Mon, 15 July 2024

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Tory Leadership Candidates Urged To Sack Party Co-Chair Ben Elliot Over Fundraising "Controversies"

Labour have called for Ben Elliot to be sacked from his party role (Alamy)

4 min read

Labour claimed failing to remove Ben Elliot would make a "mockery" of leadership pledges to clean up party "sleaze".

Labour Party chair Anneliese Dodds has called on Liz Truss and Rishi Sunak to commit to "immediately" sack the party co-chair over "controversies" relating to his business interests and fundraising efforts.

Elliot, who has made co-chair of the Conservative Party by Boris Johnson in 2019, has been credited with a overseeing a major surge in donations for the party since his appointment.

In a letter to the pair, seen by PoliticsHome, Dodds also raised concerns about Elliot's firm, Quintessentially, a luxury concierge service for wealthy clients, after it announced it was searching for its third auditor in three years.

The firm, which offers a "luxury lifestyle management service", came under financial pressures during the Covid pandemic, and admitted in 2021 it had made more than £7m worth of accounting errors and paid out £1.4m in unlawful dividends to shareholders.

And pointing to further delays in the publication of the company's accounts, Dodds wrote: "Quintessentially's accounts for 2020 are still to be filed and are now 16 months overdue, while reports for 2021 will only be filed once the previous year's reporting is resolved.

"The ongoing murky financial performance of Mr Elliot's company raises serious questions for the party you are seeking to lead."

In a serious of questions to the final leadership candidates, she added: "If Ben Elliot is unable to file accounts for his company for almost two years, is he a fit and proper person to chair the Conservative Party?"

It comes after Elliot faced criticism over his fundraising efforts for the party after it was reported the 'Advisory Board', which he established for donors who had given over £250,000 to the party, were offered regular meetings with Johnson and then-Chancellor Rishi Sunak.

Dodds said the next Tory leader should also commit to revealing the members of the group, adding: "Whichever of you wins the leadership, you must no longer treat important issues of financial transparency with such flagrant disregard."

"You are both directly linked to the Advisory Board," she added. "At least four donors linked to the Liz Truss campaign are reported to be members of the Advisory Board, while group members were said to regularly enjoy monthly meetings with Boris Johnson and Rishi Sunak during his time as Chancellor."

And she claimed that failure to remove Elliot from his post would "make a mockery of your repeated campaign claims of honesty and see your leadership begin in the same sleazy state your predecessor's ended in".

Both leadership candidates have addressed concerns about the party's handling of recent scandals, but Truss, the firm favourite to succeed Boris Johnson, refused to confirm whether she would appoint a new ethics adviser following the resignation of Lord Geidt earlier this year.

Instead, she promised "honesty" when it came to addressing sleaze in government, adding: "For me, it's about understanding the difference between right and wrong, and I am someone who has always acted with integrity.

"I have always been clear about what I will do, I have followed through on my promises and been honest about the situation, and that is what I would do as Prime Minister."

Speaking to PoliticsHome, Dodds added: "The next Tory leader needs to act swiftly to clean up the sleaze-ridden Conservative Party they will inherit from Boris Johnson.

"They can start by removing Ben Elliot from his position immediately and finally coming clean about who belongs to the shadowy Advisory Group of mega-donors he set up."

She added: "In Liz Truss and Rishi Sunak we have two continuity candidates who simply won't do what's needed to really clean up our politics. Britain needs a fresh start with Labour."

A Conservative Party Spokesperson said: "Ms Dodds can find the names of donors and how much they have given to the party on the Electoral Commission's website.”

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