Guido called BS on Grant Shapps’ claim yesterday on the Daily Politics that his tie cost £4, but low and behold the new Tory Chairman has published the receipt:
This sartorial butchery shows just how much the party has changed.
This morning on ConservativeHome Alistair Thompson reported that beleaguered Tory chairman Baroness Warsi was both “on holiday” and “destined for demotion“. A few hours later CCHQ went out of their way to deny one of those claims:
In the comments Thompson says CCHQ emailed ConHome to refute that Warsi was currently on a summer break, but gave no such rebuttal that she is facing the chop in the Autumn reshuffle. Telling…
Wannabe Tories on the party’s approved candidates list were left unimpressed last night when this hit their inboxes:
From: Chairman of Candidates
Date: 6 August 2012 17:58
Subject: Corby and East Northamptonshire
The Party now has a pending Parliamentary by-election in Corby and East Northamptonshire and we are asking every candidate on the Approved List to rise to the challenge. Our call centre in CCHQ Midlands, based in Coleshill will be open from 10.00am until 8.00pm on a Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, or you can make evening calls from CCHQ.
To take part please contact email@example.com with the dates you are available to help.
If there are reasons why you cannot give your support at this time, please let Gareth know by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org or Davina on email@example.com
Chairman of Candidates
Before asking people to sacrifice their time and effort in the name of a by-election, would it not have been more sensible to tell the hopefuls the process, if one exists, by which one of them could become the candidate? Or is this by-election selection, as widely speculated, going to be another back-room stitch up? The A-list parachuting operation went so well last time…
According to Joe Murphy of the Standard, Warsi has got away it over her expenses mystery:
Refresh your memory of the allegations and fall out here.
UPDATE: CCHQ confirm:
Presumably she was able to prove that she paid the cash to someone, given that her landlord at the time claimed he received no money.
Cameron has said that “I am pleased that these allegations have been dismissed by the Lords Commissioner.” He mentions that Warsi as Co-Chairman will be leading the Tory Police commisioner elections “big summer of campaigning”. Moved in the autumn then…
With Conor Burns quitting and Angie Bray being sacked for refusing to walk the line on Lords reform, eyebrows have been raised about other job-holding Tories who rebelled, but have somehow managed to stay in their party posts, nominally in the gift of the party leader.
Geoffrey Clifton-Brown is head of the International Office at CCHQ. His former deputy there was Mark Pritchard, who made a big fuss about resigning a while back specifically so that he could vote against the leadership. Precedent has been set…
Nicola Blackwood is a Vice Chairman of the Conservative Party with responsibility for Social Action. Not for long though surely?
Charlotte Leslie is Cameron’s Big Society Ambassador. A job that her local paper claims makes her a “lynch pin” in the project. How will it cope?
Will they face the high jump or will the Whips turn a blind eye?
UPDATE: It’s a no comment from CCHQ.
The latest briefing to Tory MPs gives an interesting clue as to Cameron’s next move re-Europe:
Date: 2 July 2012
To: MPs Lines To Take
Subject: Political Topline: 2 July 2012
Good afternoon. Please see below the political top line:
The Prime Minister is clear that an in-out referendum is not the answer right now. Instead we should first set out how we want to change our relationship with Europe and then as the end point becomes clear we should consult the British people, either in a general election or a referendum. He will set out more details of the Conservative Party’s position in the Autumn.
Faced with his choppiest conference yet as leader, it seems the PM is preparing some EU shaped hats and rabbits in time for Birmingham.
Dave might think that Jimmy Carr is morally repugnant but that has not stopped the Tories from advising their wealthy donors on how to avoid tax. The Conservative Foundation, an organisation run by an array of Tory grandees and city types, is offering donors the chance to dodge inheritance tax through a scheme in which they leave a “legacy” to the Tory party. The scheme promises to “reduce or even remove completely” the inheritance tax liability of rich Conservative backers, while its website explains how to take advantage of rules allowing tax-free donations to political parties. Although the scheme appears to have been set up on the quiet it is startlingly open about its intentions:
Cameron was always going to be a hostage to fortune over tax avoidance, now he faces the inevitable dilemma of having to deal with questions about his party’s wealthy financiers. He’s hardly making it easy for himself.
From: Lines To Take
Sent: 26 June 2012 12:26
To: Lines To Take
Subject: Political Topline: 26 June 2012
We know this is not the most important issue facing this country. We are focussed on dealing with the deficit, getting the economy growing and standing up for hard-working people.
There have been divisions on all sides regarding the details of reform so we’re only going to achieve reform if we work together and Parliament will debate these issues. But it is right that we should try to agree something that all three major parties committed to in their manifestos at the last election.
Hardly fighting talk…
Guido has been a regular critic of Baroness Warsi – it is fair to say we do not approve of her characterisation and handling of the Eurosceptic wing of her party – for example she blundered so badly during the succession to the retiring Roger Helmer MEP that his seat is now represented in the UKIP interest.
We’ve written before that it is pretty poor of her defenders to try to characterise criticism as crypto-racism. It was the Labour MP Karl Turner who called for Warsi to be referred over her expenses claims not just to the Lords Commissioner for Standards, he wrote to the police as well. It was Labour’s semi-official attack dog Michael Dugher who wrote to the Cabinet Secretary demanding a full investigation. Labour’s Deputy General Secretary Tom Watson raised questions about the propriety of her trip funded by the government of Pakistan. Turner, Dugher and Watson have many unpleasant failings, however racism is not among them.
Tory activists don’t rate Warsi’s skill at making her party’s case on the Today programme or on Newsnight, Tory commentators tend to agree. Here Guido thinks they mistake her blunt directness for a communications problem – she was pretty effective on the most watched edition of Question Time against Nick Griffin. She may not appeal to political wonks and pundits – she is not a product of the Oxbridge PPE clique that dominates Westminster – however because voters can identify with her Warsi reaches voters who it is impossible for the posh boys to reach. Warsi is a highly visible and valuable advocate, which is exactly why Cameron appointed her party chairman. Warsi should be deployed to reach non-traditional Tory voters, not to communicate to the political class that wakes up listening to Today and goes to bed watching Newsnight.
Labour and their media allies are trying hard to make capital out of her referral by Cameron and Hunt’s non-referral. This is supposedly evidence of Tory prejudice. Actually it just reflects the fact that Hunt denies wrongdoing and Warsi admits it, arguing that they are minor oversights.
There is a fascinating exchange of letters over at the Staggers between the Chairman of the Conservative Arab Network and Tory Chairman Sayeeda Warsi. They discuss Guido’s revelations about the group, and show how the exposé set off a chain of events that led to the troubles that Warsi is in right now:
This may be revenge, but that does not make it any less dangerous for Warsi…
It all began with another Tory using a dodgy business card. When Guido started digging into the Conservative Arab Network back in November, it soon became clear it was going to end in tears. One of their directors, a lobbyist, came to Guido’s attention when his card had the Tory logo on it, despite the group not being officially affiliated to party. Complaints were made and the Party seemed to realise something was up…
Sources within the group seemed confident that CAN would be given official status, not least because its Chairman Dr Wafik Moustafa was a close friend of Warsi who was proud that she had lived in his house. Issues around Warsi’s expense claims were well-known in the network and voiced to Guido before Christmas and again in January. CCHQ’s rejection of CAN’s affiliation in March meant there was a risk of Moustafa going rogue…
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:
[…] Read the rest
“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.