I am not a uncritical fan of Michael Ashcroft.  I think his polling operation and Smell The Coffee report did too much to send the Cameron project in an über-modernising direction (before the ‘rebalancing’ of mid-2007).  I also worry that his financial clout partly explains CCHQ’s snail-like embrace of internet-based fundraising but that’s hardly his fault.

But these are small reservations compared to the overall good he has brought to the Conservative cause.  As Treasurer during the challenging Hague years he and friends kept the party afloat.  With his support for marginal seats he has organised a more professional operation than CCHQ had ever managed.  He is also an important supporter of centre right causes outside the Conservative Party.  I can speak with personal experience about the generous support he gave to the Centre for Social Justice when I was helping IDS to get it going.

Lord Ashcroft’s charitable giving and his personal interest in recognising the heroes of our armed forces are also very worthy stuff.

The Left will no doubt glory in today’s news that the Electoral Commission is investigating donations from his Bearwood Corporate Services company.  We can only hope that the Commission will reach a speedy conclusion and give Lord Ashcroft a clean bill of health.

Tim Montgomerie