Labour demands answers over secretive club for big Tory donors to meet Boris Johnson

Members reportedly pay £250,000 for regular chats with PM and chancellor

Andrew Woodcock
Political Editor
Saturday 31 July 2021 15:52
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<p>Give generously: A tête-à-tête with the top brass will cost you</p>

Give generously: A tête-à-tête with the top brass will cost you

Labour is demanding answers from Boris Johnson over whether big-spending Conservative donors were able to lobby him for changes in the law via a secretive club open to backers giving at least £250,000 a year.

Party chair Anneliese Dodds said it appeared the so-called Advisory Board was a means for a “select group of elite donors to gain privileged access” to the prime minister and chancellor Rishi Sunak.

The club’s existence was revealed by the Financial Times, which reported that it was developed by Tory co-chair Ben Elliot to connect financial backers with senior political figures.

Mr Elliot is a founder of the Quintessentially concierge service, which arranges luxury lifestyle experiences, such as travel packages, access to exclusive restaurants and hotel bookings, and was appointed co-chair by Mr Johnson in 2019 to modernise the party’s fund-raising operations.

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

The club was said to hold monthly meetings or conference calls with either Johnson or Sunak, with one donor suggesting that members used the discussions to call for lower taxes and spending cuts.

The Conservatives said an advisory board meets occasionally and receives political updates, but denied that it had influence over government policy.

Ms Dodds said: “This appears to be less of an advisory board than a means for a select group of elite donors to gain privileged access to the prime minister and the chancellor.

“Whether it is crony contracts or links to controversial developers, Conservative ministers always seem to be acting in the interests of their donors rather than the British people.

“The Conservative Party needs to explain what access this group had to the prime minister and chancellor, what they have used that access to lobby for, and why they think it’s OK for there to be one rule for high-ranking Conservatives and another rule for everyone else.”

A Conservative Party spokesperson said: “Donations to the Conservative Party are properly and transparently declared to the Electoral Commission, published by them, and comply fully with the law.

“Fundraising is a legitimate part of the democratic process. The alternative is more taxpayer funding of political campaigning, which would mean less money for frontline services like schools, police and hospitals.”

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