The Conservative party’s most lucrative annual fundraising event will take place in London on Monday night at a five-star Mayfair hotel where more than 500 wealthy supporters will be asked to give generously for the general election campaign.
Party donors including Henry Angest and oil company billionaire Ian Taylor are expected to rub shoulders with several senior cabinet members at the Black and White Election Fundraiser, held at Grosvenor House hotel on Park Lane.
Supporters were asked to pay £1,500 a head to feast on a starter of smoked salmon with horseradish, a main course of confit of lamb neck with celeriac and a haggis sauce, and to finish, panna cotta with rhubarb and mint oil. It will be washed down with champagne, a red Bordeaux and sauvignon blanc. In return guests will get access to members of the government.
One Tory donor told the Guardian that if he buys a premium table at the event, which costs £15,000 this year, he can expect the company of a cabinet minister. If he paid £5,000 for a standard table, he would expect a junior minister.
The ball has been organised by a 63-strong committee of City donors, oil tycoons and recent converts to the Conservative cause. It includes Karren Brady, the recently ennobled Tory peer from BBC1’s The Apprentice, Philip Mould, an expert from Antiques Roadshow and several hedge fund owners.
The chair of the fundraising event’s committee is ZoëLaw, a celebrity makeup artist who has toured with the singer Dido. She is married to Andrew Law, the chief executive of a New York-based trading and investment firm, who has donated more than £1m to the Tories.
She has been joined on the committee by two other makeup artists, Lee Pycroft and Sarah Reygate, whose clients include Anne Hathaway, Naomi Watts and Elle Macpherson.
Labour said the list of organisers underlined the exclusive nature of Cameron’s fundraising network. The committee includes 21 registered donors to the party, who have contributed more than £4.6m.
A quarter of the organising committee are linked to the world of finance, and at least seven committee members are donors who have previously attended private dinners with Cameron.
Invitations were sent out in December, according to a party official. Perhaps wary of being accused of appearing out of touch, the organisers asked men to wear suits, as opposed to black tie, while women are encouraged to wear cocktail dresses to the event.
The invitation encourages guests to sign up to premium, premier or standard tables for £15,000, £10,000 or £5,000 respectively. According to one donor, last year a minister was assigned to each table. Those who paid the most were given the higher-profile ministers, he said.
Others on the organising committee included donors who have previously attended private dinners with Cameron. They include Angest, the chairman of Arbuthnot Bank and a former Tory party treasurer. He has been criticised for controlling a credit company, Everyday Loans, which charges members of the public interest at a representative rate of 74.8% APR. Before the last election he gave the Conservatives a £5m overdraft at 3.5%. He declined to comment.
Taylor, CEO of the billion-dollar oil company Vitol, is also a committee member who has dined with the prime minister.
Another is Michael Wade, a British executive and chairman of the insurance giant Besso group. According to Tatler magazine, he recently celebrated his 60th birthday by conducting a symphony for 200 friends in Smith Square in Westminster.
Guests will be asked to participate in an auction after dinner. Last year, it was reported to have raised more than £1m.
Jonathan Ashworth, the shadow cabinet minister, said: “It’s no wonder the Tories stand up for a privileged few when their election campaign relies on such an elite few funders.
“Ministers are busy rubbing shoulders with an exclusive network of big money backers rather than delivering for working people. As ministers and tycoons gather tonight to decide how the Tory campaign is going to be funded, families up and down the country are suffering a cost of living crisis to which the Tories have no answers.”
This article was written by Rajeev Syal and Rowena Mason, for theguardian.com on Monday 9th February 2015 18.15 Europe/Londonguardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media Limited 2010