We reported in this morning’s FT that wealthy Conservative backers are increasingly anxious about giving money to the party, worried they will end up in the headlines when the next donor scandal breaks.
In the last six months, these donors have been exposed to the media spotlight twice: first in the controversy over who was paying for Adam Werritty, Liam Fox’s unofficial adviser, and now in the scandal prompted by allegations that prospective donors were offered access to Number 10 in return for cash.
One prominent backer told the FT he was adopting a “hedgehog” policy – retreating behind his spines rather than giving more money and exposing himself to this level of scrutiny. He said:
My cheque book has been put away . . . there is no possibility of privacy.
The leadership is clearly rattled. Lord Fink, who stepped back into the role of treasurer following the revelations, immediately wrote to donors saying:
I would like to thank you very much for your support of the party [and] to apologise profusely for the embarrassment and reputational damage caused by the Peter Cruddas incident.
But what’s really annoying some donors? Not so much the glare of media scrutiny, it seems. More the fact that some people seem to have been invited to Number 10, and they haven’t. One person close to the party leadership said:
We needed to make clear to donors that despite the headlines they are treated fairly . . . Some people might have felt others’ policy was being discussed with the prime minister when their ideas weren’t getting through.
It’s a tough job, being party treasurer.