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6:27am UK, Sunday March 25, 2012
Conservative Party co-treasurer Peter Cruddas has resigned after being filmed apparently offering access to Prime Minister David Cameron in return for donations.
In an undercover investigation, The Sunday Times claimed Mr Cruddas offered two international financiers the opportunity to lobby Mr Cameron directly on policy matters if they donated at least £250,000 a year to the party’s election war chest.
It said the Liechtenstein-based financiers were actually undercover reporters who secretly filmed Mr Cruddas at their meeting in a hotel overlooking Lake Zurich.
In the meeting, Mr Cruddas told the undercover reporters that “things will open up for you” if they donated that amount of money to the Conservatives.
He added: “It will be awesome for your business.”
Announcing his resignation, Mr Cruddas said in a statement: “I deeply regret any impression of impropriety arising from my bluster in that conversation.
“Clearly there is no question of donors being able to influence policy or gain undue access to politicians.
“Specifically, it was categorically not the case that I could offer, or that David Cameron would consider, any access as a result of a donation. Similarly, I have never knowingly even met anyone from the Number 10 policy unit.
“But in order to make that clear beyond doubt, I have regrettably decided to resign with immediate effect.”
Time and again the Tory party has been the obstacle to capping donations from wealthy individuals. Now it appears obvious why.
Labour MP Michael Dugher
The newspaper claimed its investigation revealed that rich donors could buy “premier league” direct access to the Prime Minister and exposed the “hollowness of Tory pre-election promises” to clamp down on lobbyists.
However, a Conservative Party spokesman told Sky News: “No donation was ever accepted or even formally considered by the Conservative Party.
“All donations to the Conservative Party have to comply with the requirements of electoral law. These are strictly enforced by our compliance department.
“Unlike the Labour Party, where union donations are traded for party policies, donations to the Conservative Party do not buy party or government policy.
“We will urgently investigate any evidence to the contrary.”
Labour challenged the Prime Minister to “come clean” about what he knew and when.
“Time and again the Tory party has been the obstacle to capping donations from wealthy individuals. Now it appears obvious why,” said Labour MP Michael Dugher who was speaking before Mr Cruddas quit.
“Pensioners, the young unemployed and squeezed middle families cannot afford to buy this sort of access or influence which is just another reason why this Government is out of touch with the overwhelming majority of British people.
“David Cameron should come clean. Will the PM say exactly what he knew and when about an apparent effort to sell access and influence in Downing Street?”
Mr Cruddas is the director of two City firms, which operate in the index trading and spread betting sectors.