The Sunday newspapers have caught up with Iain Dale’s blog and told the world that an Australian hedge fund millionaire is one of the Tory party’s previously secret lenders. The Observer also unmasks Johan Eliasch, a Swedish sports equipment tycoon and Finnish property billionaire Poju Zabludowicz.
A bigger and much less savoury story can be found in The Sunday Times:
"The Tories under David Cameron have accepted £100,000 from the wife of a foreign arms dealer barred from making political donations in Britain. Wafic Said, a Syrian-born Saudi, and his British wife Rosemary are accused of exploiting a loophole in the rules to fund the Tories, who are under increasing pressure to reveal their financial backers. According to a senior Conservative source, Said used to give donations to the Tories until he became a tax exile and foreign gifts were banned. His wife now bids at fundraising auctions, which friends say is his way of supporting the party."
The Sunday Times continues: "Over the past two years the Saids are understood to have given at least £550,000 to the Tories at auctions but none of it has been declared publicly."
The sale of arms to Saudi Arabia began in the 1980s under Margaret Thatcher with Wafic Said a key middleman: "Said has a colourful public profile. He was the middleman who profited from Britain’s biggest arms deal — “Al-Yamamah” — which involved the multi-billion-pound sale of fighters and warships to Saudi Arabia. The deal was signed by Margaret Thatcher, whose son Mark was said to have received payments for his involvement in the deal in the 1980s."
Mr Cameron was evasive when ConservativeHome asked him about arms sales to repressive regimes during the leadership process and a frontbench defence spokesman welcomed a new arms deal with the Saudis last December. The record of the Saudi kingdom on human rights, democracy and religious freedom leaves much to be desired. Arms sales to untrustworthy regimes have always been questionable but must be doubly so in the post 9/11 world.
For many Conservative members the party’s sources of revenue arouse less excitement than how the Tories spend their earnings. Last week’s news that Cameron aide Steve Hilton is receiving £23,000pcm caused much anger amongst ConservativeHome visitors.
Today’s Sunday Herald has used the Freedom of Information Act to produce a fascinating article on how the Tories spent £18m at the last General Election. Here are some of the highlights of the article:
- "Ex-Tory leader Howard handed over day-to-day control of last year’s election campaign to controversial Australian Lynton Crosby, whose six-month fee was reported to be £250,000. But invoices submitted by the pollster’s firm, Crosby Textor, show that the total amount was closer to £450,000, with a fee of up to £60,000 per month."
- "Documents also showed that the Tory campaign focused on policies designed to shore up their core vote. In particular, a large part of the £4.5m spent on “unsolicited material to electors” focused on protecting the UK’s borders."
- "Costs for the campaign slogan “Are you thinking what we are thinking?” came in at £120,000."
- "Documents showed the party footing the bill for up to £20,000 in libel damages for Labour MP Martin Salter, falsely accused of bullying at a Tory press conference in 2004."
These revelations will only encourage those party members who want to see CCHQ behave much more transparently. The elections to the party board – which has operational responsibility for fundraising and spending – are not even advertised on the party’s own website. ConservativeHome profiled the five candidates on Friday.