03 June 2009

The Lord, the Tax Haven, the Campaign Funds and the High Peak Conservatives

Conservative central office has heavily targeted High Peak as a marginal seat where its strategists think concentration of resources should pay dividends.

Lord Ashcroft, the Conservative deputy chairman, is using his fortune to finance candidates in marginal seats. Transparency subscribers will have noticed how slick their local campaign is. 'No expense spared' is the sublimal message coming over from the literature and the personalised mail shots.
The other parties trying to take part in our local democracy are getting badly left behind in money terms.

On the 2 June 2009 edition of BBC's Newsnight, one simple question was put to former leader William Hague on behalf of all people with an interest in the Conservative Party and where its local election money is coming from.

What follows is the transcript of how the interview started, to give a taste as to how straight the answer was.

Paxman: 'Your deputy chairman, Lord Ashcroft - the man whose peerage you lobbied for, saying he would become resident in Britain for tax purposes - can you just tell us, is he resident in Britain for tax purposes now?'

Hague: 'I've no reason to think that he's not complied with the commitments that he gave.'

Paxman: 'That is not the same as an assurance that he is.'

Hague: 'Well it is the truth as I know it...'

Paxman: 'Have you asked him?'

Hague: '...absolutely no reason to think that he hasn't...'

Paxman: 'Have you asked him?'

Hague: '...complied with the assurances that he gave...'

Paxman: 'Have you asked him?'

Hague: '...and whenever I've discussed it with him I've... that is the conclusion I've come to.'

Paxman: 'Have you asked him directly?'

Hague: 'Yes, I have discussed it with him and I've no reason...'

Paxman: 'Have you asked him?'

Hague: '...to think that he hasn't complied...'

Paxman: 'Did you say to him, "Are you resident in Britain for tax purposes?"'

Hague: 'I said to him, at the time...'

Paxman: 'Now?'
Hague: '...that of course I expected him to fulfil his commitments...'
Paxman: 'Yes. Have you asked him?'

Hague: 'I have no reason to think to think that he hasn't..."

And so on...

The full interview is available through the link at the bottom of this article or by going to the Newsnight pages on the BBC website.

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