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I congratulate Peter Oborne on writing this piece.

The Ashcroft takeover of CCHQ - bought and paid for by him and chums' money - is a terrible threat to democracy.

All traditional conservatives should take a close look at his Smell The Coffee report and realise that it is a document for uber-modernisation.

So today Ashcroft, in yesteryear's it was Press Barons.

There's not much difference between Ashcroft and the Unions at Labour. Whilst i dislike agreeing with Oborne about anything, I cannot fault the man with this piece. Action needs to be taken, if only to stave off a NuLab spin campaign, BUT, more importantly, whilst the parties and Parliament debate party funding this anomaly strains credibility.

Assuming that all Peter Osborne says about Lord Ashcroft is accurate, why did Cameron let it happen? How weak is he?
A member of William Hague's staff said to me some time ago that David Cameron is a necessary evil and he will be used to drag the party screaming into the 21st century but make no mistake, William Hague will be the next Tory prime minister. At the time I thought these words were just the boasting of a young man trying to make out he was more in the know than he was. Now I'm not so sure.

Over the last ten years nearly all arms of the party have been blamed for the decline particularly the leaders but also the MPs, the councillors and the members. When will somebody have the guts to start to put the blame where, imho, it really belongs - with CCHQ and the paid staff. Just clear the whole damned lot out and start again.

I notice he described George Bridges as "languid".

Languid isn't really what we need at the moment is it?

Well it seems the Tory Party is rapidly reverting to type.

The space cadets have failed so its time for the men in dark suits to take centre stage. Among these hard-faced right wingers there is none more sinister and plutocratic than "Lord" Ashcroft whose activities in Belize have been the subject of much speculation.

The space cadets will now be smashed aside by Ashcroft's iron fist as the party descends into yet another enjoyable orgy of bloodletting.

It's something many of us are eagerly looking forward to watching.

For those in the party that seem to like winning at any cost, this will be excellent news; finally CCHQ is being run (or to a great extent) by someone who can actually run a general election campaign - unlike the incompetents who were there the previous four times around.


David Cameron and George Osborne worked very closely with Lord A in CCHQ, when Hague was leader. All of them get on well.

Ashcroft’s book “Smell the Coffee”, sets out a modernising agenda, much similar to that pursued by David Cameron. And whilst he remained neutral in the Leadership race his wife gave £10,000 directly to the Cameron Campaign.

One of David Cameron’s first appointments on becoming leader was to make Ashcroft a Deputy Chairman of the Party and task him with the target seats campaign. At the time Cameron was at the height of his popularity and could have appointed anyone, but he chose Lord A.

Lord Ashcroft’s work to modernise the Party’s organization and support our candidates, both as Treasurer, Donor and Deputy Chairman, has demonstrated his long term commitment to the Party under four different leaders.

As for the “troubling modern trend for rich men to…..influence in British public life”. I would suggest the notion that this is a “modern trend” is ridiculous to anyone with even a basic knowledge of political history. I would also suggest that the accusation is better levied at Donors who buy peerages and use their new elevated position to influence policy, rather than donors like Lord A who has been grafting hard for the party for over a decade.

The notion that Ashcroft is taking over CCHQ, without the backing of the current leadership, is complete and utter rubbish.

Look at the type of people Lord Ashcroft brought with him, "battle hardened experienced campaigners".

Contrast that with the inexperienced interns and first jobbers that sit in regional and central roles. Just look at the NHS research shambles, the lack of a breakthrough in Ealing Southall the slippage to 3rd in Sedgefield etc etc.

I know an area where the regional/central twerps are still following the Saatchi "spread it thin" strategy rather than the sensible focused approach Ashcroft recommended. Under Ashcroft Associations have to pass various performance criteria to get funds.

The election results over the past 10 years show a record where most Associations (10 years of gaining councillors) have outperformed the Central function (GE and MP by elections).

20 years of by election failure by CCHQ has to end. Lord Ashcroft is our best chance of achieving that.

Funny attempt at a rebuttal by sill season which actually confirms the story!

You don't actually dispute that ashcroft is taking over central office - just that he is doing so with the support of cameron.

Also some of your "facts" are wrong. Cameron wasn't at CCO under Hague. He was at Carlton and then fighting Witney. As you are an expert on political history can you point out another Donor who was Deputy Chairman, treasurer and now effectively CEO of a political party?

And I don't think DC was in a position to choose Ashcroft was he? It was more of an attempt to get him pissing out of the tent rather than in following the freelance operation under Howard.

otherwise nice try ;-)


I think this is a bit overblown. Someone has to be, in any party, in charge of marginal seats, campaigning etc. And that person is more likely to be an official than an MP. And of course such a person will be allowed to bring in their own staff - would we prefer they were paid for out of general party funds? In our case it is Ashcroft, who ran a successful operation in just this area at the last election. Perhaps his millions (which helped to keep us afloat in the Hague years) are a factor in his position. But this is as nothing compared with Labour's record of giving tax-payer funded government jobs to donors. Aside from this allegation there is nothing in Oborne's article that worries me: no evidence of Ashcroft mistreating staff and he specifically reports that Ashcroft does not seek to influence policy (which is arguably in contrast to Kalms, Wheeler and other donors).

At last, news that someone in the party is showing some detrmination to win- perhaps Lord A can now get the Front bench and the entire Parliamentary off their backsides and away from their lucrative other jobs to support DC and get out their campaigning. Their absence in recent weeks has been shameful ,especially as there was so much news where this Govenment could be attacked
The more we get into the public's mind that all our present social troubles can be laid at Brown's door the quicker they will listen to us

There were so excellent contributions this week on this site on what DC should now do to win. It was very noticeable and indicative of their attitude, that no Conservative MP contributed to this debate.

They are a pathetic lily livered lot.

Lord Ashcroft is, at least, a real Conservative. He is also a man accustomed to success and making intelligent decisions. The Conservative back office was heading for failure. Ashcroft is hard enough to turn things round. The harder you work the luckier you get is the truth in politics.

This site is becoming more and more like a red top where tittle tattle and gossip is reported as fact and personalities dominate the day. All I can say is grow up gentlemen, grow up!

Agree Jack! 110%. And the "RED" top is particularly relevant. We have to bear in mind, that due to a lack of any workable website for the other parties, they are all blogging on here. All Tories to guard their comments please, lest they be taken out of context.

If Ld. Ashcroft puts some fire into CCHQ then good on him .

The Conservative party has been to bruddy nice for too bruddy long . What is needed is OPPOSITION and that means not just sustained , cogent , relentless argument ; it also means getting a bit nasty on occasion and tearing the government's b-lls off .
Ashcroft looks as though he has the stomach for this . There are rather too many in The Conservative party I suspect who are prepared to settle for the quiet life .

Perhaps weeks before a GE (don't believe it myself) we have a "senior" Tory publically bitching about someone's office in CCHQ. I read somewhere about Brown being lucky; he sure is, he is up against a Conservative party full of egotistical amateurs who couldn't give toss what voters think even if they cared.

Amongst this shambling mob of amateurs Lord A I suspect he is not the remotest bit amateur at anything he does. Can he be promoted even more?

Well it looks as if, as I predicted some weeks ago, Ashcroft has finally bought the party lock stock and barrel.

Hopefully Ealing-Southall buried 'David Cameron's Conservatives' for good so why don't we take the honest route and parade under the colours of 'Michael Ashcroft's Conservatives'?

It's simply not true to say that Ashcroft has supported four leaders.

He was generous to the Hague-led party from 1997 to 2001 and became a peer.

He hardly supported IDS and began an outside Central Office operation during Howard's tenure.

He's only back now because Cameron has given him what he wants - enormous control of CCHQ.

This sort of takeover by rich men shouldn't happen in an advanced democracy.

Should wealth and success disqualify from entering politics?

Only failures need apply.

Excellent news that Lord Ashcroft is in CCHQ with him installed there perhaps the management team will at last realise that they have to actually MANAGE, which they certainly haven't done so far.
Lord Ashcroft realises that for us to win we have to target the marginals if we dont win them then the remaining seats will never fall to us. More power to his elbow I say.

Michael Ashcroft deserves nothing but thanks from the the Party. Many of us who have been through the last two elections remember very lean times indeed before Michael gave us the means to run proper campaigns. The reality that has for too long been ignored is that in many of our keys seats we are very thin on real 'activists' on the ground. The resources that Michael marshalled to our aid (and remember it was not all his money - he did get others of generosity to support his initiative) gave us the ability to communicate our message with the electorate. The fact that the Ashcroft operation is now inside CCHQ is an excellent development. His team of Gavin Barwell, Stephen Gilbert who gets the real problems in the country, and Kevin Culwick who I have known since he was my Vice Chairman at Southampton University are all good Conservatives who want to see us win. And they are all working to make sure that prospect is enhanced. It really is very disappointing that a few people want to see a sinister motivation when none is present.

The fact that Ashcroft is taking such a close interest in things and bringing with him an experienced battle-hardened team is ggod news and reassuring. We need more practical people with experience,


So not only do we have the Ashcroft expertise, but he's also giving us money. And the problem is. . . ?

It is difficult to see the problem. A committed conservative has the where with all to provided focused strategic advice and support to help us win an election. The naive comment by the dep editor about donations is sadly deluded and wrong. Bridges is a nice chap but has no idea about campaigning. Oh and why are conservatives concerned about some one like Lord A who has made money not had it given to him.

To be honest it is great to have a professional team providing support for us in the key seats - not something we are used to from CCO.

Anyone else understand why "Long-term contributor with track-record of success and ideas close to the leadership has key role in CCHQ" is some sort of story? Have I wandered onto comment-is-asinine? If nothing happens on a beautiful late August Saturday, let us allow nothing to happen, rather than manufacture stories for the Labour party and the people (I'm increasingly certain) they are paying to contribute to the comments on this site.

Lord Ashcroft is a force for good in our Party. As National Chairman of Conservative Future I have seen how he has helped to transform the youth wing from the ground up. His contribution has seen us move from around 10,000 members when he became involved to over 18,000 now. He has always strived for it to be as successful and big as possible. He never asked for anything in return.

I also see Lord Ashcroft's work as the PPC for Tooting. I don't get a lot of money from Lord Ashcroft. But frankly, I'm grateful for what I get. I also hugely value the input which Lord Ashcroft's team have had on my campaign. Gavin Barwell and Stephen Gilbert have been very helpful and I value this greatly.

These whingers on this site should listen good and hard to people like me on the coal face of winning the election. Lord Ashcroft is a good thing. His teams offers good advice and valuable financial support. And it comes with no strings attached, other than a relentless demand to make sure that my team and I are doing our very best.

What's wrong with that?

Very interesting to see the Ashcroft apologists - including some people who claim to be in favour of fairness, equality, the underprivileged etc - piling in to defend the indefensible.

Seems the bunker mentality is kicking in bigtime.

Men like Ashcroft spend money in order to buy things they want.

He's already got the peerage. (deep booming National Lottery style voice) Thaaaat's safe!

Until somebody satisfactorily answers the question 'What's he after now?' I will remain resolutely sceptical about this extremely controversial individual.

Silly Season's attempted defence is not only factually incorrect but extremely naieve in its conclusion that because he has the authorisation from the leadership to do what he is doing (well, duh) then that's okay then.

Jack Stone's comment as usual is not worth reading, except to wonder what goes through their head - come on man, 'tittle-tattle and gossip'? In one sentence you're saying cold hard facts are heresay when they clearly arent- whilst admitting that their assertions are negative. Your surpass yourself, if Lord A has friends like these...

HF: I think those two campaigning warriors that he has on his payroll both lost their jobs didn;t they?

Looking back at a previous discussion on this topic:
it's interesting to note a couple of the same names come up to defend Ashcroft that you never see commenting on anything else, D Roberts and Jake.

And then we have at least two commenters (Burns and Clarke) defending Ashcroft who are probably worried that if people of principle curtail his pernicious influence then the money they have received will dry up. They are therefore trying to dismiss these valid concerns about the power of money in politics and probably sucking up to him further by coming to the rescue publically.. I dont know them personally so that last bit could be unfair.

The fact is, this man has bought the loyalty of cchqers, MPs, candidates, journalists and now even a blogger or two! Money talks, and also silences.

A casual study of the life and times of Lord Ashcroft will reveal a man driven by the need for power who stomps on anyone in his way- kudos to CH and Oborne for not letting money cloud the search for truth- and is loyal to his friends and supporters/supportees but who also spends tiny proportions of his wealth on little projects to satisfy himself that he's contributing to society selflessly.

Smell the coffee, indeed.

This isn't a new issue that will have the interest of the public even if some of the uglier allegations about his use/abuse of power come to light on this site or in the press, it's a matter of principle that we as people committed to the party should address. I don't buy the idea that we should close down debate on this issue by saying this could damage election prospects.

I simply don't trust the careerist politicos in cchq who only understand how to expand their personal empires/egos to guard against these things out of principle. Someone's got to make a noise even if it can only be rectified after the next election.

Labour and the LibDems do have similar problems, we mustn't lose sight of that. I just hoped this would be the kind of thing David Cameron would love to have taken a lead on.

Well that's my geeky late night rant over, apologies but here I stand, I can do no other.

Perhaps if the leadership was keener on encouraging the grassroots there wouldn't need to be a reliance on a few rich men? In that case, even if Cameron did want help from someone like Ashcroft, at least there wouldn't be the accusation that influence had been bought.

Judging from Ashcroft's email published in today's S. Telegraph,it can be said that there is at least one person who is working in a disciplined way towards getting Conservative MPs elected in marginal consitutencies.

Meanwhile others more absorbed in the protection of their personal piece of turf snipe from the sidelines and allow themselves to be rentaquoutes as they seek to protect that turf instead of doing what Ashcroft is doing.

He at least seems to understand where the battleground is, has taken his tanks there and is getting on with the battle. He at least is demonstrating a will to win.

Why do people have a problem with someone who has that desire?

We are putting Mr. Cameron forward as someone who is a fit and proper person to be Prime Minister, as a fit and proper person to run the nation: are we saying that he is not, at the same time, a fit and proper person to manage the complexities of relationships of this kind in CCHQ?

There is in some of this comment the rank smell of careerism.

If he wants to fight Labour, let him. Someone has got to do it.

"There is in some of this comment the rank smell of careerism."

Are you being ironic?!

In an age where millions of people will sign an e-petition or support a cause like MPH, a political party should be able to find ways to nurture a grassroots movement to sustain itself.

I agree that Oborne is wrong to say that rich men taking over parties etc is not a modern phenomenon.... so let's move on from the 18th Century please?

A party answers to the person who writes its cheques.

I'd much rather that be Lord Ashcroft for the Tories and Alan Bown for UKIP than Alistair Darling (via state funding).

Which one do you think has the least interest in seeing conservative policies delivered?

A party answers to the person who writes its cheques.

I'd much rather that be Lord Ashcroft for the Tories and Alan Bown for UKIP than Alistair Darling (via state funding).

A counsel of total despair.

And if that is now the only way forward for the Conservative Party Ashcroft is one of the last people I would want to see writing the cheques.

Stuart Wheeler and Stanley Kalms strike one as straightforward businessmen who are different from the average grassroots Tory only in that they have far more money to give away. Not so Ashcroft. I confess I have not read his book (although I intend to do so) but judging from press comment it gives little away about the man. We can only guess at his motives.

All sorts of things about Ashcroft set alarm bells ringing.

Would Wheeler and Kalms pour fortunes into Australian politics while insisting that they are supporting the Conservative Party here for purely altruistic reasons? No they would not.

Would Wheeler and Kalms profess disinterest in the leadership contest while arranging for their wives to donate £10,000 to Cameron? No they would not.

And there remains - among many other unanswered question - that settlement with The Times. I have no doubt that The Times libelled Ashcroft, yet instead of taking them to the cleaners he settled for a clinically-expressed withdrawal, no damages, and payment of own costs to be borne by both sides. Why?

I am afraid the answer that most people will supply is that he had good reasons for not wanting his business record examined in court.

And, above all, one great question undemines the status of a supposedly democratic party.

Who elected him?

Lord Ashcroft has shown his committment to the Conservative party over many years, most in opposition.
He has given generously of his time and expertise as well as financial donations throughtout our time in opposition, and he shows a real hunger to see our party elected. We should be highlighting this kind of committment from people at all levels within the party as a positive contribution.
Now off to read his book Smell the Coffee because it has been recommended to me.

Of course we used to hear all these same excuses for Jeffrey Archer. Then as now, they mostly seemed to come from the power-crazed left of the party.

Once Archer was gaoled, of course, these fairweather friends dumped him like a sack of old spuds.

Clearly their experience of dealing with a cash-rich, ethics-poor egomaniac have taught them nothing. Perhaps they should recall the wise words of a deeply-unfashionable statesman from their own wing of the party.

I refer to Sir Edward Heath and his timely condemnation of 'The unacceptable face of capitalism'.

Buying a nominally democratic party and appointing yourself to offices to which you have never been elected is indeed totally unacceptable.

We need to rid the party of this pernicious ethos before its reputation is permanently tarnished.

Given the distaste towards normal Tory plebs that some in Cameron's team barely disguise, I doubt he will have the balls to cap donations. He lives in high society where they won't see the logic nor the appeal in a mass movement.

Interesting that the Conservatives in Canada get the vast majority of their income from small donations though. But then they're pretty Conservative and have the strivers' vote.

Ah, a silly season thread where the idiots can get their voices in the media. This piece, headlined "Tories split over Lord Ashcroft" has been posted on the Guardian website, including:

Fears about the rise of Lord Ashcroft were expressed by activists on the Conservative Home website this weekend....

Another, calling himself traditional Tory, wrote: "Buying a nominally democratic party and appointing yourself to offices to which you have never been elected is indeed totally unacceptable. We need to rid the party of this pernicious ethos before its reputation is permanently tarnished."

Hope you're proud of yourself, Trad Tory. Oh what a pity you didn't let common sense inhibit your ego for long enough to heed Annabel's sensible advice above! Isn't being quoted by the Guardian a bit of a badge of shame for the likes of you?

Unless of course, you're not a Conservative and have no interest in helping us win at all? Time to show your true colours, perhaps?

Im aware that some Associations in safer seats have been contacted urging them to give more support to marginal neighbouring seats. While normally I would think it a good thing to do this, due to Camerons leadership and changes to policy, its harder for the safer seats to maintain their own support. The result in Bromley and Chislehurst shows exactly the risk we face here.

Assisting other Associations must not come above campaigning in our own constituencies. CCO doesnt understand this.

Hope you're proud of yourself, Trad Tory. Oh what a pity you didn't let common sense inhibit your ego for long enough to heed Annabel's sensible advice above! Isn't being quoted by the Guardian a bit of a badge of shame for the likes of you?

Personally, Richard, I'd be more concerned about the power-crazy ethics-lite Ashcroft apologists who were also quoted.

OTOH it's good to know that Guardian readers will learn that some Tories are actually concerned about the fact that party probity and accountability are now being thrown out of the window.

And since pigs will fly before the Guardianistas vote Conservative it doesn't really matter much anyway, eh?

Like most others who actually wish the Conservative party well I have a high regard for Lord Ahcroft who has given huge help to the party and has done so without obviously foisting upon it his own agenda.
It is a matter of record how frightened Labour were of him that Alastair Campbells henchman Tom Baldwin was put up to try and smear him in the Times.That Lord Ashcroft is still around and Baldwin has been demoted to some minor job in the USA is a kind of poetic justice.
As regards Any Questions I thought Peter Oborne was good but he ruined his answers with huge amounts off hyperbole which antagonised the audience ( fellow Mail journalists Peter Hitchens and Melanie Phillips always do this).
Louise Baghshawe was alright but she missed a heavan sent opportunity to kick the BBC when it is down.

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