By Monitor

SO at last Lord Ashcroft has admitted what I and some other commentators have been saying for years -- that he has been donating large sums to the Conservative Party and has been active in UK politics although he has not established resident status in Britain. The confession was made yesterday morning in an effort to pre-empt papers due to be released under Freedom of Information rules and also, obviously, to get the embarrassment caused by this matter out of the way before the election starts in earnest. Yet even as late as Sunday, George Osborne was still squirming on TV sofas as he tried to evade answering questions about it. David Cameron and William Hague have had to suffer in the same way for years. In 2000 Ashcroft wrote to Hague, who had named him for a peerage, “I hereby give you my clear and unequivocal asurance that I have decided to take up permanent residence in the UK before the end of the calendar year.”

Yesterday David Cameron sought to ease the situation by pointing out that the Labour peer, Lord Paul, has “nom-dom” status like Lord Ashcroft. The difference, however, is that Ashcroft is deputy chairman of the Conservative Partry and for some years has been personally involved in funding and directing the special drive to win Labour and Liberal Democrat marginal seats by investing heavily in funding for Conservative candidates and their support teams. Has this been legal?