Tory 'Cover-Up' On PM's Dinners With Donors

The Conservative Party is facing fresh "cash-for-access" allegations over its failure to report private meetings between the Prime Minister and party donors.

Disgraced former Tory Party treasurer Peter Cruddas , claimed to have direct access to David Cameron on at least 13 occasions.

These occasions included a dinner in London's Belgrave Square on the PM's birthday.

He also said he had bankrolled and attended a function at the PM's private residence Chequers, which has not been disclosed by Downing Street.

Mr Cruddas even claimed he served a "ruby murray" - Cockney rhyming slang for curry - to Mr Cameron's wife Samantha, at the charity dinner.

He also claimed to have secured a £1m donation.

Mr Cruddas was forced to quit as Tory treasurer last week after he was filmed by undercover reporters from The Sunday Times offering meetings with Mr Cameron in return for donations of up to £250,000.

Publishing further information from its probe, the newspaper accused Downing Street of a cover-up because an official list put out last week failed to mention Mr Cruddas was at the Chequers dinner on October 15, last year.

In a statement, the Conservative Party said: "Over last weekend there was speculation about dinners in the Prime Minister's flat in Downing Street.

"In response to this, the Conservative Party published details of occasions when significant donors had lunch or dinner in official residences used by the Prime Minister, ie Downing Street and Chequers.

"The Conservative Party never claimed that it was publishing details of every occasion the Prime Minister had met with a donor and explicitly did not publish details of the Chequers charity opera event in aid of Mencap and other smaller charities.

"This was attended by a large number of people, including donors to both the Labour Party and the Conservative Party. It is a longstanding event, organised
by a fundraising committee and it raised £1m for the charities."

According to a YouGov poll for The Sunday Times, 68% of people believe that donors do have an influence on Tory policies and 68% think British politics is corrupt.

Sky News correspondent Niall Paterson said: "Peter Cruddas has been variously described as insignificant, a peripheral figure, an inexperienced treasurer that didn't really know what he was up to."

However, the problem for the Tory Party is the revelations "paint a rather different picture", he said.

"Clearly the Conservative Party feel that they didn't promise to release every single detail of every single meeting with donors, however, they may well be regretting that because quite clearly the public doesn't like it," Patterson explained.

"There is one very simple solution to all of this - state funding for political parties . But right now, at a time of austerity, it would seem that politicians would be the last thing the public would wish to pay for."

Speaking on Sky News' Murnaghan programme, shadow foreign secretary Douglas Alexander said: "We need changes in the way political parties are funded.

"Otherwise I think we're going to see a continuation of the kind of scandals we saw break last weekend under the Conservative Party - but if we're honest all political parties have suffered in the past."

Asked about Labour's links with unions that are a major source of funding for the Opposition, Mr Alexander said: "I genuinely think there is a world of difference between a dinner lady paying £3 a year to support a political levy that is given to the Labour Party and a millionaire paying a quarter of a million pounds to have dinner with the Prime Minister in Downing Street."

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