Exclusive: Feather Smoothing Email Sent to All Tory Donors

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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. Tory Chairman Sayeeda Warsi has been pushing for a woman to be parachuted in instead, but it seems she is losing the fight. Guido’s eyes and ears in Strasbourg report that Matthews will be out there this week for meetings with Martin Callanan the Tory group leader, the Whips and assorted allies. Guido understands that he will even be at the enthronement of the new EU Parliament President, for his sins. It’s looking increasingly tough for Warsi to halt this now…

CCHQ Welcome Helmer’s Replacement

The latest internal CCHQ newsletter for the Midlands welcomes Rupert Matthews as Roger Helmer MEP’s replacement. It even has a whole article about his preparations for taking over. It was sent out by the official Conservative’s Midlands ofice and, given the ongoing row over the succession, HQ might have something to say about it. It’s looking increasingly difficult for Sayeeda Warsi and Co. to block Matthews becoming an MEP, as they have  spent the last few months trying to do…

See also: Helmer’s Last CCHQ Battle, Helmer No Longer Resigning, Helmer’s Un-Resignation 

Conservative Arab Network is Back, Minus Some Players

In November Guido was digging around the Conservative Arab Network, an organisation not affiliated to the Tories, yet one that used their branding. The problem came when a lobbyist was using it on his business card. The CAN website quickly ditched the tree and Guido followed up with news that they had been struck off of Companies House, despite continuing to fundraise and hold events.

Since then they have officially applied for affiliate status with CCHQ, but a decision has not yet been made by the Party Board. CAN seem to  be launching a new website today, complete with Tory branding, despite the rules prohibiting this. Guido will be looking out to see whether Trey Barnes, the aforementioned defence lobbyist, will be featured on the new site. A little birdy tells him that he and his partner Sophie de Schwartzburg-Gunther, who was also a former CAN director, are out of the group…

Exclusive: Tory MEP Roger Helmer No Longer Resigning

Back in October, Guido broke the news that the Conservative MEP Roger Helmer had handed a letter of resignation to CCHQ. This blog was also first with the fact that CCHQ were doing their utmost to stop Rupert Matthews, the next candidate on the East Midlands party list and Helmer’s preferred successor, from being anointed. Well once again Guido is first with the news: Roger Helmer won’t be resigning after all.

Helmer’s resignation was supposed to be effective of today, but as party chairman Sayeeda Warsi is apparently insisting on someone other than Matthews, apparently “a less-geeky woman”, takes over, Helmer has decided to dig his boots in. A European co-conspiritor told Guido last night “Roger won’t be going anywhere unless Rupert is guaranteed.” CCHQ sources insist that they won’t be budging on this one, so it looks like Helmer will be staying. Once again, the Tory high-command’s gender-agenda has created an almighty mess…

Dead Ed: The Graph CCHQ Rein in the Hounds

Newsnight gave Ed a pasting last night, but sometimes a graph is all you need. Left Foot Forward have hit the spot:

Half the country thinks he possess absolutely no qualities worth noting. Guido hears that CCHQ strategists have scrapped an attack on Ed’s leadership pencilled in for Friday morning, post by-election defeat…

Tories Recruit Hundreds of Interns for Free Cabinet Level Exploitation

The blogger Ian Silvera has processed the data of how many interns are employed, for free, by politicians. Bad news for the Tories this morning as it emerges that the practice of exploiting slave labour goes to the very top of government. The worst offender by far is Jeremy Hunt, who has taken on seven unpaid interns in the last year. Mark Harper, Dominic Grieve and Andrew Mitchell have had three recreational bag-carriers a piece, while other members of the Cabinet, including Lansley, Gillan, and Greening have all recruited gratis support. Once CCHQ and the backbenchers are also scrutinised, the number of unpaid interns the Tories have used in the last year is at least 125. And they were the ones that were merely advertised rather than auctioned!

UPDATE:

Which reminds Guido of one of his favourite ever Guy News videos

UKIP Steal Tory Candidate and Helmer's Last CCHQ Battle

After Guido’s scoop this morning about CCHQ’s tactful start to the upcoming Heathrow By-Election, all sorts of other divisions have been emerging today. Many are asking what happened to the Tory love-in with open primaries, or even a basic selection meeting. The Commentator reports further embarrassment for Dave:  one former approved candidate did get a look in for selection, by UKIP:

 “…the UKIP candidate, highly likely to steal more than the 992 conservative votes that Jerry Shadbolt took in 2010, is none other than former Tory candidate for Edmonton, Andrew Charalambous. The businessman and barrister is also the founder of ‘Surya’, the world’s first eco-nightclub which hosted the official ‘Conservative Future’ party in November 2010. Activists may be confused as to whether to campaign for Cameron, who delivered them government, or for Charalambous, who delivered them… booze.”

With the Tories in a strong second place in the seat, the form set by the Oldham by-election should mean that we will be seeing the LibDems taking a sham role in this race. With the backdrop to this election, we could easily see UKIP coming third.

Talking of Euro-sceptics. Word reaches Guido from his Brusselois co-conspirator that all is not well with the outgoing Roger Helmer MEP. Normally the rules state that whoever is the next down the party list, automatically replaces a resigning MEP. However not everyone in CCHQ is enamoured with the equally Euro-sceptic replacement Rupert Matthews. He is a little eccentric and likes UFOs, but that can hardly render you unfit for selection when Norman Baker is in the government.

Some obscure quirk of the party constitution is being cited as a way of over-ruling the convention, but Helmer is having none of it. He has declared that unless Matthews is anointed his successor he won’t be resigning after all…

Turbulent Tory Take-Off at Heathrow By-Election

As the Tories announce their candidate for the upcoming Heathrow Airport by-election, there was some rather loud grumbling in the ranks last night. CCHQ have gone with the seat’s two-time general election veteran Mark Bowen. He’s the head of the Tory group on Hounslow Council and is looking to over turn the late Alan Keen’s 4,658 majority.

Given that the local press declared Bowen had “virtually accepted defeat” before polling day in May 2010, many boys and girls on the CCHQ approved list feel there should have been some semblance of an open contest, but it was all quiet from HQ. So imagine how well this email was received, hot from the Candidates Office, hours before last night’s announcement was made:

“I am expecting every candidate on the Approved List to rise to the challenge and take part in the campaign and polling day. If you are unable to visit Feltham & Heston, you can help out in other ways by joining our call centre in Millbank or at CCHQ Midlands based in Coleshill.

I am enclosing your Campaign Support Record Sheet. Therefore it is vitally important to print a copy and take it with you whenever you go to Feltham & Heston. This sheet will be signed by one of our Sector Agents each time you go. At the end of the campaign the completed sheet should be returned to the Candidates Department at CCHQ”

It’s not the request that is causing feathers to be spat, rather the patronising handholding and school trip worksheets, handed out in silence about how the decision was being made. So unity and vigour for December 15. It’s going to be a frosty winter on the stump..

Spot the Difference?

Strangely the Conservative Arab Network (C.A.N.) website has undergone a design change this afternoon. Above is their logo before and after Guido’s article from earlier today. Can you spot the difference?

Did Guido mention the Conservative Arab Network Limited was struck off the Company register earlier this year for not filing financial returns despite the directors getting three months warning? Will that be a problem for it becoming officially affiliated to CCHQ? 

Scotland's Top Tory Spinner in a Spot of Bother Tension Added to Tomorrow's Leadership Face Off

Another Sunday and another hit on “Dave’s candidate” for the Scottish Conservative Party leadership – Ruth Davidson. The Herald team report:

“The Conservatives’ top spin doctor in Scotland is under intense pressure over claims he has been advising a candidate in the party’s leadership election. 

[…] Read the rest

+ READ MORE +



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Quote of the Day

Tory MP Nick Boles says what everyone thinks…

“There is a timidity and lack of ambition about Mrs May’s Government which means it constantly disappoints. Time to raise your game, Prime Minister.”

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