Hague begged Blair for Ashcroft peerage

William Hague, the leader of the Conservative party, was so desperate to get his party treasurer a peerage that he begged the Prime Minister to intervene.

Sources close to the Government claimed that Mr Hague rang Tony Blair 10 days ago while he was attending the Lisbon summit and urged him to back Michael Ashcroft's peerage. Mr Blair was bemused by the request and pointed out to Mr Hague that the Political Honours Scrutiny Committee was a body whose independence party leaders always respected.

The revelations add considerably to the controversy that is growing over Mr Ashcroft's ennoblement. Senior Conservatives have condemned in vitriolic terms the peerage for the Belize-based businessman who is now the party's biggest donor. Sir Edward Heath called it "a disgrace" and Viscount Cranborne, former Tory leader in the Lords, denounced the move as "an affront to the dignity of Parliament".

The fuss threatened to overshadow the Conservative party's spring conference in Harrogate and Mr Hague's keynote speech today. Mr Hague intends to use the speech to accuse Mr Blair of lying to the middle classes but instead his own judgement is being brought into question.

Mr Hague's backing of Mr Ashcroft is becoming as embarrassing and inexplicable as his support for Lord Archer. A senior backbencher said: "I and many of my colleagues are wondering why this man is considered so important that William Hague is willing to soak up this much damaging publicity."

What Mr Hague hoped to achieve by soliciting the support of Mr Blair is not entirely clear. Earlier that week, the Times had reported that Mr Ashcroft's peerage had been turned down by the Scrutiny Committee, but Tory Party insiders claim the recommendation was never explicitly turned down.

What seems more likely is that the committee headed by Lord Weatherill made it clear that they were minded to reject Mr Ashcroft unless they had assurances on his residency. Hence the subsequent condition that was attached to the peerage: that Mr Ashcroft resumes British residency.

Last night Peter Bradley, Labour MP for The Wrekin, wrote to Mr Hague challenging him to come clean on why and how he lobbied for Mr Ashcroft. He has also said that under the Honours (Prevention of Abuses) Act 1925 it is an offence to obtain an honour for someone who has given any form of gift or "valuable consideration".

Mr Bradley said: "In nominating Michael Ashcroft for a peerage William Hague has chosen political bankruptcy for the Conservative party over financial bankruptcy."

Mr Ashcroft, who finally appeared yesterday at the spring conference, refused to discuss the furore which has blown up around. He said he was looking forward to joining the House of Lords, but refused to answer questions about the reaction his ennoblement has provoked.

Party chairman Michael Ancram defended Mr Ashcroft against suggestions that he had effectively bought his peerage with a £1m-a-year donation to Tory coffers.

He said: "The Labour party are desperately keen to focus on this to distract attention from the fact that they are trying to pack the House of Lords with their cronies."

Last night both Downing Street and a Tory party spokesman said they never commented on private conversations between the Prime Minister and the leader of the opposition.

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
Sport
Floyd Mayweather will relinquish his five world titles after beating Manny Pacquiao
boxing
Arts and Entertainment
tvGame of Thrones season 5 ep 4, review - WARNING: contains major spoiliers!
News
Tottenham legend Jimmy Greaves has defended fans use of the word 'Yid'
people
Life and Style
tech
Arts and Entertainment
The Ridiculous Six has been produced by Adam Sandler, who also stars in it
filmNew controversy after nine Native American actors walked off set
Life and Style
Google celebrates Bartolomeo Cristofori's 360th birthday
techGoogle Doodle to the rescue
  • 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

Recruitment Genius: Senior Digital Marketing Consultant

£28000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Senior Digital Marketing Cons...

Recruitment Genius: Assistant Stores Keeper

£16640 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An Assistant Stores Keeper is r...

Recruitment Genius: Claims Administrator

£16000 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an excellent opportunit...

Recruitment Genius: Software Developer - C# / ASP.NET / SQL

£17000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Developer required to join a bu...

Day In a Page

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
Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

China's influence on fashion

At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

Rainbow shades

It's all bright on the night
'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
Welcome to the world of Megagames

Welcome to the world of Megagames

300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

Vince Cable exclusive interview

Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
Russell Brand's interview with Ed Miliband has got everyone talking about The Trews

Everyone is talking about The Trews

Russell Brand's 'true news' videos attract millions of viewers. But today's 'Milibrand' interview introduced his resolutely amateurish style to a whole new crowd
Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

It's time for my close-up

Meet the man who films great whites for a living