For most of the cash-for-hours scandal the Conservatives have been quiet but Tory Chairman Francis Maude lets rip in an article for this morning’s Telegraph:
"From Ecclestone to Mittal to PowderJect, allegations abound that donations and loans have resulted in privileged access, influence, legislative changes and honours. The Prime Minister of the day and his advisers have been interviewed by the police on allegations of selling seats in our legislature in return for keeping the Labour Party afloat. On top of that, according to the Committee on Standards in Public Life, electoral fraud is rife and the watchdog set up to police elections — the Electoral Commission — is guilty of "regulatory failure"."
The Tory Chairman’s intervention coincides with news that is potentially deadly for Downing Street. An alleged cover-up of computer records was revealed by ITN and Sky last night and is reported in today’s Daily Mail:
"Police investigating the cash-for-honours affair have recovered
sensational deleted e-mails from Downing Street computers. They have
unearthed potentially vital evidence that key figures close to Tony
Blair openly discussed the possibility of Labour donors being rewarded
with peerages. Many of the e-mails were not voluntarily disclosed and
may have been deliberately concealed, police sources say. These
internal communications are key to the file submitted to the Crown
Prosecution Service, which will make the final decision on whether to
bring formal charges. The Daily Mail can reveal that detectives are
now increasingly confident that the ten-month investigation will end in
a criminal court case – either over claims that peerages were traded
for political donations, or an attempt to conceal evidence."
In addressing Labour’s current refusal to agree to a cap on donations – because of its increasing dependence on funding from the big unions – Mr Maude appears to suggest that the Tories would walk away from a cross-party deal on extra state funding of political parties. That would be good news for democracy and may be partly rooted in the Tories’ recent fundraising successes.