Tories Advise Top Donors How to Avoid Tax

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.

CCHQ Abandon Lords Spin

From: Lines To Take
Sent: 26 June 2012 12:26
To: Lines To Take
Subject: Political Topline: 26 June 2012

Lords reform

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…

Warsi Reality Check

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.

Warsi’s War

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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:

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This may be revenge, but that does not make it any less dangerous for Warsi…

Warsi Will Regret CCHQ Kicking the CAN

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…

Confirmed: Susie Will Spin for CCHQ

As revealed here this morning…

Hire and Squire?

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…

Exclusive: Henry Macrory Quits CCHQ

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…

Warsi Sinks at Titanic Event Party Chairman Booed by Tory Councillors and Members

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…

Exclusive: Feather Smoothing Email Sent to All Tory Donors

image

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

Lord Fink

 

Sarah Southern “Accepts She’s F****d”

With Downing Street aides declaring to the Lobby that Sarah Southern is “persona non grata” her former colleagues are a little less diplomatic. Guido’s favourite joke so far being

CCHQ Staffer: Knock, knock…
GF: Who’s there?
CCHQ: Sarah…
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… 

Sarah Southern Had Other Tories on Her Business Cards Links to Transatlantic Lobbying Group Masked

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

Picture via Political Scrapbook

UPDATE: Southern is a Director of the British American Project. She also set up Sarah Southern Consulting on the 16th of last month.

Cruddas Quits – Full Resignation Statement Stanley Fink Returns As Treasurer

Sunday Sleaze

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…

Sayeeda Says We’re Mi-steak-en

Baroness Warsi’s people get in touch to point out that Guido was wrong to suggest that the Tory Chairman was full of it yesterday. When she said “I’m a vegetarian” what she apparently meant to say was that she actually eats meat. She keeps Halal, but this was seemingly too complicated to explain while being interviewed for a 2,500 word piece.

Glad that confusion is completely resolved then.

Tories Organise Huhne Blitz in Eastleigh

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 nearly took Huhne out in 2005, though a by-election would be a nightmare for the government, with a straight yellow on blue fight on the cards.

It doesn’t look like the Tories will be pulling their punches though…

Channel Four News Weighs In On Helmer Row

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It’s not every day you get to talk about druids on national television…

The Other Sayeeda of the Story

Today’s Mail has picked up on Guido’s scoops regarding the ongoing battle between CCHQ and Roger Helmer MEPs. Tory MPs are now bombarding the chairman’s office with letters demanding that Rupert Matthews is allowed to take over when Helmer resigns, in line with convention. One bit of shameless spin made Guido chuckle:

“However, if Mr Helmer stands down, the returning officer would ask Mr Matthews to become an MEP as the next in line Tory on the list. Party chiefs would have to approve his candidacy, however, and sources say they cannot do so because he has dropped off the list of candidates. A senior source denied Baroness Warsi was trying to manipulate the East Midlands list.”

A bit of dodgy briefing there. The only reason Matthews “has dropped off the list”, is because Warsi threw him off…

UPDATE: Guido understands Crick is doing a bit of a hatchet job on Rupert Matthews for Channel 4 News tonight.

Spin Wars

Yesterday’s capitalism bunfight sent the spin machines into overdrive. Guido was amused by these two…

Helmer Statement Confirms Guido’s Scoops Tory MEP Will Not Quit for “Protégée From St. John’s Wood”

In a statement given to ConservativeHome Tory MEP Roger Helmer has confirmed Guido’s many stories about the “mexican stand-off” he is in with Warsi and CCHQ:

I have made it clear that I will not sign the formal resignation papers until the position is clarified and Rupert is confirmed. I was happy to resign in favour of the next-in-line in the normal way, but I am not prepared to stand aside for some A-List Cameron protégée from St. John’s Wood. However the Party says it will not call the panel and make the decision until I do resign. So we have a Mexican stand-off.

I think that both I and Rupert (and our respective families) are entitled to some certainty and resolution on the issue. Accordingly I have indicated to the Party Chairman that if the situation is not resolved within a few weeks, I shall withdraw my offer to resign. 

I have also made it clear to the Party Chairman that I believe that my obligations on this point have been fully and finally discharged by my offer, made in good faith, to resign. Accordingly, if I am obliged to stay in place until 2014, I shall feel no further sense of obligation or responsibility to the Party.

You read about his resignation, and the ensuing battle here, here and here first.

Exclusive: Rupert Matthews Heads to Strasbourg


Regular readers will be aware of the final battle between outgoing Tory MEP Roger Helmer and CCHQ. Helmer was meant to resign at the beginning of the month, but has refused to budge until Rupert Matthews, the next person on the East Midlands Tory list, has been confirmed as his successor.[…] Read the rest

+ READ MORE +



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