ConservativeHome columnist Louise Bagshawe was on Any Questions? last night (following Tim who was on last week) and gave a very assured performance. Sat next to her was Peter Oborne who had a rough time from the heckling Liverpudlian audience, of which I was a member.
He bravely bashed on though, and today he has put his head above the parapet again by writing a comprehensive account of how he believes "billionaire tycoon" Lord Ashcroft has taken over CCHQ. In his article he claims that:
- Ashcroft is building a private, permanent office in open-plan CCHQ complete with his own designer furniture.
- His closeness to Davis in 2005 and his continuing ambitions for Hague mean an "inbuilt structural conflict" between him and his
personal staff in Millbank, and the party leadership based in
- His in-house role is much more co-Chairman than non-executive, he "calls the tune" by having personal control of the important areas of marginal seats, research, opinion polling and focus groups.
- George Bridges’ resignation was more of a push from Lord Ashcroft, due to a long-standing "vendetta".
A friend of Ashcroft is quoted saying that he is only concerned with efficiency and not in altering policy, but it is hard to disagree with Oborne’s conclusion:
"His arrival at the heart of the Tory campaign is part of a troubling modern trend for rich men to use their huge financial resources to secure positions of influence in British public life."
Lord Ashcroft’s money has been sorely needed by the party in its opposition years, but democrats have to hope that in the long run David Cameron will be able to overcome the man’s predictable opposition to caps on donations.