By Paddy McGuffin in England:
Cameron mired in fresh cash-for-access scandal
Sunday 25 March 2012
David Cameron was stuck in another scandal on Sunday when a senior Tory was forced to resign for offering access to the PM in return stacks of cash.
Conservative Party co-treasurer Peter Cruddas was caught on camera saying he could get private meetings for people who handed the party “premier league” donations of £250,000.
Mr Cruddas, who only got the job this month, quit after being exposed by Sunday Times journalists posing as financiers.
He told them that in exchange for the cash they could lobby the PM directly and their views would be “fed in” to the No 10 policy group.
There was no point “scratching around” with donations of £10,000, he said, boasting that: “It will be awesome for your business.”
Major donors are invited to private dinners and other events at No 10 and Chequers with Mr Cameron, Mr Cruddas said, while donors and their business clients are also able to meet Cabinet ministers such as Chancellor George Osborne and Foreign Secretary William Hague.
In a statement on Sunday, Mr Cruddas 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.
“Specifically, it was categorically not the case that I could offer, or that David Cameron would consider, any access as a result of a donation.”
It is still hugely embarrassing with the PM, who is already facing criticism for his cosy links to under-investigation Murdoch executive Rebekah Brooks and disgraced former defence secretary Liam Fox.
Labour MP and member of the Commons public administration committee Paul Flynn said the “new Tory zeal for scandal free politics” had disappeared “like the morning mist.”
He told the Star: “David Cameron’s head is so deeply buried in the ‘PM for hire’ trough all that can be seen of him is his Gucci shoes.”
Mr Cameron said it was right for Mr Cruddas to resign and promised a “proper party inquiry.”
“What happened is completely unacceptable. This is not the way that we raise money in the Conservative Party, it shouldn’t have happened,” he said.
But RMT leader Bob Crow said it “exposes the sleaze and hypocrisy at the heart of the Tory party in all its gory detail.
“Those same people who attack the open and democratic finances and stuctures of the trade unions are caught up to their necks in another cash-for-access scandal,” he said.
David Cameron’s desire to pass off the resignation of party treasurer Peter Cruddas as nothing to do with him will not wash: here.
- Prime minister’s private dinners net Tories £700,000 (guardian.co.uk)
- David Cameron in peril as discontent in Tory ranks rises (telegraph.co.uk)
- Six Tory London MPs ‘will lose seats in 2015’ (standard.co.uk)
- ‘Economic jihad’: Vince Cable hits out at Tory calls for yet more spending cuts (mirror.co.uk)