Cameron dinner guests have given £25m to Conservatives


GUESTS AT dinners hosted by British prime minister David Cameron at No 10 Downing Street and Chequers for Conservative Party donors have given £25 million to the party since Mr Cameron took over leadership, it has emerged.

No 10 remained in disarray yesterday after Sunday’s revelations that the party’s chief fundraiser, Peter Cruddas, had claimed that donors giving more than £250,000 to the party could have their voices heard on government policies.

Mr Cameron had not wanted to release details about the dinners, but was eventually forced to do so amid fears the issue, coming on the back of last week’s income tax cut for high-earners and rises for pensioners, could prove politically toxic for Conservatives.

“In the two years I have been prime minister, there have been three occasions on which significant donors have come to dinner in my flat. There was a further ‘thank-you dinner’, which included donors, in Downing Street itself shortly after the general election,” he said. “None of these dinners were fundraising dinners and none of these dinners were paid for by the taxpayer.”

It turns out that 12 of them have, on their own, given £18 million to the Conservatives since Mr Cameron took over in 2005.

Last November, he hosted Ian Taylor, the chief executive of Vitol, the world’s biggest oil trader, metals hedge fund tycoon Michael Farmer and private banker Henry Angest, along with their wives.

Scathing in a hastily called House of Commons debate not attended by Mr Cameron, Labour leader Ed Miliband said of the 12: “It was not the Premier League, but the Champions League of Tory donors – I bet they did all right in the budget.” Some of the meals were cooked by Mr Cameron in the private flat in Downing Street for his guests, who included Lord John Sainsbury, chairman of JCB Anthony Bamford, property magnate David Rowland and hedge fund expert Michael Hintze.

The other donors on the list reluctantly released by No 10, which had sought for a time to insist that private dinners should remain private, are hedge fund chief executive Sir Paul Ruddock, who gave £520,000 and property developer Michael Freeman who gave £380,000.

The list is not necessarily complete, since Mr Cameron has chosen only to release the names of significant donors. There was another dinner held in one of No 10’s main halls for less wealthy, but still generous Conservative supporters after the last election.

Mr Miliband said Mr Cameron had set the “significant” threshold at £50,000: “Only this prime minister would think a donation of £49,000, twice the average salary, was not significant,” Mr Miliband told Conservative MPs.

A new round of talks is to get under way between the parties on designing new rules: “It’s not the first time, it probably won’t be the last time. We need to fix it and fix it fast,” said Liberal Democrats deputy prime minister Nick Clegg.

The Liberal Democrats are the most in favour of State funding since they find it so hard to raise money; the Conservatives want to protect their access to wealthy donors; and Labour will not accept the loss of trade union funds controlled by union bosses rather than by union members.

In 2010, the Conservatives raised £32 million for the election. Labour raised £20 million, though the party’s campaign was left badly short of cash in its final weeks. At one point, Gordon Brown’s bus was paid for by fees collected from journalists who were accompanying him.