MONITOR: MICHAEL ASHCROFT

Comment on the allegations of sleaze against the Conservatives' billionaire party treasurer
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The Independent Culture
The Times

ONLY LAST year, Mr Hague pledged that "we are not going to have in the future any of the kind of controversies that have dogged us in the past over funding". If Mr Hague were to win the next election, Mr Ashcroft would be running the finances of the party in charge of Britain's economy. The party chairman, Michael Ancram, dismissed the latest revelations as part of a "political campaign" against the Tory treasurer. That is nonsense. Mr Hague can either continue with this stalling tactic and continue to keep his treasurer. Or he can turn away from the Realpolitik of Belize and face the reality of British politics.

The Mirror

MR HAGUE, angry at the campaign of innuendo, is evidently determined to stand by his treasurer. He should think again. In fact, he ought to tell Mr Ashcroft that for the good of the party he should stand down. It may be unfair, but so is life. Unfortunately, in the goldfish bowl that is politics, perceptions count for as much as reality. If people think you are dodgy, they draw their own conclusions and go the other way. They will continue to do that until the Tory Party is - and is seen to be - a totally sleaze-free zone. Every other consideration is secondary. Be ye ever so rich, you are not indispensable. (Paul Routledge)

The Economist

IN EVERYTHING except the strict accounting sense of the word Mr Ashcroft has become a liability. His days are probably numbered. Is there a moral? At least two. It is bad for democracy when a single rich man is perceived to have purchased undue influence over a political party. But that is one of the many claims against Mr Ashcroft that have not been proven: Michael Ancram, the party chairman, credits him with having broadened the party's financial base. So it does not seem fanciful - second moral - that some of the animus against him stems from a sort of snobbery.

The Guardian

THERE IS nothing much here from the curriculum vitae of many a child of Thatcher. The story is given an air of quasi-criminal scandal by the shrieking prominence it gets, which it does not deserve. But it is at least out in the open. We make of it what we will. Transparency is an imperfect way of improving reality but, in this field, it's the only weapon available for keeping politicians anywhere near the straight and narrow. (Hugo Young)

Evening

standard

THE MAN most likely to be Tory candidate for mayor, Jeffrey Archer, cannot be relied upon to type out an accurate CV for himself. And the man who is the party's treasurer lives abroad, wants to set up offshore banks, and allegedly threatens to cause trouble if he doesn't get his way. That the Conservative Party should be bankrolled to such an extent by any one individual is a matter for concern. That it should be financed by someone with such a question mark over him should be deeply disturbing for Mr Hague. His continued loyalty to Mr Ashcroft must surely be in doubt.

Daily Mail

POLITICAL PARTIES must be above suspicion. The Tories are in danger of failing that test - as indeed is the Labour Party, over the favours it has done for Formula One and animal rights lobbyists, when it has accepted large handouts from both. Labour's attempt to exploit this affair is very much a case of the pot calling the kettle black. With the huge cost of modern campaigning, both parties are tempted to sail close to the wind. That will continue unless there are tighter controls over political contributions and election spending. Until that day, political leaders have a duty to reassure the public. Mr Hague must now activate the Tory Ethics and Integrity Committee to investigate the facts. And challenge Labour to put its own house in order.

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