Cameron on back foot over cash donations row?

Last Updated: Tuesday, March 27, 2012 - 20:39

London: Prime Minister David Cameron on Monday
released the names of multi-millionaires who donated funds to
the Conservative party and were entertained in his official
Downing Street residence, amid mounting pressure for a full
probe after a top party official quit for trying to sell
access to him.

The practice of granting cash donors access to the movers
and shakers in office has embarrassed several prime ministers,
but Cameron tied himself in knots by first denying it and then
bowing to pressure and releasing the list of names of people
he wined and dined with at 10 Downing Street since coming to
power in 2010.

The issue blew up on Sunday when Peter Cruddas,
co-treasurer of the Conservative party, was secretly filmed by
undercover reporters of The Sunday Times, promising access to
Cameron and his ministers for a donation of 250,000 pounds.

Cruddas boasted that he could arrange private meetings
with Cameron if their client joined the "premier league" of
donors who gave the party 250,000 pounds a year.

"It will be awesome for your business.....You are not
seeing the prime minister, you`re seeing David Cameron...and
you will be able to ask him practically any question you
want," he said in the film.

Cruddas resigned after Cameron described his behaviour as
"unacceptable", but calls for a full independent grew into the
`cash-for-access` scandal, promptly exploited by the
opposition Labour party.

As per details now released by Cameron`s office, there
were four meals with donors in the Prime Minister`s Downing
Street flat, including one shortly after the 2010 general
election to thank major contributors for their support.

There were also five lunches at Chequers, the premier`s
country retreat, and several visits to the country house by
Lord Feldman, the Conservative co-chairman and a significant
donor.

In total, the 15 people named in the list released have
donated almost 25 million pounds to the Conservative party,
most of it since Cameron became party leader in December 2005.

Labour leader Ed Miliband called for a full
investigation, telling parliament that is about "the prime
minister`s chief fundraiser seeking cash for access".

Noting Cameron`s absence in the House during the debate,
he alleged that Cameron was ashamed to face MPs because "he
has got something to hide".

The publication of the donors` names and their
hospitality was an embarrassing retreat for Downing Street,
which first refused to publish details of Cameron’s private
meetings with donors.

Francis Maude, the Cabinet Office minister, on Monday
stonewalled requests for information, dismissing questions
about possible impropriety as "nonsense".

The prime minister`s office initially refused to discuss
Cameron’s "private" engagements in his official residences.

"If he wants to have friends around, that`s a matter for
him," a spokeswoman said.

But Cameron was soon forced into a retreat, first
disclosing details of dinners in Downing Street and later of
meals at Chequers.

Miliband said the episode called into question Cameron’s
judgment.

PTI



First Published: Tuesday, March 27, 2012 - 20:39

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