The return of fugitive tycoon Asil Nadir to Britain has, in the short term at least, been considerately timed. David Cameron is surfing in Cornwall, far from the awkward decision-making, and after last week's surprise arrival of Florence Rose Endellion, will be on paternity leave for some weeks.
The trouble is that Nadir, a former Tory party donor who contributed more money than any other individual during the 1980s, is here to stay. He has returned to face trial for the 66 counts of fraud and false accounting with which he had been charged when he fled from a Dorset airstrip by cover of darkness in 1993. He has already offered to donate more money to the Tories, and given that he has taken a lease on a Mayfair townhouse rather than checking into a hotel, the signs are his trial will not be over soon.
So, whenever he gets back to work, Cameron still has to deal with a problem that he has so far avoided tackling head on: what to do about all these embarrassing Tory donors? Before the election, Cameron made plenty of noises to suggest this would be a priority, that he was serious about cracking down on sleaze. He called for a £50,000 cap on donations to remove "the impression, now deep in the public mind, that influence, access and honours can be bought by wealthy businessmen... and individuals."
And yet, even as he was saying this he was turning a blind eye to Lord Ashcroft, the Belize-based millionaire and former party chairman, whose donations were channelled into fighting key marginal seats.
He also, despite stern warnings from on high, gave his blessing to the appointment of David "Spotty" Rowland to the post of Tory Party treasurer. Spotty was a man who had a very colourful City career, to say the least, but gave more than £2.5m to the cause.
It took a series of exposés in the Daily Mail to convince the party that they were playing with fire by embracing Rowland. And Rowland, feeling the heat, decided that he wouldn't take up the post after all. In fact, he had once been courted by a former Chancellor, and a man who went on to higher office – Gordon Brown.
Then there is Jon Wood, the kickboxing hedge fund boss who delights in the nickname Keyser Soze for his corporate ruthlessness, and who, the Mail revealed last week, donated £500,000 to the Tories on 4 May. Questions are now being asked over his tax status, after Companies House papers listed his country of residence as Switzerland, where he owns a £12.5m chalet, although he claims to live in Surrey.
And let us not forget Christopher Moran, a fantastically wealthy former Lloyds underwriter, who owns a magnificent house on Cheyne Walk in Chelsea and a 48,000 acre sporting estate in Scotland. He is also a huge Tory party benefactor and has been the supplier of largesse to both minister and former minister Francis Maude and John Gummer. He has been censured by the London Stock Exchange on numerous occasions, was debarred for life by Lloyds of London, the first person in its history to be excluded in this way, and was convicted of insider dealing in the United States. And then there is the appointment of Topshop owner Sir Philip Green as Cameron's adviser on spending cuts, even though questions remain over why his company is owned by his Moncao-based wife.
The PM has had the chance to clean up political funding, but he will not. Trusting only in the tight coterie of advisers with which he surrounds himself, he listens to no impartial advice and has given Nick Clegg the task of reforming party funding.
Among the most memorable legacies of Asil Nadir's involvement with the Tory Party was the way in which he cost Tory minister Michael Mates his career. It would be a pity if Cameron failed to learn from Mates's mistake.Reuse content