Cash-for-access inquiry deemed a whitewash before it's even begun
James Cusick is political correspondent of The Independent and The Independent on Sunday. As an experienced member of the lobby, he has previously worked at The Sunday Times and the BBC. His career as a journalist has been split between print and television, including senior positions as producer with Sir David Frost and at BBC Newsnight. He is also an award-winning golf and travel writer, working for over a decade as the UK contributing editor for one of the USA’s leading golf magazines. He broadcasts regularly for the BBC and CNN. He lives in London.
Monday 21 May 2012
David Cameron was urged to "come clean" yesterday and order a fully independent investigation of Conservative fundraising methods after it emerged that the party's internal inquiry into the cash-for-access scandal has no specific mention of the Prime Minister or Downing Street in its remit.
Last month, undercover reporters from The Sunday Times filmed the Tory Party co-treasurer, Peter Cruddas, saying that a donation of £250,000 would give "premier league" access to "private dinners" in Downing Street with Mr Cameron and George Osborne.
Mr Cruddas was later forced to resign, with the Prime Minister ordering a party inquiry that is being led by the Conservative peer, Lord Gold.
Although the terms of reference of the Gold inquiry include examination of the treasurer's department, compliance procedures, donor introductions and those authorised to solicit funds, Mr Cameron is mentioned only as the person the report will be handed to.
Labour's leadership condemned the Gold inquiry as a political exercise "sweeping the matter under the carpet".
The absence of Mr Cameron from Lord Gold's remit was criticised by the shadow Cabinet Office minister, Michael Dugher, who said: "This is an inquiry by the Tory party, of the Tory party and for the Tory party.
"It is a completely inadequate response to cash-for-access allegations which go right to the heart of David Cameron's government. The terms of reference give no mention of whether the Prime Minister thinks it's appropriate to give access to No 10 in return for big cash donations. Nor do they give any reassurance that the Conservative Party will fully answer questions about exactly how donations are solicited and what is promised in return."
Mark Adams, the public relations executive who helped The Sunday Times target Mr Cruddas, and who is scheduled to give evidence to Lord Gold, said the wide-ranging terms of reference and the absence of a specific question on the Prime Minister's involvement, suggested the final report would be a "spectacular whitewash, full of waffle about the way the Tory treasurer's department works".
Mr Adams said that asking Lord Gold and two other Tory peers – Lord MacGregor and Baroness Browning – to look into their party's funding was "rather like asking the Kray twins to investigate gangland crime in the East End".
Downing Street will also have to offer quick and transparent reassurances that 23 meetings Google executives have held with senior government ministers including the PM and the Chancellor since 2010 did not influence planned reforms of internet regulations. It was revealed in Saturday's Daily Mail the Google meetings amounted to almost one a month since the Conservatives formed the Coalition Government. add this A Conservative Party spokesman said: 'The investigation by Lord Gold is a full and proper inquiry.'
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