For the record, ConservativeHome takes a relaxed view of Party funds being paid to the Party leader – to cover, say, entertaining Tory MPs for party purposes; or travel costs; or, perhaps, legal fees.
Until Simon Case’s inquiry reports, and perhaps not even then, it won’t be clear who originally put up the money for the contested Downing Street flat wallpaper.
Reports suggest that Party funds weren’t used for this purpose straighforwardly, because Lord Brownlow was due to make a donation in October last year of £58,000 to cover part of the costs of the project.
This site leaves aside for the moment questions about whether and when any such gift will be declared, and who would be due to pay how much tax on it.
We want to focus instead on part of the purpose for which ConservativeHome was originally created: providing a forum for the views of Party members, and campaigning for their rights – present and future.
A donation that goes into Party funds and is then passed on to the Leader is, well, one that comes from those funds, even if the money concerned has been raised for a special purpose.
It may be that Lord Brownlow’s gift was passed onto Johnson and then duly returned to the Party, and perhaps to him; it may also be that it was never sent on to him at all.
This site is told that the Conservative Party Board isn’t due to meet until late May, but that Board members “are asking questions about what happened”.
It has also been reported that the Party helped the Prime Minister with legal bills when he was contesting claims that, when Mayor of London, he used his position to “benefit and reward” Jennifer Arcuri, who has claimed they had an affair.
One member of the Board told this site that “I know nothing about that at all”. What would be right course for the Board to take in such circumstances?
Party members will be well aware that their control over its spending is so limited as scarcely to exist. To some extent, it rests with the Treasurer of the Party, currently Sir Ehud Sheleg.
The Party’s website tells readers that each Association has a Deputy Chairman for Membership and Finance, but says nothing about the Party’s own Finance Committee, which makes reports to the Board.
Finance Committee members say that they have no recollection of payments to cover costs associated with the Prime Minister’s legal bills being discussed at any time.
The Committee does review the Party’s legal costs but, according to one member, “what tends to get discussed are unbelievably boring cases of why Person A is suing Person B”.
A senior backbencher said: “while there would be no legal requirement for the Finance Committee to approve such payments, I think that, were the Acuri costs covered, it would have been appropriate for the committee to approve them in advance”.
All in all, it is hard to argue with the proposal floated ten years ago on this site by John Strafford that “the Treasurer of the Party should present the Annual Accounts of the Party to the Annual General Meeting for adoption by the members”.
But as we say, ConservativeHome takes a relaxed view of Party funds being paid to the Party leader for the purposes we described earlier. We will see from our forthcoming monthly survey whether or not our Survey Panel members agree.