Finkelstein’s Osborne somersault

LAST UPDATED AT 12:10 ON Fri 24 Oct 2008

Are Times journalists singing from the same hymn-sheet regarding their much vaunted story about the spat between George Osborne and Nat Rothschild and the allegation of a mooted donation to Conservative party funds from the Russian billionaire Oleg Deripaska? Not the paper’s chief editorial writer Daniel Finkelstein (pictured), it would seem. On Thursday he wrote on his Times blog that the whole business was very much a "non scandal".

“George Osborne did not take money or arrange to take money from an illegal donor,” he wrote. “Even Nat Rothschild does not say that he did... George Osborne happened to be holding the parcel when the music stopped.” Admitting that he once shared an office with Osborne – it was at Tory Central Office in the 1990s – Finkelstein went on: “He is a person of integrity... and huge ability.” In conclusion, he wrote: "The lesson is clear - exploiting these non scandals is tempting. It is also a self-destructive thing to do."

The Tory website Conservative Home was quick to jump on what it saw as a breaking of ranks at the Times. "Daniel, is quite right, of course, to be so dismissive of his newspaper's behaviour. This has been a bad week for the Times."

Whether or not Finklestein got into hot water over his apparent disloyalty is not known. But he was quick to get back to his blog to respond to Conservative Home’s suggestion that he had disavowed his own paper’s story.

"I most certainly do not,” he wrote on Thursday night. “Nat Rothschild's letter was a lockdown splash. A terrific exclusive, that we did very well. And our reporting has been fair and proportionate. Once we had exposed it, and the facts have become properly known, I think it is clear that the behaviour was not scandalous. But there were certainly questions. We just printed the fantastic, colourful facts and made sure the Rothschild allegation was placed firmly in the public domain. We couldn't possibly have done differently."

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