26 Mar 2012

Not a dinner party – more a donor party

Ah, so not exactly dinners for friends that happened to include donors. More like dinners for donors who’ve given a big sum.

There were three of these in the flat  (who knows how many more there would have been without the Sunday Times story), designed to reward big donors for funding the party. David Cameron said they were “not fund-raising dinners”…

Well, it’s hard not to see them as part of the fund-raising process. There was one full-scale dinner in No. 10 formal rooms. which looks like a much more fund-raising “thank you” dinner – with the  combined donations and wealth from that guest list I’m surprised the dining room floor didn’t give way.

But when you look down the flat dinners list, it’s not a perfect crossover between the most recent, biggest donations and a hot plate of fish pie – not the automaticity that would put booster rockets under the story. The PM’s aides say there’s nothing wrong with the whole idea and that they may well continue to have them, just with more openness about who comes along.

I wonder what the Alzheimer’s Society dementia forum thought of David Cameron using their event to mount his fightback on party funding. I think he felt uncomfortable himself shoe-horning the party funding defence into a speech here in Bloomsbury and that (am I being ridiculously generous?) might be why he took no questions from journalists who’d been told he’d be happy to answer queries from them after the speech.

I’ve been chatting to a donor who attended one of the dinner parties at the Downing Street flat. He said it was a “typical English dinner party” in that everything – “God, the world” – was discussed and “nothing in depth.”

“Everything was touched on the surface … Samantha chipped in… We moaned about this, that and the other…  A big theme was Libya” but it would’ve been “bad manners” to go too much into any one subject and nobody did. “Children and schools” were amongst the topics.

The donor said he thought he’d been invited because the party probably thought they “had to keep me a bit happy”. He didn’t recall David Cameron doing any serving or stacking the dishwasher but he remembered him being tieless and relaxed.

I also spoke to a former Conservative Party chairman this afternoon who said, on the subject of the Peter Cruddas taped sting: “That’s how it works” and “Just about every Tory MP knows that’s how it works.” Not quite on message… sadly not on camera either.

Having earlier said it wouldn’t be publishing a comparable list of donors who’ve visited Chequers, I hear that Downing Street’s decided that line isn’t sustainable and has spent the afternoon delving into records to see what can be revealed.

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11 reader comments

  1. Saltaire Sam says:

    I’ve been scratching around for a name for my new ‘None of the Above’ party to give voters the chance to tell MPs they are sick and tired with the way they behave, fail to live up to manifestos and become little more than whips fodder as soon as elected.

    How about The No Dinner Party?

    1. Andrew Dundas says:

      Hello Sam!
      There is not any ‘None of the above’ Party.
      Nor is there any ‘The No Dinner Party’.
      A potential Alternative Party is something like President Assad. He’ll be looking for another job soon. He speaks English and has a British wife. Which might make him marginally better than, say, a President Putin.
      I don’t believe that’s what you want at all. But it is the alternative to our messy democracy. Best not to make the ‘excellent’ the enemy of the ‘good’. Better to make ‘the good’ work somewhat better.

    2. sue_m says:

      President Assad (or similar) ‘is the alternative to our messy democracy’. Extreme to say the least.

      Best not to defend the failing system just because it does not fail in the same way as the Assad and Putin regimes. Better to find alternative systems that are less messy and closer to true democracy.

  2. Groc says:

    British democracy – the best money can buy.

  3. steveb says:

    10 Downing Street, now trading as ‘Doner’s Diner’… or ‘Sponsor’s SpeakEasy’…maybe, ‘The GB Grill’ (as in Generous Benefactors).

  4. Philip Edwards says:

    Gary,

    PLEASE can you get an interview with that Tory MP gimp Matthew Hancock?

    Paxman interviewed him and Oakeshott on “News night” last night and gave me the biggest political laugh of the year thus far – and that’s saying something. Even Paxman gave up and let the gimp rattle on; you couldn’t make him up.

    I’ve seen some paranoid, twitching, loony Tories in my time but Hancock walks off with the Oscar. Even Keith Joseph, Norman Tebbit and Bernard Ingham couldn’t hold a candle to this prize idiot.

    Do your best. It could provide hours of fun :-)

    1. Mudplugger says:

      Think yourself lucky they didn’t send the woeful ‘Baroness’ Warsi – Hancock may indeed be a gimp, but he’s a stellar performer compared to Her Baroness token-ship.

      Hancock is at least adequately thick-skinned (amongst other things) not to take it personally, but it could have been oh so much worse with Warsi.

  5. Andrew Dundas says:

    Why do electors imagine someone else should pay for British Politics?
    Is it part of that same syndrome where we commonly expect ‘the government’ to pay for services we all use? As if ‘the government’ has money that falls out of the sky?
    WE need to get real. All of us. We need political parties to come up with complex programmes that we can vote either for or against. And WE need to have those put before us during elections, and afterwards as the consequences of government policy are unleashed.
    WE also need those policies to have been researched, and BEFORE being included in each Party’s offering. And we need to ensure Parties have the resources to challenge those offerings in public. All of which is expensive.
    Given that we rely on all those expensive processes, do we really want most of those costs funded by Billionaires and Big Organisations? Or do we now understand that those funders want a ‘return’ for their ‘investments’?
    Instead. Should ‘the government’ pay for British politics out of that money they get from other people?

    1. sue_m says:

      You are right Andrew – we need to have complex manifesto’s researched, planned and put before us before and during elections. And this would be expensive (although not as expensive as it currently is with all the overpaid family members, expense accounts and salaries that don’t reflect the low qualification requirement for the job) but we don’t get that do we?
      We get a load of ideological guff, blame-mongering and a few party leaders bluffing their way into govt only to ditch most of the manifesto and start making it up as they go along.
      There is no reason donations cannot be capped to prevent any one or two donors having particular sway with a party and/or include some public funding to parties. The problem lies in having a small number of massively wealthy donors making up the bulk of a party’s funding. In this scenario it is likely they will feel they are owed something in return and the party will feel obligated.

  6. sue_m says:

    I wonder if donor kebab was on the menu at these dinners?

    No.10 Dinner Party game – the most generous donor gets to set party policy, the least generous gets roasted ;o)

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