Just as the media are on the hunt for senior Tories meeting people they shouldn’t be meeting, look who pops up in the White Swan:
Chin up boys.
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
After a heavy newsflow today, just time to draw your attention to Prescott and the Chinese plus a bit of Osborne’s personal tax avoidance. Don’t miss what was on the note passed to Ed in the Budget, the much missed David Davis and Bercow being put in his place.
Guido is now a seven day operation so you could have had all this yesterday, if only you had bought the Daily Star Sunday…
Yesterday’s jam packed column is here.
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…
He didn’t mention this morning’s letter though. You’re either in front of Guido etc…
UPDATE: If anyone can remember where that picture of Francis Maude reading Guido is, then please do point us in its direction.
Ed is about to take on Francis Maude over donor transparency and private dinners. Perhaps then Ed Miliband would like to tell us what he was chatting about in the Rolls Royce with Mr Assem “Pharoah” Allam who has just bunged him £100,000. Ed should not forget his televised promise to Guido to come clean:
As Ed prepares to stand up and lecture Cameron on shady dinners with rich business donors, Guido thought he would give the Labour leader a gentle reminder of his promise to publish a list of attendees at a suspiciously “private and off the record” dinner held for him at the home of lobbyist-spinmeister Roland Rudd in October:
As Guido reported at the time, Rudd has some charming friends:
“…known clients include Murdoch, the Daily Mail, not so environmentally sensitive miners like Rio Tinto and African Barrick Gold. Rudd’s client list includes Boots and easyJet, owned by predatory asset stripping private equity companies, the most aggressive takeover group in the world KKR – the original “Barbarians at the Gate” – investment banks like Deutsche Bank and Standard Chartered, UK taxpayer bailed out banks like Royal Bank of Scotland and Greece’s bankrupt Alpha Bank. Glencore the rogue commodities trading operation run out of Switzerland retains Rudd.
Labour’s current favourite targets the big energy companies like ENI, Shell, EON and Centrica could have been sat round the table with Ed. Embarrassingly UK Uncut favourites Vodafone may have passed the port to Ed and given Rudd represents Wonga, which the Labour Party’s Stella Creasey campaigns against, there will be extortionate interest if they were there.”
The time is long past for Ed to come clean about donors as well…
An impeccable Cameroon source has got in contact to tell us that he was in the room when David Cameron was directly advising JCB Chairman Sir Anthony Bamford about the process of making a donation. Bamford has donated over £2.5 million in recent years and lent Cameron his helicopter many times. Last month Downing Street commissioned a report from him. Awkward.
Michael Spencer was the Tory Treasurer before Peter Cruddas, here he is an interview he gave to the financial derivatives trade magazine Risk. He boasts in the interview that he knows the government will veto the tax the derivatives brokerage industry in London fears most:
Risk Magazine: You expect the Financial Transaction Tax debate to fade away. What happens if it doesn’t?
Michael Spencer: I have had it first-hand from very, very senior members of our administration who I know personally and have had good relations with for a long time, that it will be vetoed without any doubt and without any reservation at all.
Risk: Have you heard the same from other firms? Would there be an exodus?
MS: It’s not a matter of dinner-party conversation because genuinely we think if the French decide to go it alone in imposing an FTT we wish them every good fortune, but there is not a prayer in Hades that the UK will sign up for it.
Risk: And you heard that personally from a figure in the UK government?
MS: Yes, indeed.
MS: I’m not comfortable telling you who I speak to in private.
The Prime Minister David Cameron told the City tycoon who owns ICAP, the biggest broker of financial transactions in London with the most to lose from the Financial Transaction Tax that he would personally veto the thing that would most damage his business.
As reported in the last post, Sir Anthony Bamford the JCB chairman got to write a policy report for the government. He also popped into the flat.
Dinners in No 10 which major donors have attended:
14 July 2010 – No 10. Attendees:
Anthony & Carole Bamford
Michael & Dorothy Hintze
Murdoch & Elsa Maclennan
Lord John & Lady Sainsbury
Jill and Paul Ruddock
Mike and Jenny Farmer
Michael and Clara Freeman
28 February 2011 – flat
David Rowland and his wife. Andrew Feldman also attended.
2 November 2011 – flat. Attendees:
Henry and Dorothy Angest
Michael Farmer and wife
Ian Taylor and wife
27 February 2012 – flat
Michael Spencer and partner.
And what about Chequers?
Adrian Beecroft is in the “premier league” of Tory donors. Electoral Commission data shows he’s given well over half a million to the Tories since 2006. He lobbied Cameron on workers’ rights and no-fault dismissal and he even got to write a report on it. The controversial document on what could be changed has never seen the light of day. Business Secretary Vince Cable did like the idea but No.10 insisted on meetings with Beecroft. Why was that then?
Donation, access and policy influence in one fell swoop . Guido sources confirm that Chuka Umunna and Labour have dropped the ball here. They had planned to raise this recently with an Urgent Question but the move was dropped for yet another failed attempt at stopping the NHS Bill. Whoops…
UPDATE: A u-turn on which donors have dined in the flat is imminent. Lord Gold will lead inquiry. He’s a Tory peer.
UPDATE: JCB Chairman Sir Anthony Bamford and those close to him have donated over £2.5m in recent years. Last month Downing Street commissioned a report from the industrial expert. It had direct policy suggestions.
The Downing Street flat is one of the most protected pieces of public property in the land. The Treasury have spent millions on renovations and upkeep over the years. The area around Downing Street has been Crown property since, as the No. 10 website puts it: “when Henry VIII confiscated York House from Cardinal Wolsey in 1530 and extended the complex.” The government’s own website goes on to state that “King George II presented both the house on Downing Street and the house overlooking Horse Guards to Sir Robert Walpole” in 1735. Since then they have remained government property.
The Camerons pay no rent on the flat, and though they met some of the recent restoration costs, the taxpayer picks up most of that tab. Since 1989 you have required security clearance to even get onto the street, let alone into the building or up the stairs. Any notion that this is somehow private property is either a vast delusion of grandeur or a desperate holding measure while the list of unsavoury characters is scanned and checked for landmines…
Was this a private or public affair?
Francis Maude promised transparency in May 2010…
“…that a new era of transparency in government has begun and today’s publications show that nobody, no matter where they work, or who they are, is exempt from this agenda. Much of what we have done today is completely new. For the first time anyone can see a whole range of information that has been held by governments before, but never put in the public domain. … But this is about much more than names and charts. We are drawing back the curtains to let light into the innermost corridors of power.”
This morning Francis Maude told the Today programme “we have been more open about this than any government… all ministerial meetings are disclosed in a way that has never been done before.” That is untrue, no ministerial meetings have been published by the Cabinet Office since June 2011…
In The Times this morning Guido argues that the distinction between private social and official public meetings is bogus for Ministers and Prime Ministers in public life. The Sunlight Centre is calling on Francis Maude to publish details of Downing Street donor meetings:
It is a Whitehall farce…