|Issue 14 - July 1973|
|Conning'em No More|
The shit finally came down on Alderman Andrew (Andy) Wilsher Cunningham on Monday, July 9th, when two Scotland Yard officers called at his solicitors' office in Newcastle and arrested the 62 year old councillor on charges of conspiracy over building contracts in the north-east.
The arrest warrant had been issued the same morning at the request of Deputy Assistant Commissioner James Crane, head of the Scotland Yard Fraud Squad investigating the Poulson affair. By the end of the day, both Poulson and Cunningham had been remanded on bail by Newcastle Magistrates - Cunningham on sureties of £20,000 and the surrender of his passport.
The frequently outspoken councillor remained tight-lipped when the charges were read out in court - namely that, on divers dates between January 1st 1963 and August 31st 1969, in the County of Durham and in the City and County of Newcastle-upon-Tyne and elsewhere, he conspired with John Poulson "that Poulson should corruptly make and that Cunningham should corruptly receive gifts or considerations as inducements or rewards to the said Cunningham - the holder of offices in divers public bodies - to do acts in relation to the affairs and the building projects of such bodies".
Although the news of Andy's arrest came as no surprise to many, it caused severe embarrassment to the few remaining organisations in the north-east in which he still held positions.
Andy solved one of these problems by resigning from his office as chairman of the Durham Police Authority the day after his arrest. Tory members of the authority had already twice this year called for Cunningham's 'temporary' resignation because of his alleged connections with Poulson. Brewery chief Douglas Nicholson's motions were first of all ruled out of order and finally defeated.
Meanwhile, members of the General and Municipal Workers Union admitted they were 're-examining' Andy's position as head of the union's northern region. Whatever the 100,000 members of the GMWU branch felt about Godfather Cunningham's past activities (which include his attempt to gain control of Tyne Tees Television with the help of union funds), his fellow union officials Frank Conway and John Moss agreed to stand sureties of £5,000 each so that Andy could be released on bail.
The events of July 9th have also forced a rapid turn-about by members of the North-East Regional Airport Committee. Cunningham was re-elected chairman of the body only last month, but the other members will be having a re-think on the matter at their next meeting on July 27th.
Further arrests of local government officials in the north-east are in the pipeline as a series of reports on the Poulson affair arrive on the desk of the Director of Public Prosecutions. In the meantime, Andy and his wife, Freda (who, discussing her husband's various positions, once remarked: "I know he loves what he is doing"), will have to sit it out at their £18,000 Chester-le-Street home until the end of September, when committal proceedings on the conspiracy charges - yes, conspiracy: the very same law that's being used to stamp out left-wing dissent (see page 6) - are expected to begin.
On a personal note, this looks like being the last article we at Grumble will be doing on Our Andy. Never mind, there are plenty of other fish in the sea ... how about Bob Urwin, for instance?