— James Forsyth (@JGForsyth) May 22, 2012
As revealed here this morning…
Reliable Tory sources tell Guido that IDS SpAd Susie Squire is being lined up to replace Henry Macrory as the Head of Press at CCHQ. Guido spoke to Susie this morning who refused to comment on our well sourced speculation. The frontline job at DWP is one of the toughest spinning jobs in government, yet Squire, a veteran former spinner for the Taxpayers’ Alliance, has still managed to remain popular amongst hacks…
Guido hears that popular Tory Head of Press Henry Macrory is standing down at the end of next week. Starting out in No.10 after the election, he has been beefing up the CCHQ press team for the last year after a mass exodus to government and the private sector. CCHQ have confirmed he is off, but other sources suggest that a recruitment process has not yet begun…
UPDATE: Seems recruitment has begun and at least one candidate has turned it down…
This morning’s Indy has another instalment of the Don’t Sack Sayeeda Warsi Campaign. Though the rhetoric is toned down from previous efforts, she is uncompromising in her attacks on the right of the party. Oliver Wright has been on one of the Tory Chairman’s tour of the sticks, but fails to mention on particular incident from Friday night – Pendle Conservatives Titanic-themed black tie Spring Ball. The champagne was flowing and the dinner menu was the same as the Titanic on it’s fateful night. What could possibly go wrong…
Sources in nautical dress say Warsi was booed and heckled by the crowd that included sitting Tory councillors. Party insiders described this iceberg as a “robust exchange of views with one table” during the Q&A when Warsi was defending the budget. Her spokesman tells Guido “in retrospect maybe it wasn’t the best idea to go to a Titantic themed event on Friday the 13th…”
UPDATE: Tory sources are adamant that Warsi was only meant to be there for an hour but despite this exchange left 90 minutes later than scheduled. There seems to be some debate about who was being booed by the northern Tories – Warsi or Osborne…
From Stanley Fink, Treasurer of The Conservative Party
I thought that it would be appropriate for me to write to you in light of the events of the last few days.
In the first place, to let you know that Peter Cruddas has resigned as Treasurer of the Party and that I have agreed to return to that role. I will serve alongside my Co-Treasurer Michael Farmer. As you will be aware, I stepped down from this post three weeks ago and Peter Cruddas took up the post.
I can categorically state that since I became the co-Treasurer of the Party in 2008, there has been absolutely no question of donors to the Party being able to use their donations to influence policy or to gain improper or special access to senior politicians.
Peter Cruddas’ comments as recorded by the Sunday Times are in my view entirely without basis in fact and the approach to fundraising they imply is wholly improper. It is not possible in any way to buy privileged access to Ministers or to send policy suggestions to the No10 Policy unit by virtue of becoming a donor to the Party.
The Treasurers’ team have in my experience conducted themselves professionally and entirely properly at all times and have been extremely careful to observe the requirements of electoral law. I have been proud to serve as part of this team and I am very happy to return to this role.
This morning the Prime Minister announced a series of steps to reassure the public that the way in which the Conservative Party conducts its fundraising is entirely proper.
First, he has ordered a full enquiry into political fundraising by the Party. This will be led by the Conservative peer Lord Gold, a distinguished lawyer and a former senior partner at Herbert Smith.
Secondly, there has been much speculation about dinners with financial supporters in the Prime Minister’s flat in Downing Street. The Prime Minister has given full disclosure as to the attendees of these dinners.
None of these dinners were fund raising dinners, and none of these dinners were paid for by the taxpayer. The Prime Minister has known most of those attending for many years.
Let me add that Peter Cruddas never recommended anyone to go to dinner in the flat; nor has he been to dinner there himself.
Thirdly, from now on, the Conservative Party will publish details every quarter of any meals attended by any major donors, whether they take place at Downing Street, Chequers or any official residence.
Fourthly, from now on, the Conservative Party will, in addition, publish the names of attendees at major donor club dinners.
Finally, the Prime Minister has given his assurance that no one in the No 10 Policy Unit has met anyone at Peter Cruddas’s request. However, to avoid any perception of undue influence, from now on we will put in place new procedures in which, if any Ministerial contact with a party donor prompts a request for policy advice, the Minister will refer this to his or her Private Office who can seek guidance from the Permanent Secretary.
All of these seem to me to be sensible steps to remove any appearance of impropriety around political fundraising. In my view there has not, under my watch, been any actual impropriety, but the events of the weekend will have raised doubts in the mind of the public which need to be addressed.
I would also like to point out that the Prime Minister has sought to reopen a dialogue with the other political parties on political fundraising and has asked Francis Maude and Andrew Feldman to lead those negotiations.
I believe that, as a team, we have acted swiftly and effectively to deal with an extremely serious situation that we only became aware of late on Saturday night.
I would like to thank you very much for your support of the Party, to apologise profusely for the embarrassment and reputational damage caused by the Peter Cruddas incident and to assure you that the Treasurers’ team will continue to conduct itself in a way that is both within the letter and the spirit of electoral law with an emphasis on transparency and ethical conduct.
With best wishes
CCHQ Staffer: Knock, knock…
GF: Who’s there?
GF: Sarah who?
CCHQ: Yeah, exactly.
Nothing like a bit of gallows humour, but the more information that emerges, the more this looks like an accident waiting to happen…
Reportedly on the verge of being sacked for incompetence as a coordinator in 2007, Southern mysteriously quit on the day she was due to meet HR and senior staff. Conveniently Lord Ashcroft immediately gave her a job working for the International Young Democrat Union, which he was bankrolling at the time. This was during the height of his empire in CCHQ which included multiple desk spaces and his own glass office. Southern stayed around CCHQ reporting to Ashcroft until 2009 when everyone seemed to have forgotten about the whole mystery non-sacking. She then joined the events team though Guido has been unable to stand up her claims that she went shopping with Sam Cam on election day. CCHQ Op-Notes from the time suggest she was the logistics contact for a Cameron speech in Carlisle the day before…
The photograph on her now infamous business card was taken at the CCHQ thank you party after the election in the Rose Garden at Downing Street. Southern did not make it into government and instead embarked on a career in public affairs. Lobbying industry insiders tell Guido that they were put off by her “it is not what you know, but who” attitude and belief that it would be enough to secure her work. In interviews she blamed the coalition for a lack of job in No.10 and boasted that she was at the peak of her insider knowledge and thus the perfect time to move on. With no agency seemingly willing to take her on, she set up Sarah Southern Consulting. And the rest they say is history…
The line that will haunt her forever will be the Draperesque “I am friends with all the people who are now his closest advisers. I’m friends with the people who are chiefs of staff to members of the cabinet. I’m also friends with a number of people in the cabinet”. Those friends tell Guido that the one time insider “accepts she’s f****d”.
Don’t worry Sarah, bragging about contacts didn’t stop Dolly coming back…
The business card of former CCHQ staffer Sarah Southern, who was busted offering to retain undercover Sunday Times journalists for £15,000 per month in return for access to top Tories, will remain one of the more amusing yet important details of this scandal. Guido understands that the Cameron card was not the only one that Southern uses, and in fact she is said to have a range cards with different photos with various Ministers. Tory insiders suggest that they have been the source of amusement for some time, but not long enough for someone to say “hold on a moment here…”
After doing what is commonly known as “a Derek Draper”, an internet clean up job seems to have been done this afternoon, with various profiles being deleted, but not every trace of Southern’s connection to the British and American Project has been removed. She sits on the Executive Committee of the transatlantic networking group that puts rising stars in rooms so they can show off business cards. And the rest…
If you have been lucky enough to receive one of the sought after picture cards, then do drop us an email…
UPDATE: Southern is a Director of the British American Project. She also set up Sarah Southern Consulting on the 16th of last month.
Resignation statement in full:
“I only took up the post of principal treasurer of the party at the beginning of the month and was keen to meet anyone potentially interested in donating.
“As a result, and without consulting any politicians or senior officials in the party, I had an initial conversation with Zenith. No further action was taken by the party.
“However, I deeply regret any impression of impropriety arising from my bluster in that conversation.
“Clearly there is no question of donors being able to influence policy or gain undue access to politicians.
“Specifically, it was categorically not the case that I could offer, or that David Cameron would consider, any access as a result of a donation.
“Similarly, I have never knowingly even met anyone from the Number 10 policy unit. But in order to make that clear beyond doubt, I have regrettably decided to resign with immediate effect.”
Peter Cruddas resigns and kisses goodbye to the traditional peerage. Lord Fink has been brought back to CCHQ as principal treasurer…
Requests have been sent to nearly 2,000 Tory activists to descend on the Chris Huhne’s Eastleigh constituency this Sunday, just two days after his next court appearance. Eastleigh has long been a tense subject in Tory circles after Conor Burns […]