David Cameron’s Conservative Party said it would investigate allegations of cash-for-access after its co-treasurer was filmed claiming that large donations to the party would secure meetings with the U.K. prime minister.
Peter Cruddas resigned today after the Sunday Times newspaper published secretly filmed comments in which he appeared to offer access to Cameron in exchange for 250,000 pounds ($397,000).
Speaking to reporters posing as wealth fund executives, Cruddas claimed large donors have previously been invited to private dinners with Cameron and his wifeSamantha. He said “things will open up” for anybody willing to make a large donation, adding, “it will be awesome for your business.”
Cameron described the claims as “completely unacceptable” and said it was “right” that Cruddas had resigned.
“What happened is completely unacceptable, it shouldn’t have happened,” Cameron said in televised comments at a Sports Relief event in Buckinghamshire, England today. “It’s quite right that Peter Cruddas has resigned. I’ll make sure there’s a proper party enquiry to make sure this doesn’t happen again.”
The Conservative Party made “well over” 5 million pounds selling private dinners with Cameron to the party’s biggest donors, in which they can pick up “key bits of information” by asking him questions, the Sunday Times cited Cruddas as saying.
He said that “premier league” donors prepared to give 250,000 pounds a year could lobby Cameron directly and their views would be “fed in” to the Downing Street policy unit. There was no point in “scratching around” with donations of 10,000 pounds, he said.
His claims were “utterly disgraceful,” Chief Secretary to the Treasury Danny Alexander, a member of the coalition government’s Liberal Democrat party, told the BBC’s Andrew Marr program. He said such behavior had “no place” in politics.
Alexander said the incident should prompt fresh efforts to reform the party funding system.
There is a “perception that people who make large donations, be they wealthy people from the city or trade unions, have influence,” he said. “They should not have that influence, nor the perception of that influence.”
British lawmakers recommended capping donations to political parties to curb the perception of corruption after a 2006 police investigation into accusations that the then Prime Minister Tony Blair’s Labour Party sold seats in the House of Lords for financial support. The investigation was the most serious ever to involve a British prime minister.
The Conservative Party said in an e-mailed statement today that donations “do not buy government policy” and that it will “urgently investigate” any evidence to the contrary. Labour called on Cameron to say “exactly what he knew and when” about any efforts to sell access.
In his resignation statement, Cruddas, founder of CMC Markets Plc, described his comments as “bluster” and said there was “no question” of donors gaining undue access to senior figures.
“Clearly there is no question of donors being able to influence policy or gain undue access to politicians,” Cruddas said. “It was categorically not the case that I could offer, or that David Cameron would consider, any access as a result of a donation.”
Cruddas will be replaced as the party’s co-treasurer by Stanley Fink, a Conservative e-mailed statement said.
To contact the reporter on this story: Svenja O’Donnell in London at email@example.com
To contact the editor responsible for this story: Craig Stirling at firstname.lastname@example.org