- Disgraced Conservative Lord Peter Cruddas has donated more than £500,000 to Boris Johnson’s party after becoming a peer.
- Cruddas resigned as party co-treasurer in 2012 after offering undercover reporters access to then Prime Minister David Cameron in exchange for £250,000 in donations.
- He was subsequently nominated for a peerage by Boris Johnson despite the advice of the House of Lords Appointments Commission.
Henry Dyer www.businessinsider.com
A Conservative member of the House of Lords, whose peerage was forced through last year by Boris Johnson despite his role in a cash-for-access scandal, has handed the prime minister’s party half a million pounds.
Lord Peter Cruddas donated £500,000 to the Conservative Party’s central office on 5 February 2021, only three days after he was introduced into the House of Lords where he now sits as a Conservative peer, the latest Electoral Commission records show.
Cruddas was nominated to become a member of the House of Lords by Boris Johnson in December 2020, despite objections from the House of Lords Appointments Commission, an independent group that vets nominations.
The Appointments Commission was unable to support the nomination owing to concerns over allegations made following an investigation by undercover reporters from the Sunday Times after he offered them access to the then Prime Minister David Cameron in exchange for £250,000 in donations.
Following the Sunday Times’s story, Cruddas stepped down as co-treasurer of the Conservative Party. He would go on to sue the Sunday Times for libel, initially winning £180,000 in damages. The Sunday Times then appealed the judgment, with judges in the court of appeal reducing the damages to £50,000, after they ruled that the paper’s central allegation of selling access to Cameron and other senior politicians were accurate.
The judges described Cruddas’s actions as “unacceptable, inappropriate and wrong”.
A letter from Boris Johnson to Lord Bew, the chair of the Appointments Commission, published by Downing Street in December along with the announcement of Cruddas’s peerage dismissed the Commission’s refusal to support the nomination.
He described the concerns as “historic” and assured Bew “that I see this case a clear and rare exception.” Johnson’s decision to overrule the Appointments Commission was the first time their advice had been overruled.
Johnson wrote: “The most serious accusations levelled at the time were found to be untrue and libellous. In order to avoid any ongoing concern, Mr Cruddas resigned from his post, and offered an apology for any impression of impropriety, and reflecting his particular concern for integrity in public life.
“An internal Conservative Party investigation subsequently found that there had been no intentional wrongdoing on Mr Cruddas’ part.”
Cruddas, a British businessman and philanthropist, donated a further £10,000 to the local Conservative association of Nickie Aitken, MP for the Cities of London and Westminster, a constituency which has voted for the Conservatives since its creation in 1950. He has given more than £3 million to the Conservatives since 2009.
Cruddas also gave £10,000 to Conservative Voice, which describes itself as “an exciting and dynamic group set up to unite all generations of the centre-Right of the party […] a place for the grassroots to make themselves heard”.
The opposition Labour party said the donation raised serious questions.
“The Conservative Party that brought us allegations of cash for access when Peter Cruddas was Treasurer seems to have turned its attention to peerages,” Anneliese Dodds MP, Labour Party Chair, said in a statement.
“Whether it’s handing out taxpayers’ money to their mates or giving peerages to disgraced donors, there is always one rule for the Conservatives and their chums and another for the rest of us.”
Professor Liz David-Barrett at the University of Sussex’s Centre for the Study of Corruption said: “This is yet another example of the Prime Minister disregarding advice from the public bodies that are there to uphold standards in public life, in this case ignoring the fact that Peter Cruddas is understood to have failed the vetting process. That completely undermines these public bodies and puts the UK on a very slippery slope of declining standards.
“We will never know whether there is a link between political donations and elevations to the Lords, because those conversations happen in secret. But in this case, the timing will lead people to draw the conclusion that there is a link.”