British Prime Minister David Cameron is desperately trying to stave off an official inquiry by the electoral commission into Conservative Party fundraising, after a top official was forced to resign for improperly offering access to him. The battle between Conservatives and the Labour Party on the issue now centres on the electoral commission, after former Labour justice secretary Jack Straw wrote to it demanding an official inquiry. If such an inquiry were to go ahead and have negative findings, it could have a devastating impact on Tory fortunes. Consequently, Number 10 is keen to do everything possible to ensure that one is not ordered. Last night, the electoral commission was keeping its counsel. In his letter to the commission, Mr Straw said the Tory co-treasurer Peter Cruddas and former party staffer Sarah Southern had broken rules simply by listening to undercover reporters offering to funnel Middle Eastern money to the party.
In one of the clips released by the Sunday Times, Ms Southern said she had spoken to Conservative Central Office, which said the money would have to come via individuals listed on the British electoral roll. Under the 2000 Political Parties, Elections and Referendums Act, donations can only come from voters, or from companies registered in the UK, and funds that might be coming from a third-party must also be declared.
“These reports raise serious questions as to how the Conservative Party is soliciting donations, potentially in contravention of [the legislation],” said Mr Straw, who asked the question: did Mr Cruddas or Ms Southern commit a criminal offence by soliciting such funds?