Tories in a spin over Ffion's necklace

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The Independent Online
IT WAS, we had been told, not just a political message but a heartfelt "thank-you present from her husband". But yesterday the pounds 1,500 pendant in the shape of a pound sign given to Ffion Hague was exposed as little more than a publicity stunt.

The necklace, which made headlines when Mrs Hague wore it at a rally before last month's European elections, was paid for not by the Tory leader but by his press chief, Amanda Platell.

Conservative Central Office yesterday confirmed that Ms Platell had ordered and paid for the pendant, which was encrusted with 30 diamonds.

The truth emerged because of the frustration of the London jeweller Jess James at the delay in settling the bill. It was overdue by five weeks, despite several invoices and numerous phone calls to Central Office.

The jeweller was told the bill would be settled by an anonymous benefactor but the payment was delayed because that person was cruising the Mediterranean on a yacht. The Tories said it was not the party treasurer, Michael Ashcroft.

A spokesman for the firm said: "In the end, the press lady ended up paying out of her own account. They got five weeks' credit out of it. We won't be working for the Tory party in future - definitely not."

A Conservative party spokesman said: "This is a fuss about nothing. The jeweller concerned was paid in full within five weeks. We are aware that small businesses rely on cash flow and that is why the situation was resolved so quickly."

The pendant's tarnished reputation has now cast a shadow on the provenance of Mrs Hague's recent reciprocal gift to her husband: cuff links bearing a silver outline of the United Kingdom. One of Mr Hague's aides moved swiftly to scotch rumours that they too had been a spin doctor's sleight of hand. "There is no cuff link mystery. Ffion bought them for William herself."