British PM admits dinners for donors

British PM admits dinners for donors

British PM admits dinners for donors

British PM Cameron, who is under pressure for ‘donor meetings,’ speaks at the Alzheimer’s Society, announcing more funding for research into dementia in London. AFP photo

British Prime Minister David Cameron admitted to hosting donors to his Conservative party at his official residence, the day after a top party official quit for trying to sell access to the premier.

Cameron published on March 26 details of three dinners he held for wealthy supporters at his flat since taking office in 2010, in an abrupt U-turn just minutes after his Downing Street office insisted such events were private. He spoke amid a growing row caused by Peter Cruddas, who was forced to quit as Conservative treasurer March 25 after being filmed offering potential donors private dinners with Cameron and an opportunity to shape government policy.

The Tories openly offer the chance to attend dinners and events with Cameron for contributions of £50,000 a year, but Cruddas went further, outlining the benefits of “premier league” donations of £250,000. Cameron said the fundraiser’s remarks had been “completely unacceptable and wrong” and insisted no money had changed hands as a result of the talks. Cameron then sent senior Conservative minister Francis Maude to make a statement to lawmakers on March 26 on proposals to restart long-stalled reforms on party funding, in a further bid to quell the scandal.

Accusation from Miliband

But opposition Labor leader Ed Miliband, in a heated exchange in the House of Commons, branded Maude’s proposals a “smokescreen.” “This is about the prime minister’s chief fundraiser seeking cash for access,” Miliband said, accusing Cameron of being too ashamed to face lawmakers himself because “he has got something to hide.”

Miliband repeated his call for a full investigation into the affair, Agence France-Presse reported. “There have been three occasions on which significant donors have come to dinner in my flat,” Cameron said, adding that another dinner had been held in Downing Street for donors after the election. None of these had been fundraising events and they had largely involved old friends, he said.