Tory Lord Feldman to face questions about allegations he described grassroots activists as 'swivel-eyed loons'

 

The Conservative Party Chairman, Lord Feldman, has privately admitted speaking to journalists who reported a senior Tory figure describing local party activists as “swivel-eyed loons”, it emerged on Sunday.

The Independent understands that Lord Feldman does not deny having an informal conversation with journalists at a restaurant in London last Wednesday. But he insists that he never described Tory grassroots members as “all mad, swivel-eyed loons” – words attributed to a close ally of David Cameron over the weekend.

Amid increasing anger from some MPs and members of the Conservative volunteer party about the alleged comments on Sunday night, colleagues of Lord Feldman rallied around him and insisted that he should not resign.

But he is expected to be questioned on Monday about exactly what he did say to journalists at a Conservative Party board meeting. Brian Binley MP, who is a member of the Tory ruling body, said he would “be wanting to know more about it” when the group met.

“If this was said, by whoever, it would not surprise me,” he said. “Certainly the gap between the party leadership and the party’s voluntary sector in the country is sizeable. I have made that complaint again and again. There has been a disdainful view of the voluntary party.”

But one senior Tory warned that without Lord Feldman’s fundraising skills, local Conservative Associations would not have the money to effectively fight the next election – regardless of what he might or might not have said.

They said the party’s ability to raise money to fight a national campaign depended on his contacts in the business world and that the Conservatives would suffer organisationally as well as financially if he had to resign.

They added that Lord Feldman was “not political” and if he had made the comments widely attributed to him, then he was likely to be “reflecting the views of others” rather this own. “He might have made some sort of joke but I honestly don’t believe he would have meant it in the way in which it has been interpreted,” said one senior Tory who knows him well.

“He is not political and not someone who is used to talking to journalists. I know he does not have that disdain for the voluntary party and if he did say anything he is likely to be repeating somebody else has said.”

They continued: “Frankly the party would not exist financially if it wasn’t for him. He is the man who has developed the contacts and has kept our donors with us, even when most don’t like the publicity. It would be deeply damaging if he is forced out.”

Another Tory source pointed out that since being appointed, Lord Feldman had cleared the party’s debts and balanced the books every year for eight years.

The peer, who has been friends with Mr Cameron since they studied together at Oxford, was one of his first backers – giving £10,000 to his leadership campaign and securing the support of other businessmen.

After the leadership election, Mr Feldman became one of the Conservatives’ deputy treasurers and was promoted to be the party’s chief executive in 2008, a key role preparing the Tories for the 2010 election.

Once in Government, Mr Cameron made him a member of the House of Lords and gave him an office in Downing Street – a privilege never before bestowed on a party chairman.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Guru Careers: Bathroom Showroom Manager / Bathroom Sales Designer

£22 - £25k basic + Commission=OTE £35k + Benefits: Guru Careers: A Bathroom Sh...

Guru Careers: Marketing Executive / Digital Marketing Executive

COMPETITIVE: Guru Careers: A Marketing / Digital Marketing Executive (CRM, Eve...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Executive / Foreign Exchange Dealer - OTE £40,000+

£16000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Foreign Exchange Dealer is re...

Recruitment Genius: IT Engineer

£19000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An opportunity now exists for a...

Day In a Page

Refugee crisis: David Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia - will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi?

Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia...

But will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi, asks Robert Fisk
Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

Humanity must be at the heart of politics, says Jeremy Corbyn
Joe Biden's 'tease tour': Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?

Joe Biden's 'tease tour'

Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?
Britain's 24-hour culture: With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever

Britain's 24-hour culture

With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever
Diplomacy board game: Treachery is the way to win - which makes it just like the real thing

The addictive nature of Diplomacy

Bullying, betrayal, aggression – it may be just a board game, but the family that plays Diplomacy may never look at each other in the same way again
Lady Chatterley's Lover: Racy underwear for fans of DH Lawrence's equally racy tome

Fashion: Ooh, Lady Chatterley!

Take inspiration from DH Lawrence's racy tome with equally racy underwear
8 best children's clocks

Tick-tock: 8 best children's clocks

Whether you’re teaching them to tell the time or putting the finishing touches to a nursery, there’s a ticker for that
Charlie Austin: Queens Park Rangers striker says ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

Charlie Austin: ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

After hitting 18 goals in the Premier League last season, the QPR striker was the great non-deal of transfer deadline day. But he says he'd preferred another shot at promotion
Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea
Tunisia fears its Arab Spring could be reversed as the new regime becomes as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor

The Arab Spring reversed

Tunisian protesters fear that a new law will whitewash corrupt businessmen and officials, but they are finding that the new regime is becoming as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor
King Arthur: Legendary figure was real and lived most of his life in Strathclyde, academic claims

Academic claims King Arthur was real - and reveals where he lived

Dr Andrew Breeze says the legendary figure did exist – but was a general, not a king
Who is Oliver Bonas and how has he captured middle-class hearts?

Who is Oliver Bonas?

It's the first high-street store to pay its staff the living wage, and it saw out the recession in style
Earth has 'lost more than half its trees' since humans first started cutting them down

Axe-wielding Man fells half the world’s trees – leaving us just 422 each

However, the number of trees may be eight times higher than previously thought
60 years of Scalextric: Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones

60 years of Scalextric

Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones