by Ray Fleming

A bad week and a worse weekend for David Cameron and the Conservative Party.
The prime minister recovered some ground yesterday by publishing guest lists of four Downing Street dinner parties at which major donors to the party were present. But that did not remove the impression conveyed by the Sunday Times exposure of the Party's Treasurer, Peter Cruddas, offering supposed businessmen access to “DC” in exchange for a donation of, say, 250'000 pounds and advising on how to evade the law.

Panic and confusion followed. Lord Feldman, the party's co-chairman and a friend of Mr Cameron at Oxford, was named to investigate the scandal -- until it was recalled that he had been responsible for choosing and formally appointing Mr Cruddas. So he stood down and Lord Gold (!) got the unenviable job instead. Michael Fallon, the Deputy Chairman of the Party, did the rounds of the TV studios to explain that the problem was Mr Cruddas, not the party's rules and procedures on donations which emphasized transparency and outlawed “cash for access”. He did a good job but spoiled it by accusing Labour of similarly providing “access” for Trade Unions in exchange for funding. Yes they do, but it is open and above board. The problem is of individuals and companies seeking an opportunity to influence policy without anyone except the minister concerned knowing about it.

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