Today’s Mail on Sunday carries a story from Peter Oborne wherein he claims that Lord Feldman, co-chairman of the Conservative Party, is quietly raising funds for ‘Britain Stronger in Europe’, the Remain campaign.
Having been tipped off by Matthew Elliot, Chief Executive of Vote Leave, after he was contacted by some concerned Tory donors.
Unfortunately Elliot had been sworn to secrecy, so we don’t know the identities of Feldman’s accuser.
When Oborne went to CCHQ for a comment, what he got was a non-denial and, oddly given that, a reiteration off CCHQ’s official neutrality.
As Oborne points out, if the Party Chairman is using his knowledge of donors to fundraise for BSE, that’s a clear breach of the neutral stance agreed by the Party Board.
It is also a disservice to ordinary Party member, who will be expected to set aside their own feelings on the EU when engaged in Conservative Party business.
More than that, it is extraordinarily reckless.
Most Tory-watchers agree that the EU referendum is the one issue which might completely undo all the progress David Cameron has made in restoring the Conservatives as a united, effective party of majority government.
The entire reason that the Party will be officially neutral during the campaign – against, surely, the true preferences of the Prime Minister – is precisely to avoid strained loyalties and the risk of a split.
To accept neutrality publicly and then covertly campaign for Remain is, if anything, potentially worse than just out-and-out deploying the Party machinery for the EU honestly.
It also plays into an unfortunate narrative for Feldman – who is still remembered for allegedly referring to ordinary party members as “swivel-eyed loons” – of holding the party and its membership in low regard.
And due to their closeness, that rubs off on Cameron too.
If the Chairman is hitting up Tory donors on behalf of the pro-EU campaign, he should stop at once. Donors so contacted should report their concerns to CCHQ, this website – or indeed, to Elliot and the Vote Leave campaign.