Diary: What price to dine with the Prime Minister?

  • @andymcsmith

Donations of £250,000 a year will buy you dinner with David Cameron, the Conservative Party co-treasurer Peter Cruddas told undercover reporters in March. He had to resign as soon as his words – which Mr Cameron described as "completely unacceptable" – appeared in The Sunday Times.

But judging from the latest figures released yesterday by the Electoral Commission, where Mr Cruddas got it wrong was that he set the price too high. Labour researchers went through the list of Tory donors from the first three months of this year and found nine who are known to have been the Prime Minister's guests at lunches or dinners in Downing Street or Chequers. The amounts they donated over the quarter ranged from £12,500, which the Swiss-born stockbroker Henry Angest donated through Flowidea, a company he controls, to £183,950, given by the hedge-fund manager, Michael Farmer, a party co-treasurer. Other donor-diners were Anthony Bamford, whose companies gave £25,000 and £70,000; the billionaire Michael Hintze, who gave £41,500; the financier Howard Leigh, who gave £16,500; the hedge-fund manager Sir Paul Ruddock, who gave £50,000; the City tycoon and former Tory treasurer Michael Spencer, who gave £82,723; Ian Taylor, who heads the world's largest oil trader, Vitol, who gave £35,000; and Stanley Fink, a Tory peer and hedge-fund manager, who gave £43,240.

Mr Cruddas, who founded the online trading company CMC, is not among those listed as having eaten at Mr Cameron's table, despite being the most generous donor of the lot. He gave £215,243.90.

Plagiarism? Clegg just failed, again

Compare and contrast: "We must reject the snobbery that says the only route to social mobility runs through University... We need to ensure vocational education is seen as just as much of a gold standard as academic education." So said Ed Miliband, speaking to the Sutton Trust on Monday.

"For too long there's been a barely disguised snobbery that says once you leave school, the only good thing to do is go to university. We have to value vocational education just as much as academic studies." So Nick Clegg wrote in the The Sun yesterday.

Labour is suggesting that the Deputy Prime Minister is guilty of plagiarism – especially as he too gave a speech to the Sutton Trust on social mobility, but never mentioned vocational training. Perhaps it is simply a case of great minds.

Our bark can be worse for a bite

Alfred Harmsworth, founder of the Daily Mail, is reputed to have said that when a dog bites a man it is not news, but when a man bites a dog, it is. I am not sure where that leaves the warning issued this week by Hackney Council about the environmental damage caused by dogs biting and scratching trees.

Not hanging around...

The ever restless Ben Fogle – adventurer, writer and TV presenter – has found an original way to deal with the mid-life crisis that will inevitably be upon him when he hits 40 next year. He is proposing to swim across the Atlantic for charity, carrying sensors to allow scientists to study the ocean surface. He tells me that it will not happen until next year, but he is going public today to stop himself having second thoughts.