PM to reveal contacts with donors in ‘pay for access’ row
LONDON PRIME MINISTER David Cameron bowed to pressure on Monday to disclose his own contacts with wealthy donors after a newspaper sting caught a top fundraiser for his party offering meetings with the premier in return for big contributions.
Conservative party cotreasurer Peter Cruddas resigned after The Sunday Times filmed him telling reporters posing as financiers that, for 250,000 pounds ($400,000), they could dine with Cameron and might possibly influence government policy.
Although Cameron and other senior Conservatives distanced themselves from Cruddas’s behaviour, calling it “unacceptable”, the scandal is potentially deeply damaging for Cameron as it revives worries over the corrosive influence of money on British politics and reinforces Cameron’s image as a friend of the rich.
The episode played into the opposition Labour Party’s accusations that Cameron and other senior Conservatives, who come from wealthy, privileged backgrounds, are out of touch with ordinary people who are being forced to tighten their belts to cope with the government’s deficit-cutting measures.
The funding row broke days after finance minister George Osborne announced a cut in the top rate of tax for the highest earners, exposing the Conservative-led coalition government, which won power in 2010, to Labour charges that the pain of austerity was not being shared between rich and poor.
After initially resisting Labour calls to disclose which party donors had dined with him at his private apartment above the premier’s office at 10 Downing Street, Cameron gave way to the pressure on Monday and announced he would publish the names.
“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,” he said, during a speech in London.
“In addition there was a further thank you dinner, which included donors, in Downing Street itself shortly after the general election.
We will be publishing details today.
“None of these dinners were fund-raising dinners, and none of these dinners were paid for by the taxpayer,” he said.
Cameron also promised that the Conservatives would publish details every quarter of any meals with the prime minister attended by any major donor to his party.
The Conservatives said they would launch an internal inquiry, although they resisted Labour calls for an independent inquiry into the affair, drawing scorn from the opposition.
“It is just not acceptable or credible in any way at all for the Conservative Party to investigate themselves,” Labour lawmaker Michael Dugher told BBC radio.