Leading article: A troubling lack of transparency

Related Topics

Lord Ashcroft, the deputy chairman of the Conservative Party, is an individual with an unusual level of influence in our national political life. The businessman turned politician has been a generous donor to Conservative Party coffers for almost three decades.

And in recent times, he has been using his private wealth to particular political effect, channelling large sums directly into Conservative associations around the country which are fighting for Labour-held marginal seats. This appears to be having an effect. The Conservatives are polling better in the constituencies which have benefited from Lord Ashcroft's largesse than others.

But how much do we really know about this powerful donor? He rarely gives interviews, or makes public appearances. And his business affairs are opaque. When Lord Ashcroft was awarded his peerage in 2000, it was on the understanding that he would become a UK taxpayer. But today he refuses to answer questions about his tax status. He is also facing an Electoral Commission investigation into his donations to the Conservative Party.

And now doubts have been raised about his conduct in the Central American nation of Belize, where Lord Ashcroft was formerly a resident and where he continues to have considerable business interests. In August the Prime Minister of Belize, Dean Barrow, denounced the peer for using his wealth "to subjugate an entire nation". And, as we report today, there is still considerable political resentment at the peer's influence there.

Meanwhile, Lord Ashcroft's influence in Britain is taking on new forms. He recently acquired two successful political websites. The peer claims his interest in the sites will be purely entrepreneurial, rather than party political. But several of the contributors to one of these sites were not comforted by this reassurance, choosing to resign.

We should not jump to the conclusion that there is something inappropriate about Lord Ashcroft's influence on British politics. But public life needs transparency, particularly where large influxes of money are concerned. At the moment, such transparency is lacking with regard to Lord Ashcroft.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Organisational Change/ Transition Project Manager

£500 - £550 Per Day: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client are currently...

Accountacy Tutor

£100 - £120 per day: Randstad Education Bristol: Randstad Education is looking...

Generalist HR Administrator, Tunbridge Wells, Kent - £28,000.

£25000 - £28000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Generalist HR Administrator - Tunbri...

Nursery Assistant/Nurse all cheshire areas

£7 per hour: Randstad Education Cheshire: We are a large and successful recrui...

Day In a Page

Read Next
A group of primary school children learn about where babies come from  

Of course seven-year-olds should be taught ‘age appropriate’ sex education

Chloe Hamilton
Alex Salmond and Alistair Darling taking part in a live television debate in Glasgow on Monday  

Scottish independence: Do you realise just how foolish the UK looks?

Ian Hamilton
Kate Bush, Hammersmith Apollo music review: A preamble, then a coup de théâtre - and suddenly the long wait felt worth it

Kate Bush shows a voice untroubled by time

A preamble, then a coup de théâtre - and suddenly the long wait felt worth it
Robot sheepdog technology could be used to save people from burning buildings

The science of herding is cracked

Mathematical model would allow robots to be programmed to control crowds and save people from burning buildings
Tyrant: Is the world ready for a Middle Eastern 'Dallas'?

This tyrant doesn’t rule

It’s billed as a Middle Eastern ‘Dallas’, so why does Fox’s new drama have a white British star?
Rachael Lander interview: From strung out to playing strings

From strung out to playing strings

Award-winning cellist Rachael Lander’s career was almost destroyed by the alcohol she drank to fight stage fright. Now she’s playing with Elbow and Ellie Goulding
The science of saturated fat: A big fat surprise about nutrition?

A big fat surprise about nutrition?

The science linking saturated fats to heart disease and other health issues has never been sound. Nina Teicholz looks at how governments started advising incorrectly on diets
Emmys 2014 review: Can they genuinely compete with the Oscars

Can they genuinely compete with the Oscars?

The recent Emmy Awards are certainly glamorous, but they can't beat their movie cousins
On the road to nowhere: A Routemaster trip to remember

On the road to nowhere

A Routemaster trip to remember
Hotel India: Mumbai's Taj Mahal Palace leaves its darker days behind

Hotel India

Mumbai's Taj Mahal Palace leaves its darker days behind
10 best pencil cases

Back to school: 10 best pencil cases

Whether it’s their first day at school, uni or a new project, treat the student in your life to some smart stationery
Arsenal vs Besiktas Champions League qualifier: Gunners know battle with Turks is a season-defining fixture

Arsenal know battle with Besiktas is a season-defining fixture

Arsene Wenger admits his below-strength side will have to improve on last week’s show to pass tough test
Pete Jenson: Athletic Bilbao’s locals-only transfer policy shows success does not need to be bought

Pete Jenson: A Different League

Athletic Bilbao’s locals-only transfer policy shows success does not need to be bought
This guitar riff has been voted greatest of all time

The Greatest Guitar Riff of all time

Whole Lotta Votes from Radio 2 listeners
Britain’s superstar ballerina

Britain’s superstar ballerina

Alicia Markova danced... every night of the week and twice on Saturdays
Berlin's Furrie invasion

Berlin's Furrie invasion

2000 fans attended Eurofeurence
‘It was a tidal wave of terror’

‘It was a tidal wave of terror’

Driven to the edge by postpartum psychosis