Martin Bright

Why is Lord Ashcroft so important to David Cameron?

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The Conservative Party's reliance on Michael Ashcroft has always mystified me. How a once great political party has allowed itself to become quite so dependent on one man, I will never know? The conventional wisdom is that his money rescued the Tories from the abyss. It is certainly true that Ashcroft's pamphlet, Smell the Coffee, was a cogent analysis of the reasons behind the Tories' defeat in the 2005 election. But his continued position at the heart of the Conservative Party machine can only really be explained by a nagging feeling of insecurity within an organisation that has grown used to defeat.

Now the Electoral Commission has finally decided that donations made by Bearwood Corporate Services to the Conservative Party deserve serious scrutiny. As Andrew Porter wrote in the Telegraph, the investigation could force the Tories to hand back £5 million of donations.

I hope David Cameron uses the opportunity to show some genuine gumption and cut himself loose. In the end £5 miilion would be money well spent to establish his party's independence.

The Guardian makes the point well in its editorial that pretty much everything you read at the moment makes you despair of the political class.

The Cameroons always wanted to be the heirs to Blair, but surely not by making Lord Ashcroft their Lord Sainsbury?