Gavin Maclure's Musings

My take on politics locally, nationally and internationally


The Conservative Party isn’t nasty but (some of) the leadership are

Cameron glum

This story won’t go away so I keep being prompted to chuck my two-penneth worth in.

A year ago, The Sunday Times conducted a “sting” operation against the then treasurer of the Conservative Party, Peter Cruddas. A self-made billionaire part cockney, part geordie, he doesn’t fit the mould of the quintessential Tory treasurer. Well, perhaps a constituency party treasurer but not THE Tory treasurer. Peter Cruddas’ talents were unleashed by Margaret Thatcher who then took every opportunity afforded to him by her Government to become very rich indeed and subsequently an employer of over 500 people. I say good luck to him. At least he made his money, rather than inherit it or worse take home millions of pounds as a CEO who has never taken a personal risk in his life.

But the flip-side is he isn’t one of Dave’s mates. He didn’t have a trust fund from birth, he didn’t go to Eton, he didn’t play tennis at Brasenose. In short, he isn’t one of the Cameroons. There are plenty of Tories (no where near as rich, of course) like Mr Cruddas up and down the country, just not in the Notting Hill elite Cameroon club.

Former Tory Treasurer Peter Cruddas

Former Tory Treasurer Peter Cruddas

In 2012, Sunday Times journalists Jonathan Calvert and Heidi Blake set up a meeting with Mr Cruddas pretending to be agents for foreign investors and took along with them a hired lobbyist and former Conservative Party worker called Sarah Southern, who was unaware of the sting. The meeting was secretly recorded with each reporter wearing a hidden camera. In three subsequent articles they alleged Mr Cruddas put a cash donation price, in breach of UK electoral law, on the opportunity to influence government policy and gain unfair advantage through secret meetings with the Prime Minister and other senior ministers.

The journalists had lied. The full transcript of the secret recording showed Mr Cruddas had repeatedly said all donations had to be “compliant” with the law. Peter Cruddas sued the paper and last week won his libel case at the High Court and was awarded damages of £180,000. The Sunday Times must also pay £500,000 in costs.

When the story broke last year before Peter Cruddas had a chance to put his side of the story, Tory HQ in London were already briefing journalists he had resigned. Whilst Conservative ministers went on national news to distance themselves from Mr Cruddas, the Conservative Party Board jettisoned him as treasurer without a second’s thought.

Things had been so different. David Cameron had carefully cultivated a relationship with this major donor during the preceding years when Mr Cruddas gave hundreds of thousands of pounds personally to the Party and helped raise millions more.

After being vindicated, there has been complete silence from the Party. No apology from David Cameron or Party Chairman Grant Shapps who has managed to side-step media prompts for an apology no fewer than seven times over recent days.

Unfortunately, this level of contempt for anyone not seen to be at the same level as the Cameroon elite is par for the course. If donating hundreds of thousands of pounds to the Party effort doesn’t win you respect what chance have the grassroot activists got who muster up their support by delivering thousands of leaflets and attending the odd fundraising event. None. In fact, the grassroots are not only ignored but besmirched by the Party hierarchy as was seen when Co-Chairman Andrew Feldman called his own ordinary members mad swivel-eyed loons.

The tipped next Tory leader Theresa May back in 2002 told the Conservative members they were known as the “nasty party”. As if that comment hasn’t done enough damage to the prospects of the Conservative Party ever winning a parliamentary election again, the leadership is intent on being as “nasty” as possible to all it’s supporters.

Perhaps Mr Crosby could have a word?