Letter to Herald Express 111206 :
As The Independent (30 April) noted, the Tories were able to outspend their opponents to devastating effect in last years’ General Election. 23 of the 31 seats won from Labour by the Tories were targeted by three Tory donors who channelled money directly into constituencies. In 19 of these 23 constituencies the Tories outspent Labour by 2.5 times and the resultant swing to the Tories averaged 4.5%, well ahead of the 3.1% national trend. One of these men, the Belize based tax exile Lord Ashcroft, through Bearwood Corporate Services, donated £5,000 to Marcus Wood’s campaigning funds in Torbay and The Guardian (November 28) reports that Lord Ashcroft has already promised to ensure that the Tories spend more in marginal seats well ahead of the next election. This, of course, will seek to circumvent spending restrictions immediately before an election.
It is laughable that Marcus Wood, Conservative parliamentary candidate, has the temerity to challenge the small donations made by locally based individuals be they Lib Dem councillors, members or supporters to support the campaigning work of Adrian Sanders MP, whilst 60% of his own campaigning costs were met by a man who pays little UK tax, whilst Conservative party treasurer gained overseas donations to the party that many deemed inappropriate and on the BBC News online site (23 November) he is quoted as describing curbs on party spending as ‘barmy’.
Lord Ashcroft has bought influence before. Michael Ashcroft has made large donations in Belize too - rumoured to total about $1m - to the right-wing People's United Party (PUP) when it was in opposition. In 1998 the PUP came to power after defeating the centre-left United Democratic Party (UDP) and subsequently introduced several pieces of legislation financially advantageous to Mr Ashcroft. They included a law giving tax-exempt status to some companies including Mr Ashcroft's offshore holding company Belize Holding Inc (BHI). The Ashcroft-owned Bank of Belize was also granted the exclusive right to set up offshore companies in Belize for US and UK citizens (BBC Website 31 March 2000).
I think it is Marcus Wood and the Tories that have much more to answer with regard to party campaigns funding and having lambasted Lib Dem councillors for supporting their MP, in the interests of even handedness he will want to equally denounce the £1,800 donation made by his Devon County Council colleagues to their party in Teignbridge ! Likewise he will be ‘angry’ that Labour councillors in Leicester donate three per cent of their larger £7,800 basic allowance to group funds promoting that party’s agenda in the city.
I’ll let readers decide if they prefer a candidate supported by ‘foreign' money from an influential tax exile or small donations from local people supporting Adrian Sanders their local Lib Dem MP. I know which I prefer and trust. Maybe the ballot paper should read Marcus Wood (Conservative Party) sponsored by Bearwood Corporate Services Ltd !