The row about what should happen to the money given to the Tories in the 1980s by the convicted fraudster Asil Nadir rumbles on. In this morning’s Mail, Lord McAlpine, the former Tory treasurer, said keeping the money would “taint” the party. He said:
It shames the Conservatives if they hang on to it. They have a moral duty to give it back.
He turned the screw on David Cameron himself:
The Tory Party has a duty to return it. It will speak volumes about the character of the modern Tory Party if they don’t do the right thing. I trust that David Cameron is an honourable man.
The former tycoon boasted in the 1990s of having given over £1m to the Tories, but the party says the money came from his company Polly Peck, and had not been stolen. They say this despite reports of a 1993 document from the accountants Touche Ross to Tory HQ which said £365,000 had been stolen.
I have been talking to several Tory MPs today and it seems all this wrangling over the cash is starting to make them uneasy. Two of them said they wanted the party simply to bite the bullet and hand the money back before the row got worse. One told me:
It seems the decent and honourable thing to do. We shouldn’t just give it back – we should stop having to go to the Asil Nadirs of this world to fund politics. We should be knocking on activists’ doors and raising funds like Obama does.
Those sentiments were echoed by another backbencher who told me:
I think we should pay the money back, regardless of whether Labour and the Lib Dems have done similar things. It’s about doing the right thing, not being led by their wrongdoing.
This isn’t the first time the Tories (or any the parties) have been caught in a funding row, and it won’t be the last. But after the accusations that the former Tory treasurer Peter Cruddas offered donors access to David Cameron in return for cash, many of their MPs now think the lasting taint of being implicated in this way could be worse than losing several hundreds of thousand, if not millions, of pounds in donations.
If these MPs and others go public, the pressure will increase significantly on David Cameron and the party to change their minds.