Labour calls for PM to explain ‘advisory board’ for wealthy Tory donors

Labour has called for Boris Johnson to explain the existence of a secretive “advisory board” for wealthy Conservative donors who have received regular access to the prime minister and Rishi Sunak.

Heather Stewart 

The Financial Times reported that party chair Ben Elliot, charged with beefing up Tory fundraising efforts, had created the club for some of the party’s most generous donors, some giving £250,000 a year or more.

The Conservative party confirmed the existence of the board, and the fact that its members meet with senior party figures for “political updates”.

News that the chancellor and prime minister have been holding discussions with super-rich donors comes as the government is facing a series of key decisions on tax and spending, including how to pay for rebuilding the creaking social care system.

Elliot founded Quintessentially, a concierge service for the rich, as well as PR firm Hawthorn. The FT reported he had hosted a drinks party at one donor’s home, at which Johnson was present.

Mohamed Amersi, a businessman and Tory donor, told the paper the club was “like the very elite Quintessentially clients membership: one needs to cough up £250,000 per annum or be a friend of Ben”.

Labour party chair Anneliese 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.

“The Conservative party needs to explain what access this group had, 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 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.”

Johnson was recently criticised for defying the House of Lords appointments commission by giving a peerage to Peter Cruddas, a former Conservative co-treasurer involved in a previous cash-for-access scandal.

Cruddas resigned as Conservative co-treasurer in 2012 after the Sunday Times claimed he was offering access to the prime minister for up to £250,000. A year later Cruddas won £180,000 in damages in a libel action, although that was subsequently reduced to £50,000 after aspects of the original allegations were upheld when the paper appealed.