'Vote no to AV' group accused of being 'a Tory front organisation'

Leading labour politicians were accused last night of inadvertently providing political cover for a "Tory front organisation" campaigning against electoral reform.

NO to AV, which last night launched a television advertising drive, describes itself as non-partisan and cross-party and has won the backing of more than 200 Labour MPs and peers, including members of the shadow Cabinet.

However, many key staff members and wealthy donors to the campaign for a "No" vote on 5 May are active Conservatives, The Independent can disclose. They include its chairman, its head of press, its finance director, its co-treasurer and a national organiser.

The early driving-force behind the campaign to reject the alternative vote for Westminster elections was the Tory peer Lord Leach of Fairford, who is its chairman and also heads Open Europe, a eurosceptic think-tank. He has donated £25,000 to NO to AV.

The campaign's head of press, Dylan Sharpe, worked for Boris Johnson during his campaign for the London Mayoralty in 2008 and went on to the centre-right think Policy Exchange.

Matthew Elliott, the campaign's director, previously worked for the Tory MP Bill Cash and headed the Taxpayers' Alliance which was set up in 2004 to spotlight government waste and campaign for lower taxes.

The campaign's co-treasurer, Andrew Sells, is a Tory donor and on the board of Policy Exchange. He has given £25,000 to NO to AV. Peter Botting, who was its director of communications and is now a community outreach co-ordinator, is a political consultant who has regularly worked for the Conservatives. Other key figures in the campaign are its finance director, Charlotte Vere, a Tory candidate in Brighton at the last election, and Stephen Parkinson, who stood for the party in Newcastle, one of its national organisers. George Eustice, the Conservative MP for Camborne, Redruth and Hayle, plays a key role in briefing the press

Major financial supporters include the Tory peers Baron Sainsbury of Preston Candover, a member of the supermarket family, who gave £100,000, and Lord Harris of Peckham, a donor to David Cameron's leadership campaign and who gave £75,000. Michael Farmer, the city financier who has given £2.3m to the Tories, donated £100,000, while Lord Fink, the treasurer of the Tory party, handed £27,000 to the campaign.

The Liberal Democrat peer Lord Oakeshott of Seagrove Bay said: "It's clear the 'No' campaign is just a Tory front organisation. They provide the money, the staff, the muscle and the backbone of the campaign."

A Labour source on the campaign insisted that figures from the party wielded considerable influence behind the scenes. But he acknowledged: "Significant Tory resources have been put into the campaign."

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Life and Style
love + sex
Life and Style
Tikka Masala has been overtaken by Jalfrezi as the nation's most popular curry
food + drink
News
people
Voices
A propaganda video shows Isis forces near Tikrit
voicesAdam Walker: The Koran has violent passages, but it also has others that explicitly tells us how to interpret them
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
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

Recruitment Genius: Sales Ledger & Credit Control Assistant

£14000 - £17000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Sales Ledger & Credit Control...

Recruitment Genius: Project Administrator

£16000 - £19000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Project Administrator is requ...

Recruitment Genius: International Trade Advisors - Hertfordshire or Essex

£30000 - £35379 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The company is based in Welwyn ...

Recruitment Genius: Operations Controller - Response Centre

£20000 - £22000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity to join ...

Day In a Page

Syrian conflict is the world's first 'climate change war', say scientists, but it won't be the last one

Climate change key in Syrian conflict

And it will trigger more war in future
How I outwitted the Gestapo

How I outwitted the Gestapo

My life as a Jew in wartime Berlin
The nation's favourite animal revealed

The nation's favourite animal revealed

Women like cuddly creatures whilst men like creepy-crawlies
Is this the way to get young people to vote?

Getting young people to vote

From #VOTESELFISH to Bite the Ballot
Poldark star Heida Reed: 'I don't think a single bodice gets ripped'

Poldark star Heida Reed

'I don't think a single bodice gets ripped'
The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

Netanyahu knows he can get away with anything in America, says Robert Fisk
Families clubbing together to build their own affordable accommodation

Do It Yourself approach to securing a new house

Community land trusts marking a new trend for taking the initiative away from developers
Head of WWF UK: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

David Nussbaum: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

The head of WWF UK remains sanguine despite the Government’s failure to live up to its pledges on the environment
Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Set in a mythologised 5th-century Britain, ‘The Buried Giant’ is a strange beast
With money, corruption and drugs, this monk fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’

Money, corruption and drugs

The monk who fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’
America's first slavery museum established at Django Unchained plantation - 150 years after slavery outlawed

150 years after it was outlawed...

... America's first slavery museum is established in Louisiana
Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

The first 'American Idol' winner on how she manages to remain her own woman – Jane Austen fascination and all
Tony Oursler on exploring our uneasy relationship with technology with his new show

You won't believe your eyes

Tony Oursler's new show explores our uneasy relationship with technology. He's one of a growing number of artists with that preoccupation
Ian Herbert: Peter Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

The England coach leaves players to find solutions - which makes you wonder where he adds value, says Ian Herbert
War with Isis: Fears that the looming battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

The battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

Aid agencies prepare for vast exodus following planned Iraqi offensive against the Isis-held city, reports Patrick Cockburn