Tory treasurer quits over ‘cash for access to PM’ controversy
LONDON A SENIOR member of David Cameron’s Conservatives resigned on Sunday after he apparently offered access to the British premier in return for party donations of £250,000 ($396,000, 299,000 euros).
Tory treasurer Peter Cruddas was secretly filmed by the Sunday Times offering reporters posing as wealthy donors private dinners with Cameron, suggesting their views would be fed into a government policy committee.
In a statement, Cruddas said his comments were merely “bluster” and insisted there was “no question” of selling access to politicians, but offered his resignation from the job he only took up one month ago.
Cameron, the Tory leader, condemned the remarks as “completely unacceptable”, telling the BBC: “This is not the way that we raise money in the Conservative party, it shouldn’t have happened.
“It’s quite right that Peter Cruddas has resigned. I will make sure there is a proper party inquiry to make sure this can’t happen again.” Senior opposition Labour lawmaker David Miliband said the revelations would be deeply embarrassing for the prime minister, adding: “The idea that policy is for sale is grotesque.” The Conservatives openly list the benefits of donating to the party on their website, offering wealthy backers the chance to join “The Leader’s Group”, which gives access to dinners and events with Cameron, for £50,000 a year.
But Cruddas appeared to go further, discussing different sized donations and saying that £200,000 to £250,000 a year is “premier league”, granting access to Cameron and his finance minister George Osborne.
He also appeared unconcerned by the fact that the undercover reporters claimed to be representing a fund in Liechtenstein that would have been ineligible to make donations under British law, the Sunday Times said.
“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,” Cruddas said. He said it was “categorically not the case” that he could offer access as a result of a donation or that Cameron would consider it, and said he also had no dealings with the Downing Street unit which decides the premier’s policies.
“But in order to make that clear beyond doubt, I have regrettably decided to resign with immediate effect,” Cruddas said.
A Conservative Party spokesman said that “no donation was ever accepted or even formally considered by the Conservative party” as a result of the conversation, and insisted it always complied with the law.
“Donations to the Conservative party do not buy party or government policy. We will urgently investigate any evidence to the contrary,” he added.
The issue of whether money can buy influence has long been a concern in Britain, where political parties rely on donations to fund their activities.