Socialist Worker

Donors' dinners reveal Cameron's corruption

by Simon Basketter
Issue No. 2296

The rotten core of the British establishment was exposed this week, with revelations of huge sums of money paid by some of the richest people in Britain to gain access to top Tories.

The government has been forced into revealing some of the secret dinners the Tory donors attended.

A post-election “thank you dinner” was held at 10 Downing Street on 14 July 2010.

Guests included Anthony Bamford of JCB, hedge fund tycoon Michael Hintze, Tory peer Lord Sainsbury of Preston Candover, Lansdowne Partners chief executive Sir Paul Ruddock, and City financiers Mike Farmer and Michael Freeman. Telegraph Media Group chief executive Murdoch MacLennan also attended.

Bamford has donated more than £4 million to the Tories over the last decade. In February, just weeks before the budget, he wrote and sent a report to the prime minister saying that corporate and personal taxes should be lowered.

Hintze’s donations to the Conservative Party total £1.4 million over the last decade, in addition to £2.5 million in loans.

He emerged as a key figure in the lobbying scandal which forced the resignation of then defence secretary Liam Fox.

Hintze had given free office space to Fox’s controversial associate Adam Werrity and flown both Fox and Werrity on his private jet. He funds a “climate sceptic” think tank.

Ruddock, the founder of hedge fund Lansdowne Partners, has spoken out against regulations on banks—and called for a reduction in the 50p tax bracket.

Banker

Another dinner was held in November last year. Cameron held a “social dinner for strong and long-term supporters of the party, with whom the PM has a strong relationship”, including banker and Tory donor Henry Angest.

Angest has previously given money to Ukip supporting think tanks and the far right Freedom Association.

Other guests included Michael Farmer, a city financier who has donated more than £3 million to the Tories and who was appointed co-treasurer of the party last month. Farmer is a campaigner for what he describes as “family values”.

Some 57 City tycoons gave more than £50,000 to the Tories in 2010. Since 2005, bankers, vulture capitalists and financiers have donated £43 million to the party.

Former party treasurer Peter Cruddas boasted how he had used a party at the Duke of Bedford’s Woburn Abbey to lobby Cameron.

“I said, ‘Prime Minister, for god’s sake, don’t let them bring in the Tobin tax where they tax financial transactions.’

“He said, ‘It ain’t going to happen.’ Thank you, Prime Minister. Bosh. Off we go.”

The lobbying scam is simple. Cruddas said, “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.

“Some of our biggest donors have been to dinner in Number 10 Downing Street, in the prime minister’s private apartment, with Samantha. Within that room, everything is confidential.

“If you’re unhappy about something, we will listen to you and put it into the policy committee at Number 10.”

There they could ask him “practically any question [they] want” and lobby him directly in a bid to influence policy.

Exclusive

So close is Cameron to one exclusive set of donors that he spent his birthday with a group of them last October, cutting up a cake in the shape of the House of Commons.

The Tories seem shameless over the corruption. The party’s website sets out benefits of being a member of one of its “donor clubs”.

The highest echelon is the Leader’s Group, which is described as “the premier support group of the Conservative Party”.

For a fee of £50,000 a year, the website explains: “Members are invited to join David Cameron and other senior figures from the Conservative Party at dinners, post-PMQ lunches, drinks receptions, election result events and important campaign launches.”

Cruddas promised donors that they could invite their friends and clients to parties at stately homes such as Highclare Castle, the setting for the TV drama Downton Abbey.

Other senior Tories could be accessed for the right fee. He said: “If you want important clients to be at the Cameron dinners then…we can easily get you to meet Cameron and Osborne and Hague and Gove and people like that.”

And not all the murky details have been released yet. Several of the party’s biggest backers—not named so far—attended an “opera night” at Chequers last October.

Questions remain over the records kept of guests to the prime minister’s retreat. Records kept are apparently “quite informal”.

Details of Cameron’s private dinners with donors at venues other than Downing Street or Chequers have also not been disclosed.


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