Cruddas had much more access to PM than Downing Street disclosed


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The Independent Online

Disgraced former Tory party treasurer Peter Cruddas had direct access to David Cameron on at least 13 separate occasions since he came to power, it emerged yesterday, undermining Downing Street's attempts to close down the cash-for-access scandal.

Mr Cruddas, pictured, was forced to resign last week after he was secretly filmed by undercover reporters boasting that he could provide access to Mr Cameron and other ministers for "premier league" donors giving £250,000 to the party.

At the time, Downing Street attempted to dismiss Mr Cruddas as an inexperienced treasurer who had little access to Mr Cameron and had never had dinner in Downing Street.

But new revelations suggest his contact with Mr Cameron was much more extensive than the Prime Minister's advisors have admitted.

These included being invited to a dinner on the Prime Minister's birthday at a Belgravia restaurant and serving a curry – to Mr Cameron's wife, Samantha, when she was his dinner companion at a charity event at Chequers which he sponsored.

Mr Cruddas' name was not on the list released last week of Chequers visitors. However, Downing Street said this was because it was a charity event attended by a large number of people, including donors to both Labour and the Tories.

"The Conservative Party never claimed 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," it said in a statement.

But Sir Alistair Graham, the former standards commissioner, said attempts to conceal "systematic arrangements" for private dinners between donors and Mr Cameron posed "serious dangers for the Prime Minister".

"When the Cruddas story broke he seemed very anxious to disassociate himself from what Cruddas had done," Sir Alistair said.

"When it becomes known that he hasn't told the full story, when he had ample opportunity to do so... he's really in danger of falling into the sleaze category," he added.