Ashcroft gave £1.4m plus loan of aircraft to Tories

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Indy Politics

Lord Ashcroft, the controversial billionaire Conservative treasurer who was ennobled last week, gave his party £1.4m last year, it was revealed yesterday.

Lord Ashcroft, the controversial billionaire Conservative treasurer who was ennobled last week, gave his party £1.4m last year, it was revealed yesterday.

The businessman gave a cash donation of £766,000 and also converted an interest-free loan of £250,000 into a gift, the party's accounts showed. In addition, he gave donations in kind amounting to almost £400,000, including the use of his private aircraft, market research and loans of staff.

The accounts for the 1999-2000 financial year listed 126 major donors, each of whom gave the party more than £5,000. They included gifts from the Carlton Club, Andersen Consulting and the carpet millionaire Lord Harris of Peckham. Michael Ancram, the Conservative Party chairman, said the number of large donations, up from 83 last year, showed the party had broadened the base of its funding. There had only been 33 such donors in the 1997-98 financial year, he said.

The Tories made a surplus of £4,000 during the year compared with a deficit in the previous year of £1.9m, he added. Income from donations rose to £7,270,000 from £6,425,000 but income from constituencies fell to £1,205,000 compared with £1,353,000 in the previous year.

However, the party still had an overdraft of more than £3m, secured on its £6m headquarters in Westminster. Its total outstanding loans stood at £7.1m, down from £7.5m last year.

The party could be just months away from a general election but its team of candidates was the strongest for many years, Mr Ancram said.

"We should make no mistake: there is a difficult fight ahead. Yet the Conservative Party now speaks for the mainstream majority in our country. It is now time for a Conservative Government to deliver for them, too," he said.

In his annual report to the party, Mr Ancram said the last year had been a "splendid" one for the Conservative Party.

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