The Sunday Times (£) reports that CCHQ commissioned and paid for a party election broadcast that portrayed people 'coming out' as Conservatives:
"One of the suppressed films that have now emerged shows naked men grappling in a shower, while another depicts a teenager being caught reading what at first appears to be a top shelf magazine. The third unshown ad makes light of teenage sex, portraying a girl confessing to her parents: “I am three months Conservative.”
The Sunday Times says that the ads were dropped for fear of a public backlash. My understanding is a little different. Senior Tories felt that the ads commissioned by Steve Hilton were at best out-of-date and at worst self-loathing. The opponents of the ad campaign felt that the 'decontamination phase' had gone on far too long and we needed to give people positive reasons for voting David Cameron and not to give people a new opportunity to think of Conservatives as the 'nasty party'.
The true cost of these ads is debated. The Sunday Times puts the cost at £100,000. Fraser Nelson has previously mentioned a £500,000 cost of ditched ads that until now we did not know the content. My source has talked of a £300,000 cost but it was submerged in the overall payments to Euro RCSG, the party's main creative agency.
The Coalition is forcing all government departments to publish all expenditures of £25,000 and more. Perhaps a similar commitment is needed for CCHQ expenditure - not necessarily at an election time for fear of giving opponents too much information. But if CCHQ knew that it had to publish its full accounts it might spend donors' money more wisely.
12.30pm Iain Martin's reaction: " a significant Tory party donor said to me recently that he was reluctant to hand the party another check until he got a guarantee that the next Tory election campaign will be run on a completely different basis from that of this year. He said that if he ran his business in that way — with no clear strategy, multiple chiefs and a lack of strong leadership at HQ — he would expect to go bust pretty quickly. He cited the ads, mentioning a figure north of £400,000, and said: “Have they any idea how hard I and other people had to work to earn the money we gave them, so that they could waste it making silly films that weren’t good enough to be shown to the voters?”