On Sunday a three-month investigation by The Sunday Times revealed claims by former Tory treasurer Peter Cruddas that donations to the party of £250,000 a year could give people ‘face time’ with senior ministers and that ‘premier league’ donors could lobby Prime Minister David Cameron directly.
The scandal comes off the back of The Independent’s sting against Bell Pottinger and former defence secretary Liam Fox’s relationship with lobbyist Adam Werritty.
Ketchum Pleon MD of public affairs and corporate comms Jo-ann Robertson said: ‘What the public want from their leaders is honesty and transparency. Cameron's refusal to publish the names of the donors he had dinner with will really erode trust with the electorate. The pressure will build and eventually he will have to hand over those names, so he would be better to do it sooner rather than later.’
Gavin Devine, chief operating officer, MHP, also called for transparency. He said: ‘This is a problem for all parties. There will be scandals like this for as long as our system of political party funding continues unreformed, and for as long as our parties depend on the generosity of a few rich individuals or organisations.
‘Until ministers are willing to declare the name of everyone they meet, ever, there will be black spots in this "openness". And in any case, what of party functionaries like Peter Cruddas? Where is he covered?’
Cruddas, who spoke to reporters posing as wealth fund executives from Liechtenstein, has since resigned. In his resignation statement he expressed regret over his ‘bluster’ and added: ‘Clearly there is no question of donors being able to influence policy or gain undue access to politicians. Specifically, it was categorically not the case that I could offer, or that David Cameron would consider, any access as a result of a donation.’
Mark Adams, boss of The Professional Lobbying Company, tipped off reporters as he believed Sarah Southern, a former Cameron aide now working as a lobbyist, was 'selling' introductions to the PM.
Adams then called The Sunday Times to work on the sting operation which led to the Cruddas meeting. He also made a complaint to police last night asking them to investigate whether the Political Parties, Elections and Referendums Act was breached.
The CIPR issued a statement as the story broke yesterday. The statement read: ‘The CIPR strongly condemns the notion that cash can gain access to policy makers. Public affairs professionals know the limits of influence, and that a well argued policy paper sent to Whitehall and Westminster is far more effective than a photograph with the Prime Minister or contact with the No. 10 policy unit.
‘The CIPR has long argued for universal transparency for all those involved in lobbying activity and we will continue to do so in its formal written response to the Cabinet Office’s proposals to ‘Introduce a Statutory Register of Lobbyists’.