Conservatives must name ministers who met with ‘advisory board’ donors, says Labour

Tories ‘need to come clean’ on who held meetings with secretive club, says opposition

Adam Forrest
Monday 02 August 2021 15:17
Today's daily politics briefing

The chair of the Labour Party is calling on the Conservatives to publish a list of ministers who have met party donors through a secretive club.

Anneliese Dodds has written to Conservative co-chairman Amanda Milling demanding the party “come clean” about the level of access afforded to financial backers as part of the so-called “advisory board”.

The club was developed in a bid to connect Tory supporters with senior figures, according to the Financial Times – adding that regular meetings and calls have been held with Boris Johnson and chancellor Rishi Sunak.

The newspaper quoted Mohamed Amersi, a businessman and Tory donor, as saying the club was “like the very elite Quintessentially clients membership: one needs to cough up £250,000 per annum or be a friend of Ben”.

The name was a reference to Tory co-chairman Ben Elliot. Following the report, the Tories said an advisory board meets occasionally and receives political updates.

Ms Dodds is demanding the party reveals the purpose of the board, who it has benefited from being a member, and which ministers have attended meetings.

It comes after further claims were made in the Sunday Times that Mr Elliot – the Duchess of Cornwall’s nephew – helped Mr Amersi meet the Prince of Wales in exchange for payments of thousands of pounds to his company.

In her letter to Ms Milling, former shadow chancellor Ms Dodds said: “It is in the public interest for you to clarify the workings of this so-called ‘advisory board’ and Mr Elliot’s role in offering a powerful elite exclusive access to the prime minister and the chancellor – purely because of their status as Tory party donors.”

She called for a full list of all donors who have paid to be members of the board to be published, alongside the full complement of government ministers who have attended any meetings or engagements with members of the board, including dates and times.

Ms Dodds added: “The Conservative Party needs to come clean on what access this group had, what they used that access to lobby for, and why it appears that there is one rule for high-ranking Conservatives and another rule for everyone else.

“The way that Boris Johnson and his friends operate seems to be not about what is right but what they can get away with, blurring the boundaries between public and private life. There are now serious questions for the Conservative Party to answer about their fundraising techniques.”

Amanda Milling, co-chairman of the Conservative Party, fired back at Labour by insisting that government policy was “in no way influenced by the donations the party receives – they are entirely separate”.

In a letter of response today, Ms Milling said: “Over the weekend I read that the Labour Party is now seeking donations from billionaire businessmen, such as Lord Sainsbury and Sir Trevor Chinn.

“I would also like to remind you that the Labour Party runs its own Chair Circle Membership group and the Rose Network whose members can pay a fee to get access to Sir Keir Starmer, yourself, and other senior Labour Party shadow cabinet members.”

Ms Dodds told LBC on Monday: “If [ministers] were meeting with a business that would be logged … But they don’t seem to be doing that [with donors]. The culture of those crony connections – that has got to change.”

Asked if Labour would be transparent about all meetings with its donors, Ms Dodds said: “We are very open about those who, for example, fund the Labour Party.

“But we are in a different when we’re talking about the Conservative government, because it’s the government that takes decisions around contracts.”

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