Questions mount for Tories over The Aschcroft Supremacy

Tax dodger Lord Ashcroft donated £4.7m - 78% of money spent by the Tories in key marginals, much higher than the 2% figure they've been spinning.

Our guest writer is Dan McCurry

Private polling by the Conservatives shows that their lead in the polls, which has been slipping nationally in recent months, is holding up well in key marginal seats, due to their massive financial resources, as compared to the Labour party’s active volunteers.

If they have such massive funds that they can buy the outcome of democracy, then what declarations of interests are contained on their campaign material? Do these employees tell the voters they are paid when they canvass?

Their marginal seat campaign is masterminded by the UK-tax-avoiding billionaire Lord Ashcroft. Of the £6m that the Tories have poured into these 117 key marginals, Ashcroft’s contribution to Tory coffers has totaled a massive £4.7m – 78%, 39 times higher than the mere “2%” figure the Tories claim he has donated.

Yet, not only does this foreign-based billionaire avoid UK tax, but he has avoided scrutiny which affects the legality of the donations as well as his right to bear his treasured title and to vote in the upper chamber, following the undertakings attached to the award of his peerage – to make the UK his permanent home for tax purposes by the end of 2000.

This persistent flouting of agreements brings into question the integrity of the £4.7m in gifts. The Tories confirmed last year that Lord Ashcroft was the party’s biggest benefactor in 2008, yet it took ten years to reveal his flouting of agreements.

What declaration of interests are displayed on their paid-for campaigning in these marginal constituencies?

Do they declare that the posters, phone-calls, canvassing and leaflets are funded by a foreign-based billionaire with a ten year history of avoiding transparency? If not, then why not?

If not, then are they arguing that he is a rogue deputy-chair, while the integrity of the party as a whole is not in question? If so, then they should demonstrate their transparency with declarations of interest in all paid-for campaigning.

If they are unwilling to do this, then perhaps we should conclude that they are still just the same old Tories?

Channel Four News has more on the use of the Ashcroft cash in key marginals, and Political Scrapbook reports on Michael Gove’s description of Ashcroft as a “comedian” who puts the Tories’ “entire strategy at risk”.

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23 Responses to “Questions mount for Tories over The Aschcroft Supremacy”

  1. House Of Twits

    RT @leftfootfwd Questions mount for Tories over The Aschcroft Supremacy:

  2. Political Scrapbook

    RT @leftfootfwd: Questions mount for Tories over The Aschcroft Supremacy:

  3. MyDavidCameron

    RT @leftfootfwd Questions mount for Tories over The Aschcroft Supremacy:

  4. AndyG

    RT @mydavidcameron: RT @leftfootfwd Questions mount for Tories over The Aschcroft Supremacy:

  5. Anthony Painter

    RT @torybear: Ashcroft ….only 10% of the marginal seats funds. Jog on. < 78% according to @leftfootfwd

  6. uberVU - social comments

    Social comments and analytics for this post…

    This post was mentioned on Twitter by leftfootfwd: Questions mount for Tories over The Aschcroft Supremacy:

  7. Guido Fawkes

    Could you repeat the exercise for the Unite union?

  8. Henry

    And don’t forget to add in the £569,000 handed over to the Tories since 2003 by Ashcroft’s wife Susan Anstey. Presumably legal?

  9. Peter Kenyon

    Could David Cameron arrange for a cheque presenting ceremony for the repayment of all UK tax avoided since undertakings were given to the House of Lords Appointments Committee?

  10. Liz McShane

    Guido – Trade Union donations to the Labour Party are made up of individual donations/levies by their members and are voted on. There is no equivalence (moral or otherwise) between this and Lord Cashcroft – I don’t know why you keep conflating the two things.

  11. Jed Keenan

    Embarrassment over rich tax avoiding benefactors really needs to be overcome. They are whom the Tory Party proudly represent for generations. Pretending to be inclusive for electoral purposes is in itself embarrassing.

  12. Sign the petition to demand Cameron's pal Aschroft pays back the £127 million he owes | Left Foot Forward

    […] today, Left Foot Forward reported the huge influence Ashcroft has over the Tory party, and the potential effect he may have on the […]

  13. Mr. Sensible

    Agreed, Liz.

    This is a mess; 10 years after Cashcroft’s pledge he’s failed to honour it.

  14. James Plunkett

    RT @mydavidcameron RT @leftfootfwd Questions mount for Tories over The Aschcroft Supremacy:

  15. John77

    Your graph does not reflect the story reported in The Independent, which shows that over 80% of Tory spending in marginal seats was raised locally.
    Over the last two years the biggest individual donor has been Lord Sainsbury who has given over £4.5m to Labour while Ashcroft has given less than £2m to the Tories, less than one-third of the amount spent. Try reading the Electoral Commission webpage.

  16. Liz McShane

    Guido – i forgot to add that those trade union members also pay tax on their hard earned uk salary.

  17. John77

    Liz McShane – you conveniently forgot to add that trade union members get tax relief on their subscriptions and trade unions do not pay tax.
    All of Lord Ashcroft’s donations are made out of income on which he has paid UK tax (non-doms have to pay tax on any foreign income remitted to the UK).
    So the lack of equivalence is that money paid to Labour via the unions is tax-free, money paid to the Conservatives is out of taxed income.

  18. Liz McShane

    John – you very conveniently forgot to add that Lord Cashcoft is one (very rich) individual vs trade union donations which come out of the pockets of numerous (uk-based) hard working individuals – NO MORAL EQUIVALENCE!

  19. Tyler

    @ Liz McShane

    So it’s OK for Lakshmi Mittal and Sainsbury to be rich, non-dom and donate to Labour, but it’s not ok for Ashcroft to donate to the Tories?

    You might also want to have a look at where the unions get a lot of their money from – the “union modernisation fund”. It’s essnetially a taxpayer funded slush fund for the unions, to the tune of about £10m a year. I wonder where a lot of that money ends up?

    Frankly my dear, your hypocrisy does you no favours.

  20. Tyler

    Oh, by the way, the TUC and UNTIE won’t tell me how much they benefit from the UMF. FOI here we come….

  21. John77

    Liz McShane
    “No moral equivalence” because Ashcroft makes his donations out of after-tax income whereas Trade Union donations are tax-free: perhaps, but I should just say unfair.
    Do you mean rich men should not spend their money in a way they like but the poor airline pilots should have that right? You are on very thin ice.
    The largest political donor is Lord David Sainsbury, given a title and a ministerial post by Tony Blair after he had given £3m to New Labour. He has, by now, given over £15m to New Labour. Incidentally, the Labour government has changed planning rules against the advice of the Competition Commission in a way that benefits J Sainsbury plc (his stake in the family firm is still worth over £300m) and there is no evidence that the Tories have ever done anything to benefit Lord Ashcroft.

  22. Liz McShane

    John – rich men & women can spend their money the way they like but when it comes to being one of the single biggest backers of a political party then we need complete transparency & honesty – maybe you should remind William Hague of that. Union donations are made up of individual members’ donations which come of their salary of which they pay tax.

    The difference is collectivity as opposed to one single person having a strategic influence and I think this is rather undemocratic and dangerous and that goes for all political parties.

    With regards to your belief that: “Tories have ever done anything to benefit Lord Ashcroft”. I think William Hague lobbied quite hard to get him a peerage.

    Tyler – Re the UMF, I don’t have a problem with this – it seems transparent, useful and forward-thinking:

    “The Union Modernisation Fund (UMF) was created by the Government to support innovative union projects to adapt to changes in the labour market.

    By funding a variety of projects, which will be formally evaluated, and by publicising the results more widely among unions, the UMF will help unions to test innovative ways of working and provide a demonstration effect for the whole trade union movement, enabling unions to realise more fully their potential to improve the world of work for workers and employers alike.

    p.s. you can dispense with the ‘My Dear’- touching as it might be – it’s just a little superfluous.

  23. John77

    “Union donations are made up of individual members’ donations which come of their salary of which they pay tax.”
    NO THEY DO NOT. Union dues and membership subscriptions to professional bodies are tax-deductible – i.e. they come out of gross salary and tax is only levied on the salary net of the union dues. Look it up on HMRC website or any one of several union websites.
    Transparency – just ask Peter Watts! Or Lord Levy who had to spend a lot of time talking to Scotland Yard detectives who couldn’t prove anything thanks to the murky way he operated. Maybe you should remind Tony Blair, Gordon Brown (the fund that had no name), Michael Martin … The biggest backer of a political party is not Lord Ashcroft – it is Lord David Sainsbury who has given over £15m to New Labour. I don’t have the data to hand but I think Mr Dromey’s union has also given a lot more than Lord Ashcroft and lots of us would love to see the faintest glimmer of transparency in that relationship. At least Harold Wilson was open about consulting Trade Union leaders!
    The way that the unions are run, the trade union leaders have a vast deal of personal influence – so Wilson made Frank Cousins a minister, just as Attlee had made Ernie Bevin (except Ernie was quite good at it and Cousins was damagingly bad) – and there is no evidence that Ashcroft has had any influence on Conservative policy (I have seen a quote on the lines of “nobody knows what my political views are”).
    Secondly charismatic individuals do have a strategic influence – I wasn’t born in 1940 so let’s start with MacMillan, who is famous for making 1950s pensioners better off than they had been when working in the 1940s, moving the Conservatives to the left, Wilson, Thatcher, Michael Foot, Tony Blair, all of whom used democracy to advance the cause to which they were committed. (If you want historic examples in democracies: Pericles, Julius Caesar and Augustus, Lincoln, Gladstone, Hitler, Churchill)
    Sorry – I meant Lord Ashcroft’s business/financial interests (no really, I did – there would not have been any point in Ashcroft continuing to finance the Conservatives after 2001 if he wanted a peerage out of it).

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