Chris Grayling defends Tory donation tennis match

Mr Grayling said the tennis match is going ahead because the donation was from a British citizen who is 'perfectly entitled' to make one. Picture: PA
Mr Grayling said the tennis match is going ahead because the donation was from a British citizen who is 'perfectly entitled' to make one. Picture: PA
Share this article
Have your say

A TENNIS match involving David Cameron and Boris Johnson in return for a £160,000 donation to the Conservatives will go ahead, Chris Grayling said today, as he claimed Tory donors do not buy policy.

The Justice Secretary said it was “never true” to suggest people who contribute cash to the Conservatives would receive policies in return, adding donors give money as they believe a Tory government is “best for Britain”.

Mr Grayling defended his party’s donors ahead of an attack on Labour, who he insisted delivered policies after they had been called for by unions.

He claimed the influence of donors over Labour would lead to “unions dominating Downing Street”.

Labour has sought to step up pressure on Mr Cameron by accusing him of seeking to finance the Tory campaign with Russian funds, while £160,000 was paid to the party by a Russian oligarch’s wife in return for a tennis match with him and London Mayor Boris Johnson.

The Prime Minister has insisted Vladimir Chernukhin, who served as deputy finance minister in Vladimir Putin’s first administration, is not a crony of the Russian president and it would be “the wrong thing” to give the money back.

Asked if Mr Cameron’s tennis match is going ahead, Mr Grayling told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “Well, the tennis match is going ahead because it’s a donation from a British woman, a British citizen who is perfectly entitled to make a donation.”

Earlier when questioned about the same donation, Mr Grayling said: “The first thing is that a wide range of people contribute money to the Conservative Party.

“They have to be legal British donors and in that particular case this was a British woman who happens to be married to a former Russian minister who was sacked by Vladimir Putin 10 years ago, but we don’t tend to say to people you can’t give money yourself because of your husband’s role in life.

“But also when you contribute money to the Conservative Party, you don’t buy policy decisions.

“Those people who contribute money to the Conservative Party... do it because they believe a Conservative government is best for Britain.”

Told it was ludicrous to make that remark as major donors to the Tories think they will get a policy return, Mr Grayling replied: “This is an argument that’s been used for years by the Labour Party and it’s not true now and it was never true.”

He added: “The truth is, it doesn’t happen. Donors of the Conservative Party don’t buy policy, they contribute towards a belief that a Conservative government is best for Britain.

“I am afraid in the case of the Labour Party there’s a very clear link - what Len McCluskey of Unite asks this week, next week will become Labour policy.”Mr Grayling said he would use a speech today to set out figures showing that Labour’s spending plans for the next Parliament would involve borrowing £166 billion more than the Tories - or £5,500 per taxpayer - adding: “That is effectively a return to the policies of tax, spend and borrowing that we’ve seen in the past, but most particularly the policies the trade unions are calling for.”

He said the union influence over Labour would lead to “unions dominating Downing Street”.

Mr Grayling went on: “It’s more than just looking at the donors, because there are donors to every political party. The question is, do the donors have the power to buy policy? And there’s such a close correlation.

“If you look at the things the Labour Party is now saying it would do (they are) the things the unions were demanding a few months ago.

“Take renationalisation of the railways, for example - the unions have been calling for it over the last couple of years and now it’s Labour policy. The benefit cap - the unions have been calling for the benefit cap to be scrapped, and it’s now Labour policy.

“It’s simply the case that when the unions ask for something, in a relatively short space of time it becomes Labour policy.

“And the reason for that? They are buying the leadership, they’re buying the candidates on the ground - a significant proportion of Labour’s new parliamentary candidates are union officials, a large number from one union alone, Unite - and of course today they are contributing three quarters of the funds that Labour needs to fight the election.”

Shadow Cabinet Office minister Michael Dugher accused the Tories of making “pathetic smears”.

In a statement responding to reports of Mr Grayling’s forthcoming speech, the Labour MP said: “This is absolute garbage - the latest blast from an increasingly desperate Tory lie machine.

“Chris Grayling seems to have confused the Labour Party, who never have and never will link donations to policy, with the Conservative Party who have rewarded the few City fat cats, who give them millions of pounds, with tax cuts for millionaires and hedge funds.

“Unlike the Tories who rely on dodgy dinners and huge donations from hedge funds, the largest section of Labour’s funding comes from our members, a fact we’re proud of.

“Rather than wasting people’s time with these pathetic smears, the Tories should be getting their own house in order.”