Michael Ashcroft, the former Conservative party deputy chairman who upset Downing Street with his recent biography of David Cameron, has spent 18 days in intensive care in the US after suffering liver and renal failure.
The announcement that Lord Ashcroft has been gravely ill was made in a special video report by Belize’s Channel 5 station that was broadcast at the launch of his book in London on Monday.
The report said that Ashcroft had to be rushed by air ambulance from the Turks and Caicos islands to the Cleveland Clinic in Ohio last month, where he was diagnosed with septic shock that led to liver and renal failure.
“Welcome to the launch of Call Me Dave and I’m sorry that I cannot be with you this evening,” Ashcroft said in opening remarks read out by his publisher, Iain Dale. “As you will have just seen, I have been a little preoccupied for the last four weeks. I haven’t of course set foot in the UK since my illness, but I am reliably informed that my book has caused a bit of a stir.”
The Channel 5 report revealed that Ashcroft was first taken ill in Turkey, where he had been visiting war graves to mark the centenary of the Gallipoli campaign, on 22 September, the day after the Daily Mail started serialising his book.
The serialisation began under a front-page headline with the word “Revenge”, after it revealed that Ashcroft had been promised a substantial government job by David Cameron.
Ashcroft flew to the Turks and Caicos on 23 September after a doctor administered antibiotics. But his condition deteriorated on his arrival and he was admitted to the National Hospital on Providenciales. The following day he was flown by air ambulance to Cleveland.
Ashcroft spent 18 days in intensive care after suffering kidney and liver failure, as well as internal bleeding from a leaking intestinal lesion near his stomach. He suffered what were described by Channel 5 as acute fluctuations in blood pressure. Ashcroft, whose condition was compounded by diabetes, is now understood to be in a stable condition.
At the book launch, his co author, Isabel Oakeshott, the former political editor of the Sunday Times, revealed that David Cameron had advised her not to work with the peer. “I just really fear for you,” Oakeshott quoted the prime minister as saying after he warned that she might become caught up in a “terrible fight” between him and the peer.
The biography alleged that Cameron knew Ashcroft had not renounced his non-dom tax status in 2009, a year before it became public. The book also contained lurid details about Cameron’s behaviour at Oxford, although the authors said they could not verify some of the allegations.
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