Tory fundraiser marked by Auschwitz joke gaffe

Sotheby's chairman apologises for "horrific slip of the tongue"

A Tory-supporting peer made a quick apology last night after joking about Auschwitz at a Conservative party fundraiser.

Lord Dalmeny, chairman of Sotheby’s auction house, was presenting an auction at the glamorous bash, attended by David Cameron and other cabinet ministers.

Dismayed by the lighting arrangements in the venue, he said: "Turn those horrible lights down. I feel like I am in Auschwitz."

Later that evening he admitted the comment was ‘horrific’, and said he meant to refer to Colditz, the notorious Nazi prisoner-of-war camp.

Lord Dalmeny, whose wife Caroline was a Tory Cabinet aide, said: "I’m sorry if anyone was offended. I meant to say 'Colditz'.

"It  was a horrific slip of the tongue."

Earlier in his performance, while talking about French president Francois Hollande, he referred to the French as "frogs," and while auctioning off the original text of Cameron’s speech on the EU referendum last month, he said: "This is a Gideons Bible for people who do not trust foreigners very much."

The Black And White Party is one of the Tories' biggest fundraisers, and a social highlight of the Tory calendar.

Lord Dalmeny is the heir to the Earl of Rosebery, who sat in the House of Lords until 1999, when most hereditary peers were turfed out.

Although he has no formal role within the party, he has performed as a fundraising auctioneer for the Tories before, and his wife Caroline worked as an advisor to Lord Strathclyde and Michael Portillo.

His friends defended him last night, highlighting that he had raised £120 million for charity by offering his services as an auctioneer free. they said last week alone, he presided, unpaid, over four charity events.

A Conservative Party spokesman last night said: ‘Lord Dalmeny has rightly apologised. His comments were utterly inappropriate and unacceptable.’

But Labour branded the remark ‘absolutely disgraceful’ and suggested the Tories should donate the proceeds of last week’s event to the Holocaust Memorial Day Trust.

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