Cruddas case raises the locked and partisan issue of party funding…

Oh dear. It’s hard to know which side of the Irish Sea to start the day’s stories… Hmmm… since it’s a little more pressing (and the Tories don’t wait for the adverse headlines of 15 year long enquiries), let’s start with Murdoch’s sting on Cameron Peter Cruddas, the, erm, very temporary co Treasurer of the Conservative Party.

Not a great start [and end – Ed] to a promising career. Iain Martin has the dope:

“One hundred grand is not Premier League… it’s not bad… But two hundred grand to 250 is premier league… what you would get is, when we talk about your donations the first thing we want to do is get you at the Cameron/Osborne dinners.”

“It’ll be awesome for your business. You’ll be… well pleased. Because your guests will be photographed with David Cameron. We do that, you know.”

Andrew Feldman (not a man to cross, as the outgoing leader of the Ulster Unionists can attest) dispatched the poor man at dawn yesterday… But it’s true that almost all parties are having problems with donations:

“cash-for-access” scandals are by no means a preserve of the Conservative party. All three big parties have been tarnished by such revelations in recent years.

The previous Labour government was hit when three former cabinet ministers – Geoff Hoon, Stephen Byers and Patricia Hewitt – were suspended from the parliamentary party over allegations that they were prepared to take cash to influence government policy.

Another Tory scandal broke last December when Tim Collins, managing director of Bell Pottinger Public Affairs, boasted to undercover reporters of how he had worked with Mr Cameron and George Osborne in the Conservative Research Department.

“I’ve been working with people like Steve Hilton, David Cameron, George Osborne for 20 years-plus. There is not a problem getting messages through,” Mr Collins told the reporter.

In 2005 Michael Brown, a convicted fraudster, donated £2.4m to the Liberal Democrats. The Electoral Commission ruled the donation was permissible but the party has been under pressure to give the money back.

And meanwhile, it seems the PM wants to open negotiations (again) on the vexed issue of party funding… In a stinging editorial today, The Guardian concludes:

…perhaps the real fault – for which Mr Cameron, as prime minister, again bears more responsibility than any other person – lies with the institutionally sleazy system of political funding itself. British politics has failed to sort out a transparent and fair system of party funding which avoids putting parties into the hands of the rich and thus giving rise to the suspicion – perish the thought – that rich donors can get the budget written to suit themselves. Mr Cameron is not alone in this failure. But he is the man at the top. His party is the biggest beneficiary of this system. He either wants to clean up political funding by rich donors or he doesn’t.

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  • The yokel

    The Empire strikes back!

  • Assistant Editor of The Times (cant recall her name) was doing the Paper Review on Sky last night…….and not very subtly suggested that there was more to come.
    It does indeed raise issues of funding….could the public really accept “state funding” in times of austerity?
    But there are also issues of “access”, “lobbying” and “private briefing”.

  • dwatch

    Not a bleep from the Lib/Dems. Has Nick Cleeg and his bunch of cronies been up to to similar antics as the Tories?

  • andnowwhat

    I read the Times and my good lady reads the Mail. One would have thought that they would be in the throws of ecstasy with having their party in power but they never miss the chance to have a swipe at Dave and Gideon.

    The 2 most common theories I see for this (online) is that they don’t like the coalition (weak when one considers hoow little real weight the LD’s hold) and the other is that they know too much about Dave that they do not like. Actually, the latter point is gone in to further in other places but for Mick’s sake, it’s better not to put it on here. Suffice to say that FJH’s reading off your woman’s comments, last night, are well founded.

    My own tinfoil hat theory is that the mderate traditional tory is not happy with what the cabinet is doing. Not content with attacking the usual suspects, Cameron has put the traditional tory voter and the floating voter firmly in his crosshairs. His empty words and exercises are also not feeding through to that most tory of citizens, the SMEs, with money fed to the economy becoming snagged in the banks filters high streets up and down the country looking like devastated monuments to Pound shops.

    If my theory is remotely near the mark, thank heavens for the sniping press and the traditional tory because Ed Milliband couldn’t hit an open goal with a computer guided missile.

  • Clearly, as Mick Fealty implies in that second sentence of his header, the sub-text is: don’t take your eyes off a disgruntled Murdoch, or off his understrappers.

    A slight tangent: when did the Tory Stavka get wind of incoming whoops-oh-nasty? Yvette Cooper noted the curiosity of Friday’s premature and rushed debate on alcohol pricing:

    The only reason we are sitting on Friday is so that the Budget debate could take place today rather than next week, Parliament could finish 10 days early and the Prime Minister would not have to answer Prime Minister’s questions next week. There is no precedent for handling a long-awaited consultation document in this way, on a Friday morning, with no notice. Over the past 10 years, there have been only three Government statements on a Friday: on the Iraq war, on swine flu and on Libya—all of them involving serious issues around national emergencies. What is the national emergency today? [My emphasis.]

    Close enough to nick the cigarillo, but she didn’t get the full Prensado Churchill.

    Kudos, too, for the way the ST kept this out of the early editions, and left the opposition trailing.

    Moreover, it is a story with legs. As Paul Staines/Guido Fawkes (who is also making noises about the Adam Beecroft connection) notes:

    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 land mines…

    Now it looks as if we’ll get a [sanitized?] list of those dinner-guests.

  • Greenflag

    First there was (in very modern times ) Lord Ashcroft and then David Rowlands and now the Cockney geezer Peter Cruddas .

    Where do the Tories find them or do they find the Tory Party. The smell of cash for more cash/dosh etc . .

    Does anyone know if Peter Cruddas is related to John Cruddas the Labour MP for Dagenham ?

    Cruddas is apparently a spelling variant of Carruthers . Those east end barrow boys were not great at the’oul spelling eh? A decent man this Peter Cruddas at least to judge by his ‘philantrophy ‘ Maybe too direct in approach to survive in the ‘weasel word world ‘ of Tory fund raising .

    They’ll soon find someone else and lord Fink can hold the donors at bay for a while till the noise goes away 😉

    http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1395080/Billionaire-gambling-tycoon-new-Tory-treasurer–despite-tax-dodging-claims.html?ito=feeds-newsxml

  • andnowwhat

    We also have the resting story of Cameron hiring Andy Coulson against advisers warning words.

  • Greenflag @ 2:18 pm proposes a very telling point.

    Let me start with Mr Cruddas and his curious apology: “I deeply regret any impression of impropriety arising from my bluster in that conversation”. Note he doesn’t apologise for peddling influence (if his offer was valid), or for offering a duff deal to potential buyers (if it wasn’t). What he “deeply” regrets is the “impression” and the “bluster”. All we can conclude is his offence was to fall foul of the Eleventh Commandment. So goes any future peerage (the other bit of the bunce for the job).

    What Greenflag prompted me to recall was my previous surprise at the latitude the Tory Party extends to its co-treasurers. Thereby hangs another tale.

    The Irish Times of 29 September, 2009 had this:

    Minister for Finance, Brian Lenihan yesterday described as “disturbing” a report that Libertas had received £3,000 in cash and non- cash donations of £13,964 from Crispin Odey, a London hedge fund manager.

    I had heard of Mr Odey from the Daily Mail of 24 June, 2009:

    Odey, who recently became cotreasurer of the Conservative Party, clearly is fearful of the damage that New Labour is inflicting on Britain’s economic future.

    My comment, then as now, was: Strangely tolerant beastie, the Tory Party.After all, the Odey gift was either illegal under Irish electoral law (if the money was only to be spent in Ireland) or contrary to any concept of Tory loyalty (for Libertas put up candidates against official Tories).

    Think on, Redfellow …

    I did; and it became even more confusing. For Odey was also subbing the anti-abortion, allegedly homophobic Christian Party of tax-exile George Hargreaves.

    To support one party, mr Odey, is understandable. To finance three exceeds the mark.

    Perhaps, then, the sole duty of a Tory cotreasurer is to keep the money rolling in.

  • Jimmy Sands

    Too simplistic to look at it as payback. Truer to say the press faces an existential threat and needs to justify its freedom of action against a political class determined to bring it to heel. They’ve played the hand beautifully and as was hinted above, there are almost certainly more shoes to drop. Anyone doubting the scale should note that the Indo is reporting that ComRes post Sunday polling shows Labour up by 17. This could be fatal.

  • andnowwhat

    Amazing lack of response to this, on here.Maybe we need a catholic/protestant breakdown of the donors?

    Anyway, it seems that Jack Straw is going to pursue an angle re. one of the donors being registered as overseas.

  • Greenflag

    ‘Amazing lack of response to this, on here’

    It’s not the done thing on slugger to prolong or extend Conservative own goals especially those scored by the Cameroonians .

    ‘It was an eclectic guest list. A Swiss-born banker and passionate Eurosceptic, a Christian hedge-fund boss who champions family values and the head of an international oil-trading firm who had played a vital role in helping fund the Libyan rebels fighting Muammar Gaddafi.

    On a cold night last November the three men and their wives went through the famous Downing Street door, past the state rooms where guests are normally entertained and up to the more intimate surroundings of David and Samantha Cameron’s top-floor flat.

    ‘ Between them, his guests had given or loaned the Conservative party more than £7m. It would not be an exaggeration to suggest that without their money he would not be in Downing Street himself. And if it had not been for the recent indiscreet boastings of the Tories’ former treasurer, Peter Cruddas, the dinner – along with three other similar gatherings at No 10 and five lunches at Chequers – would never have come to light.

    Now Mr Cameron faces awkward questions about the extent to which money can provide access to the Government and how much he is influenced by those who hold the purse strings of his party. Perhaps the most curious invitee at the Downing Street dinner was Ian Taylor, who gave the Tories £50,000 in 2009.

    Mr Taylor is head of Vitol, the world’s biggest oil dealer, who in the months leading up to the November dinner had played a vital role in helping Libyan rebels by supplying them with gasoline for their vehicles and selling Libyan crude oil for them on the international market. The arrangement – worth over £500m – had already caused controversy after it emerged that the deal had been brokered with the help of Alan Duncan, the International Development minister, who had received political donations from Mr Taylor.

    Downing Street would not say yesterday whether Libya was discussed – but given that Colonel Gaddafi had been killed less than two weeks earlier it would seem likely. Mr Taylor is also on record as saying he expects his company “to play a role in the future [of Libya’s oil industry].”

    Even more gory detail at

    http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/guess-who-came-to-dinner-bankers-traders-and-an-oil-baron-7586364.html

    Perhaps the Tories are trying to out Fianna Fail the ‘soldiers of destiny ‘ with the help of Swiss bankers , oIl traders and hedge fund tycoons etc etc .

    Why anybody should be surprised is beyond me . The Tories ARE the party of the rich in the Home Counties and any Brit living north or west of Potter’s Bar is beyond the pale .

    The ‘Big Society ‘ at table -as ‘we are all in this together ‘ especially if you are in financial services -oil or currency /hedge fund speculation ‘

    In plain English it’s peddling ‘influence ‘ for donations or political begging in the hope of achieving even more wealth via the ‘legislative’ or governmental process . All perfectly legal well almost all in these days of ‘Wealth rules now the rest of you eff off’

    It’ll be interesting to see how Eton boy Cameron wriggles off this hook .And it won’t be good news for Alexander Boris de Pfeffel Johnson in the upcoming mayoral election.

    OH dear things are not what they used to be old chap eh ?

  • Greenflag, as so often, finds my resonance (and no, there is no connection: it’s just nice to find the occasional point of agreement round these parts).

    The grief at this Dinnergate schlock-horror is entirely Cameroonie. I was reaching for a definition when two of the columnists offered up “schadenfreude”, which is a three-dollar word good enough for me.

    Lest we forget, there lurks considerable disgruntlement among the Tories of the Old Brigade (i.e. those whose elbows nudge mine in North London watering-holes).

    The story goes like this:

    Cameron played the whole expenses saga very shrewdly. Despite the guano belonging across all parties, most of it fell on the other lot. Those closest to Cameron got off scot-free (Gove, Lansley, Gillan, even Osborne …) to ornament the ConDem cabinet. A small cohort of well-regarded old-stagers was defenestrated from duck-houses, and into well-scrubbed moats, to make room for an A-list of pouting, personable Cameroonies.

    All might have been well, had the predicted Tory majority been properly delivered, with jobs and red-boxes all round. Sadly …

    As we go into mid-term, all the old poisons seem to be festering nicely, especially among those outside the charmed circle, and not invited to dinner. On which, note that all the invites seem to have been “and wife”: this is a gender-specific circle of acquaintance — women arrive only as arm-candy.

    No. Opinion polling could be the least of the Cameroonies problems.

  • ANW I was trying to remember that name [Coulson] So Dave has been caught napping twice with his close aides, now Cruddas only just appointed. Once might appear unfortunate, but twice looks more like carelessness. Couldn’t happen to a more deserving PM.

  • Greenflag

    @ malcolm redfellow,

    Yes it’s nice to find the occassional point of agreement even if it’s mostly with oneself 😉 . Since Slugger has removed the ‘ratings ‘corner top right across from profile I’ve no idea how many generally agree or disagree with comments made . At one point it was in the high 80’s 🙂

    Still for what it’s worth I find your contributions always of interest and an effective anti dote to the official ‘Cameroonian ‘ line embedded to some extent on slugger although to give Mick his due he’s reasonably fair to all comment from whatever end of the spectrum which is as it should be . When I no longer feel that to be the case I’ll go elsewhere to comment.

    Anyway I’m sure you expect these revelations to affect the Mayoral or is Alexander Boris de Pfeffel Johnson on record as declining his dinner invitations to No 10?