Questions mount over Ashcroft’s Millions

March 2, 2010

Private polling by the Conservatives shows that their lead in the polls, which has been slipping nationally in recent months, is holding up well in key marginal seats, due to their massive financial resources, as compared to the Labour party’s active volunteers. If they have such massive funds that they can buy the outcome of democracy, then what declarations of interests are contained on their campaign material? Do their employees tell the voters they are paid when they canvass?
Their marginal seat campaign is masterminded by the UK-tax-avoiding billionaire Lord Ashcroft. Of the £6m that the Tories have poured into these 117 key marginals, Ashcroft’s contribution to Tory coffers has totaled a massive £4.7m.
Yet, not only does this foreign-based billionaire avoid UK tax, but he has avoided scrutiny which effects the legality of the donations as well as his right to bear his treasured title and to vote in the upper chamber, following the undertakings attached to the award of his peerage; to make the UK his permanent home for tax purposes by the end of 2000.
This persistent flouting of agreements brings into question the integrity of the £4.7m in gifts. The Tories confirmed last year that Lord Ashcroft was the party’s biggest benefactor in 2008, yet it took ten years to reveal his flouting of agreements. What declaration of interests does their paid-for campaigning bear in these marginal constituencies? Do they declare that the posters, phone-calls, canvassing and leaflets are funded by a foreign-based billionaire with a ten year history of avoiding transparency? If not, then why not? If not, then are they arguing that he is a rogue deputy-chair, while the integrity of the party as a whole is not in question? If so, then they should demonstrate their transparency with declarations of interest in all paid-for campaigning. If they are unwilling to do this, then perhaps we should conclude that they are still just the same old Tories?