£160,000 for a tennis match between David Cameron and Boris Johnson - with Lynton Crosby as ball boy

 

Whitehall Editor

The Conservatives offered up their Australian election chief to act as a “ball boy” for a fund-raising auction tennis match between David Cameron and Boris Johnson which was successfully bid for by the wife of a wealthy Russian oligarch, it has emerged

In an attempt to raise more money to bankroll the party’s election campaign, Tories threw in the services of Lynton Crosby and its co-chairman, Lord Feldman, to act as “runners” for the match - fetching stray balls.

The slightly demeaning offer helped push up bids for the auction lot at the Conservatives’ controversial summer ball to £160,000. But it led Sir Alistair Graham, former chairman of the independent Committee on Standards in Public Life, to criticise the event for providing paid-for access to senior politicians.

“It’s shocking that you can pay for such secret access,” he said. “If you have a formal meeting with a government minister you would have to disclose that… The whole lobby is a central issue that the political system has to get to grips with.”

A Tory spokesman has previously said that all the party’s donations are in accordance with law.

The lot, called “the ultimate tennis match” between David Cameron and Boris Johnson, was eventually “won” by Lubov Chernukhin – the wife of President Putin’s former deputy finance minister Vladimir Chernukhin.

Lawyers for Mr Chernukhin told the Bureau of Investigative Journalism, which uncovered details of the event: “Mr Chernukhin attended the Hurlingham Club event with his wife, Lubov Chernukhin. Mrs Chernukin is a Conservative Party member and supporter. Mrs Chernukhin bid on the lot to which you refer. [Her] bid was successful.”

Eight years ago, Mr Chernukhin bought the former headquarters of the Midland Bank, which featured in Goldfinger, for £72m, planning to turn it into a hotel.

But in 2009, Credit Suisse called in administrators Grant Thornton on the Sir Edwin Lutyens-designed building after Mr Chernukhin defaulted on a £55m loan.

The auction was conducted by Hugo Swire, a Foreign Office minister and former Sotheby’s director, who volunteered the services of Mr Crosby and Lord Feldman for the tennis match.

Mr Swire also put up a jar of honey made by his own bees, saying he wanted it to become the most expensive pot of honey ever sold. It is believed to have gone for around £15,000.

Other auction prizes included a “Fantastic Eight Gun Pheasant Shoot”, which according to the event brochure was donated by Rosemary Said, wife of the Syrian-born business man Wafic Said. A bottle of champagne signed by Margaret Thatcher was auctioned off for £45,000. 

Almost the entire Cabinet attended the event. James Henderson, the chief executive of the lobbying firm Bell Pottinger, was a member of the organising committee.

Guests dined on smoked duck and chicken rillettes, sea bass and asparagus, followed by chocolate orange truffle cake with Chantilly cream. There was a choice of Spanish and French wines. A source told the Bureau that each guest’s place setting included an individual “pledge card”.

There is no suggestion of wrongdoing, but the fact that details of the event emerged so quickly will raise fears among the Tories that they have a “spy in the camp”.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA celebration of British elections
  • Get to the point
2015 General Election
May2015

Poll of Polls

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager (B2B) - Romford - £40,000 + car

£35000 - £40000 per annum + car and benefits: Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager...

Ashdown Group: Helpdesk Analyst - Devon - £20,000

£18000 - £20000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Helpdesk Analyst - Devon - £20,000 ...

Ashdown Group: Data Scientist - London - £50,000 + bonus

£35000 - £50000 per annum + generous bonus: Ashdown Group: Business Analytics ...

Ashdown Group: IT Project Coordinator (Software Development) - Kingston

£45000 - £50000 per annum: Ashdown Group: IT Project Coordinator (Software Dev...

Day In a Page

General Election 2015: ‘We will not sit down with Nicola Sturgeon’, says Ed Balls

'We will not sit down with Nicola Sturgeon'

In an exclusive interview, Ed Balls says he won't negotiate his first Budget with SNP MPs - even if Labour need their votes to secure its passage
VE Day 70th anniversary: How ordinary Britons celebrated the end of war in Europe

How ordinary Britons celebrated VE Day

Our perception of VE Day usually involves crowds of giddy Britons casting off the shackles of war with gay abandon. The truth was more nuanced
They came in with William Caxton's printing press, but typefaces still matter in the digital age

Typefaces still matter in the digital age

A new typeface once took years to create, now thousands are available at the click of a drop-down menu. So why do most of us still rely on the old classics, asks Meg Carter?
Discovery of 'missing link' between the two main life-forms on Earth could explain evolution of animals, say scientists

'Missing link' between Earth's two life-forms found

New microbial species tells us something about our dark past, say scientists
Ronald McDonald the muse? Why Banksy, Ron English and Keith Coventry are lovin' Maccy D's

Ronald McDonald the muse

A new wave of artists is taking inspiration from the fast food chain
13 best picnic blankets

13 best picnic blankets

Dine al fresco without the grass stains and damp bottoms with something from our pick of picnic rugs
General Election 2015: Ed Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

He was meant to be Labour's biggest handicap - but has become almost an asset
General Election 2015: A guide to the smaller parties, from the the National Health Action Party to the Church of the Militant Elvis Party

On the margins

From Militant Elvis to Women's Equality: a guide to the underdogs standing in the election
Amr Darrag: Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister in exile still believes Egypt's military regime can be replaced with 'moderate' Islamic rule

'This is the battle of young Egypt for the future of our country'

Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister Amr Darrag still believes the opposition can rid Egypt of its military regime and replace it with 'moderate' Islamic rule, he tells Robert Fisk
Why patients must rely less on doctors: Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'

Why patients must rely less on doctors

Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'
Sarah Lucas is the perfect artist to represent Britain at the Venice Biennale

Flesh in Venice

Sarah Lucas has filled the British pavilion at the Venice Biennale with slinky cats and casts of her female friends' private parts. It makes you proud to be a woman, says Karen Wright
11 best anti-ageing day creams

11 best anti-ageing day creams

Slow down the ageing process with one of these high-performance, hardworking anti-agers
Juventus 2 Real Madrid 1: Five things we learnt, including Iker Casillas is past it and Carlos Tevez remains effective

Juventus vs Real Madrid

Five things we learnt from the Italian's Champions League first leg win over the Spanish giants
Ashes 2015: Test series looks a lost cause for England... whoever takes over as ECB director of cricket

Ashes series looks a lost cause for England...

Whoever takes over as ECB director of cricket, says Stephen Brenkley
Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected