Did Cameron use “loose language” to describe Ashcroft loan?

David Cameron faces accusations of using "loose language" to describe a loan to the Conservative party. But was the original loan from Michael Ashcroft?

The Ashcroft scandal rumbled on today with David Cameron facing accusations of using “loose language” to describe a loan to the Conservative party.

Last night on BBC News, David Cameron told Nick Robinson:

“I have sorted out the debts of the conservative party. I have sorted out the funding of the conservative party. I have made it less reliant on a few wealthy people. I have broadened its base. I have paid off loans including a very large loan to Michael Ashcroft so the party is not in his debt one piece. That is what I have done.”

Watch it:

But the only loan of this nature recorded on the Electoral Commission website is from Lanners Services Limited, which was paid back in March 2007. According to the Belize Government Gazette (p.14), Lanners Services Limited was subsequently “dissolved and duly struck off” the International Business Companies register on May 10, 2007.

When Left Foot Forward contacted the Electoral Commission today to ask why the loan referred to by David Cameron was not on their website, they referred us to paragraph 2.17 of their investigation into the £5.1 billion donation from Bearwood Corporate Services which said:

“references to Lord Ashcroft as the donor were ‘loose language’ rather than to be interpreted literally.”

David Cameron isn’t the first person to use “loose language” in relation to the Lanners Services loan. The Conservative party’s 2006 accounts say:

On 30 January 2006 an amount of £3,600,000 was lent to the Conservative Central Office by a company in which Lord Ashcroft has an interest. This loan together with interest was repaid on 12 March 2007″.

While in his book, ‘Dirty Politics Dirty Times‘, Lord Ashcroft writes (p.318):

After David was elected leader, I renegotiated the terms of the loan that I had made to the party. Not only did I defer the repayment of £2.5 million due on 31 January 2006 but I increased the amount of the loan by a further £1.1 million.

Why do the Conservatives, including their leader, keep on using “loose language” to refer to the Lanners loan as coming from Lord Ashcroft? Could it be the case that Lord Ashcroft is the true donor and that the loan was therefore wrongly designated under Section (54) of the Political Parties, Elections and Referendums Act? Left Foot Forward is awaiting an answer from CCHQ.

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