Labour’s anger as Tory group pockets £50,000 for campaign
11:00am Saturday 17th April 2010 in News
More than £50,000 of private donations made to a parliamentary campaign in Pembrokeshire has been described as an ‘abuse of our democratic position’.
The Carmarthen West and South Pembrokeshire Conservative Association has received the money in the past two-and-a-half years to back the campaign by Simon Hart, who is chief executive of the Countryside Alliance.
The seat, held for the past 18 years by Labour’s Nick Ainger, is regarded as a key target for the Tories.
As a Labour whip, Mr Ainger helped introduce the Hunting Act five years ago. At his campaign launch last week, he said: “People don’t realise the huge sums that have come into this constituency with just one aim — wanting to see the foxhunting ban overturned.”
He added: “We don’t want to go back to the days where rich people are able to influence the outcome of an election. It’s an abuse of our democratic position.”
Former First Minister Rhodri Morgan, who was at the launch, said: “It’s not going to work because Pembrokeshire people are very independent. The fact you can buy a seat by paying money into it won’t wash.”
But Mr Hart has hit back, saying any notion of ‘buying’ an election campaign is “rubbish”.
He said: “We all have to raise money to fight our campaigns. Mr Ainger does it courtesy of the taxpayer and trade unions and I am doing it via personal friends who have chosen to support me. We are all subject to a legal spending limit, regardless of how much money is raised.
“I am surprised my colleagues on this political journey prefer to examine whether or not my friends support my campaign, rather than account for their record and set out their vision for the future.”
More than £45,000 has come in from Johan Christofferson, who is a hunt joint master and whose donations to the party now total more than £250,000.
Donations to the constituency also include a further £2,000 from Lord Daresbury, a former chairman of the Masters of Foxhounds Association.
Claims by Mr Ainger that at least £25,000 has been given to the constituency by Conservative party vice-chairman Lord Ashcroft through his company Bearwood Corporate Services have been dismissed as ‘ludicrous’ by Mr Hart.
Plaid Cymru criticised the peer’s involvement with the Tories after the Preseli Pembrokeshire association received £9,500 for a campaign assistant’s salary between 2004 and 2005.
Mr Hart said: “I have had some marginal seat funding from central office, but no money from Lord Ashcroft.”