Tuesday, 24 February 2009

Feud Ignites Over Local Political Funding

Berkshire-based Bearwood Corporate Services has come under increased scrutiny this week over allegations that the 'Billionaire from Belize', Lord Ashcroft, is to be investigated over his funding arrangements with the Conservative Party for campaigning in marginal constituencies.

Almost 200 articles published in recent days attest to the significance of this news and the controversy it has caused.

Here is a selection of sources: The Times and The Guardian report the news and the Financial Times quotes a Conservative spokesman (identified by The Independent as Dr Liam Fox MP) arguing that the donations were "legal and permissible" (ie that they don't want to give them back and would struggle to do so if forced).

Elsewhere the staunch Tory tabloid Evening Standard is forthright about the risks the Conservatives are taking; even The Sun decides that this is a newsworthy story.

The Times' Red Box blog follows the money trail and asks why the law can effectively be bypassed by a person (albeit a peer of the realm) who refuses to answer questions. In their view the investigation into Lord Ashcroft's 'failure to comply' with requests to give additional information to the Electoral Commission is fully justified.

The Spectator asks the underlying question of where the Conservative party would be without Ashcroft's dirty money and praises a Guardian editorial which underlines how this is only the latest in a long line of stories which show how our democracy is being successively undermined by politicians who can't recognize, or choose to avoid, fair play.


On the local scene, hatchet-man Cllr Richard Willis has attempted to deflect the glare of national attention by asking questions about the transparency in local party accounts and has elicited an angry response from LibDem Cllr Warren Swaine.

Oranjepan says:
It seems odd that according to Cllr Willis Reading's LibDems are the best funded party, until you note that his figures do not include non-cash items, operational income or funding from other sources (small donations, MP's expenses etc).

Perhaps it should be asked which party offers highest levels of transparency and disclosure. Though not here, of course.


  1. So what is it then boy’s & girl’s? Cash for Questions? Cash for answers.

    It can’t be cash for acting like a half decent opposition, because that simply doesn’t happen.

    Anyway, as long as North Korea keeps on funding the Reading Labour group we should at least be kept in good supply of short range missiles in case of sudden attack from Wokingham.

  2. Ashcroft is def cash for influence. He has already influenced Conservative policy, the selection of Conservative candidates and is attempting to influence their overall strategy.

    Locally my feeling is that it is more a case of no cash where it's needed and no disclosure where it's not required.

    Cllr Willis' figures cover 8 years and work out at less than the minimum wage for one person per party - he was employed by his local party during this period, so where did that money come from?

    Local politics has always been severely under-resourced and there has always been massive disparities in resourcing between each party.

    Cllr Willis is clearly happy for the former problem to get worse if he can also increase the inequalities in the latter.

    I agree that it would be informative if the full figures were published. But that's not likely anytime soon.


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