Elite Tory donors’ secret meetings with Johnson and Sunak; new lobbying allegations for Cameron; MPs’ £100k summer hospitality bonanza

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Conservative prime minister Boris Johnson and his chancellor Rishi Sunak are holding secret meetings with elite Tory donors who are part of an“Advisory Board” of members who have given at least £250,000 to the Conservative party.

The meetings are reported to be part of Tory co-chair Ben Elliot’s “mission to modernise” the party’s fundraising efforts with the Financial Times describing the club “as a means of connecting major Conservative backers with its top figures.”

Conservative officials have confirmed the existence of the Advisory Board which meets “occasionally” with Johnson and Sunak “for an update on the political landscape”. The Advisory Board does not appear anywhere in any party document yet one donor said members of the club have used discussions to call for government spending cuts and lower taxes.

‘One needs to cough up £250,000 or be a friend of Ben’

One meeting was held at the Kensington home of the banker Rishi Khosla, hosted by PR company Hawthorn Advisors, co-founded by Elliot, and Quintessentially, the “concierge service for the rich founded by Elliot, the Conservative party co-chairman.”

The Advisory Board is “like the very elite Quintessentially clients membership: one needs to cough up £250,000 per annum or be a friend of Ben”, said Mohamed Amersi, a businessman and Tory donor.

The FT quotes a “well-placed Tory” referring to a “250 club” adding, “it is like whisky: you push the price to see how high you can raise the price”.

Illegal payments to shareholders

In May, the Times reported that Elliot’s concierge service had “admitted to a string of accounting failures and making illegal payments to shareholders” – with £1.4 million paid out “when it did not have adequate reserves to do so.”

The influential ConservativeHome website states: “Elliot is a more significant figure than his title, Co-Chairman of the Conservative Party, might suggest. Just as Andrew Feldman was David Cameron’s man in CCHQ, so Elliot controls the party organisation for Johnson”

The story comes as former Conservative prime minister Cameron faces new lobbying allegations involving vaccines minister Nadhim Zahawi and a US private health business awarded UK government contracts worth up to £870,000.

The Independent reports that Cameron told the Advisory Committee on Business Appointments he would not have any role in contract negotiations between Illumnia Cambridge Ltd and the Department of Social Care or “lobby ministers or the UK government in any way on behalf of Illumina or its partners”.

A spokesperson for the US healthcare company said the “vast majority” of Cameron’s work “with Illumina is outside the UK, representing the best practices of the UK in genomics to other countries.”

Whole genome sequencing as part of routine care

Genomics studies the functions and influence of a body’s genes on growth and development by looking at DNA and “associated compounds”, The NHS website states: “The UK is recognised worldwide as a leader in genomics and the unique structure of the NHS is allowing us to deliver these advances at scale and pace for patient benefit.”

One of the aims of the NHS Genomic Medicine Service is “to be the first national health care system to offer whole genome sequencing as part of routine care.”  Genomic technologies means the NHS can “deliver faster and more accurate diagnoses for inherited and acquired disease” with personalised treatments intervening before conditions develop.

In April Cameron was embroiled in the scandal arising from the collapse of Greensill Capital  – a finance company set up by Lex Greensill, the Australian banker who was given ministerial access to Westminster by Cameron’s government.

The wide ranging allegations about Cameron’s work for Greensill, “if true,” opined author and former BBC reporter Robert Harris, are “surely the greatest ethical scandal in British political history”.

MPs enjoy £100k hospitality at summer’s top events

Meanwhile, the Guardian reports that MPs from all parties have “enjoyed a bonanza of free tickets this summer worth more than £100,000” – hospitality packages paid for by “gambling, drinks and sporting companies”.

Sir Keir Starmer, and cabinet ministers Ben Wallace and Brandon Lewis were among more than 35 MPs taking “advantage of the government’s Covid pilot scheme for large events”, declared by MPs in July. The events included the Euro 2020 finals, the British Grand Prix, Wimbledon and cricket at Lord’s.

Wallace was one of 10 MPs accepting £3,547 worth of “hospitality” from Entain, the Gibraltar based owners of gambling firm Ladbrokes.

A comprehensive review of the Gambling Act is currently underway with tighter restrictions on advertising among the proposals being debated.

Other companies providing hospitality packages for the politicians included Heineken and Motorsports UK.

The Labour leader received £618 worth of tickets from Rugby Football League while the Premier League provided Starmer’s Euro 2020 tickets-package, valued at £1,628. They also gave shadow health secretary Jonathan Ashworth tickets to the semi-final worth £1,040.

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