Tory Black and White fundraising dinner may fall short of £2m target

Tory party supporters fail to spend as much as in previous years at Black and White gala

Once a year, in case anyone has forgotten who bankrolls the Conservative Party, there comes a reminder in the form of the Black and White fundraising dinner.

This is the occasion when people dripping with money pay £500 or £1,000 a head, or hire an entire table for themselves and their guests for £15,000, so that they can enjoy a three-course meal, meet leading Conservatives, listen to a speech by David Cameron and buy stuff they do not need at an auction to swell the coffers of the Conservative Party.

This year, somebody paid £35,000 for the right to spend a morning pounding London’s pavements with Zac Goldsmith, London’s mayoral candidate, as he goes canvassing for votes. Lunch with the Tory chairman Lord Feldman and tea at the Ritz with Michael Dobbs, the author of House  of Cards, were part of the same package.

Another bidder paid £50,000 for four old election posters, including a copy of the famous “Labour Isn’t Working” poster from 1979, signed by Margaret Thatcher.

But overall, the event on Monday night raised less money than the organisers hoped. A private box for 20 guests to watch Adele perform at the 02 fetched £30,000, or £1,500 a seat, but a Kurt  Geiger £1,000 voucher went for just £1,020, a helicopter ride over London for £1,050, and a “personalised composition” by the pianist and composer Julian Gallant sold for only £400.

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David and Samantha Cameron arrive at the 2014 ball (Getty)

None of this compares with the £160,000 that Lubov Chernukhin, wife of a Russian oligarch and friend of Vladimir Putin, paid two years ago for the privilege of a game of tennis with Boris Johnson. There were fears that this year’s event may have failed to meet the organisers’ target of raising £2m for Conservative Party funds.

There was also a raffle, in which the top prize was dinner for four at the Gherkin, worth £1,000. Samantha Cameron picked the tickets. As the diners ate, a magician toured the dining room performing tricks.

Mr Cameron’s speech warned of the dangers of a government led by Jeremy Corbyn and reiterated his views on social justice, but there was some grumbling afterwards that he tiptoed around the difficult issue of the EU referendum.

The event, at The Brewery, a converted 18th-century brewery in the City of London, was meant to be secret, but inevitably journalists and photographers were waiting to see the guests go in, and come out again.

They included the former Apprentice star Karren Brady, now Baroness Brady; Boris Johnson, who came on a bicycle; and the Australian election guru Sir Lynton Crosby, who left in a Rolls-Royce. 

As Michael Gove emerged he was asked what went on inside, but said: “I’m terribly forgetful. Boris has this great phrase: ‘Blessed sponge of amnesia wiping the slate of memory clean’. I’m afraid that amnesiac sponge is always there for me.”

Guests were provided with a “political donations guide” to ensure the Tory party did not accidentally break electoral law by accepting money from someone who is not registered to vote in the UK.

Meanwhile, the House of Lords is arguing over the Trade Union Bill, which is designed to reduce the Labour Party’s annual income by £6m. George Osborne has already cut the  so called “Short money”, which has been available to shadow ministers to pay researchers since the 1970s.

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