THE prospect of a roast chicken supper at the home of chief whip Michael Gove and his wife might not be everyone’s idea of a good night out but it had the Tory faithful gathered for a fund-raising event in London reaching for their chequebooks.
An evening at the Goves was just one of a series of eye-catching lots on offer in an auction held at the Black and White Ball at the Grosvenor Hotel in London to raise money for the Conservatives’ general election campaign.
Anyone unlucky enough to lose out on dinner with Mr Gove and his wife, Daily Mail columnist Sarah Vine, had plenty of other options.
The Tories’ wealthiest donors could bid for a shoe shopping trip to Bond Street with the kitten-heeled Home Secretary, Theresa May, or a cup of tea with London mayor Boris Johnson, who promised to “enlighten and delight” guests. There was also a chance to compete in a 10km Ironman-style cross-country run with Welfare Secretary Iain Duncan Smith.
While some lots went under the hammer during a live auction, most of them were sold silently and the amounts raised were not made public.
Guests were reported to have paid up to £15,000 a table at the event organised by party officials to raise £3 million to help fund the party’s battle for the 7 May election.
A lavish brochure listing auction lots, obtained by website Buzzfeed, included an early-morning 5km run with Education Secretary Nicky Morgan, followed by a “hearty breakfast”, and even a collection of Budgets, signed by Chancellor George Osborne.
SCOTSMAN TABLET AND MOBILE APPS
There was also a “personalised” copy of the party’s 2015 manifesto, signed by Prime Minister David Cameron, a signed cartoon of William Hague following his 1977 appearance as a teenager at the Tory Party conference and dinner at the Carlton Club with Culture Secretary Sajid Javid and his wife, Laura.
Mr Cameron attended the event along with most of the Cabinet and government officials. Party supporters who rubbed shoulders with the politicians were said to include nightclub owner Peter String-fellow, hedge fund manager Stanley Fink and Subaskaran Allirajah, founder of Lyca-mobile.
Last night, Conservative sources declined to confirm reports that a week-long trip for 24 to a fortress in Majorca had sold for £220,000 and a bronze statue of Lady Thatcher for £210,000.
Guests could also bid for luxury lots including a trip on a private jet to the Greek island of Santorini, a home-cooked dinner from Michelin-starred chef Albert Roux, pheasant shooting for eight people, a private night at Annabel’s nightclub, a guided tour of the gardens at the Prince of Wales’ Highgrove estate, a personalised composition by Wombles songwriter Mike Batt or a baking masterclass with the creator of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge’s wedding cake.
A Conservative spokesman said: “All donations will be declared in the right and proper manner to the Electoral Commission.”
Last night, shadow business minister Iain Wright said that given the chance he would have preferred to have a pint with a Tory front-bencher.
Speaking during a parliamentary debate on the maximum wage, the Labour front-bencher noted business and culture minister Ed Vaizey had been given the responsibility to reply at short notice instead of Treasury ministers.
Mr Wright said: “Presumably ministers from the Treasury are recovering from their £15,000-a-table Black and White Ball where lucky recipients had the chance to go shoe shopping with the Home Secretary or have a meal with the Culture Secretary. Personally, I’d rather go for a pint with [Mr Vaizey].”