Tories back in business with £18m war chest

Author: By Margareta Pagano, Business editor

Sources said the party has already brought in between £5m and £10m for the war
chest to pay for next year’s election, which is being pencilled in for 6
May. This new money comes on top of the £15m already raised this year to run
the party.

“We’ve still got a mountain to climb,” said one party insider. “But
its looking much better. There’s been a huge up-tick in donations and
interest from businessmen and bankers. David Cameron’s bold statements on
public spending cuts have been a big pull.”

New and existing donors were among the 400 guests who attended last week’s
high-profile Carlton Club dinner at which David Cameron claimed: “This
is it”. The dinner, which was sold-out two weeks after being announced,
was seen by organisers as kicking off the behind-the-scenes election
campaign. “The swords are being sharpened,” said one fund-raiser.

Barclays Capital and Lansdowne Partners, the hedge fund, were among those
which paid for tables ? £10,000 each ? and which raised around £500,000.
Landsdowne’s chairman, Paul Ruddock, a big Tory supporter and a leading arts
philanthropist, chaired the dinner. It drew in people from across the City
and business as well as celebrities such as actress Greta Scacchi, according
to the guest-list which reads like a who’s who of the party’s new power
brokers. Many there had not been associated with the party before and “came
to listen”, said one present.

Guests included Simon Wolfson, Next chief executive; Richard Gnodde,
vice-chairman of Goldman Sachs International; Naguib Kheraj, head of JP
Morgan Cazenove; Michael Hintze, boss of CQS hedge fund; Hugh Osmond of
Pearl Insurance; Ken Costa, chairman of Lazard International; Jeremy Isaacs,
ex-Lehman boss; Sir Christopher Gent, ex-Vodafone chairman. Co-treasurers of
the party Stanley Fink, ex-Man Group chief, and Michael Spencer, ICAP chief
executive, were also present

Another dinner, to be chaired by William Hague, the shadow Foreign Secretary,
at next week’s Conservative conference in Manchester, has also had record
interest drawing up to 400 people. “It’s unusual to have such a popular
Opposition leader and such an unpopular leader which is a huge boost to us,”
the source added. “But there are negatives too. Publicity over
political donation, suggesting they are something ‘sinister’, has really
worried potential donors. People are also much poorer than they were a year
ago.”

More than 110 organisations and companies ? from General Motors to Carpetright
? are taking stands at next week’s party conference in Manchester. Another
17 companies including Tesco, M&S,WH Smith and Austin Reed will be
exhibiting in Market Place shopping mall in the main conference hall.
Standard Life, the insurer, is back after 10 years in exile. All the stands
were fully booked in August ? three weeks earlier than last year ? and there
is a waiting list.

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