TODAYS background document from the Crown Prosecution Service begs the question of why the police were ever allowed to probe cash for honours at all. It sets the requirements for evidence remarkably high.
To prosecute an alleged breach of the 1925 Act banning the trade in honours, for example, it is necessary to prove an unambiguous agreement between buyer and seller. Nudges and winks or a mere expectation on either side would not do.
Similarly, the obvious fact that Labour obtained loans on terms that the banks refused to give was not adequate for charges under the 2000 Act on party funding. The CPS ruled that it actually must be sure that a court would not deem them commercial terms. If the CPS is right, the 1925 and 2000 Acts are utterly useless so why on earth did John Yates bother with them?
One explanation could be that the Scotland Yard detective is a wild-eyed obsessive. But that is plainly not true since the CPS was his partner at every stage of the inquiry and at key points asked him to lengthen the probe.
Or was the evidence bar suddenly raised at the very end of the investigation? That would explain why Mr Yates sounded so cross in his statement this afternoon and perhaps it would explain why so many central figures are trying to be nice to Scotland Yard. According to the Yards defenders, the Met simply followed a trail of evidence.
In January last year, government adviser Des Smith was taped claiming donors to Labours city academies could get an OBE, CBE or even a peerage. It created the impression that honours could be auctioned.
Then in March it emerged that secret loans funded Labours 2005 election campaign. The revelation came after lender Chai Patel, founder of the Priory clinics, complained that a peerage for him was being blocked by watchdogs.
Over the following weeks it was disclosed that 12 tycoons lent Labour 14 million, and four of them were immediately nominated for peerages.
The Yard got involved because SNP MP Angus MacNeil alleged Labour may have broken the 1925 law forbidding the sale of honours. Labour MPs angrily say police should have ignored a Scottish Nationalist out to make trouble but the first political unrest had been within Labours own high command, when treasurer Jack Dromey complained he had been kept in the dark. …