market Newcastle suburb, Gosforth, as well as a flat in the posh St John's Wood area in North London.

1 comment:

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