Let Me Entertain You – When Eric met Peter Sponsored by mixed sponsors (£1000 per head). At least £296,836 in personal donations received since 2001 from people at this table.
* Eric and Irene Pickles: MP for Brentwood and Ongar and communities and local government secretary. The communities secretary, praised by the chancellor for his ability to impose cuts on struggling councils, has been reprimanded by the Whitehall spending watchdog for running up an unauthorised departmental overdraft of £217m. The head of the National Audit Office, gave a qualified opinion on the Department for Communities and Local Government’s financial statements because of its breach of Treasury spending limits. The finding is an embarrassment for the communities secretary, who has regularly lectured local councils on the need to get their finances under control. It will also raise eyebrows around Whitehall because the accounting officer for his department is Bob Kerslake, the head of the civil service. In his Commons statement on the government’s spending review, George Osborne praised Pickles as “the model of lean government”. But the NAO disclosed that the Treasury had imposed a £20,000 fine on his department as a punishment for its poor financial management.
In a further setback, auditors found that the department’s local government capital expenditure limit of £80,000 had been exceeded by almost £1.2m as a result of overspending by two of its arm’s length bodies – the Valuation Tribunal Service and the Commission of Local Administration in England. Margaret Hodge, chair of the public accounts committee, said the department’s failure to control its finances was “a shocking example of incompetence. This is an unacceptable abuse and waste of public money that could have been avoided with the right financial oversight,” she said. “I am staggered that the department has been so blase with its resources and so poor at staying within some of its budgets. If local authorities, for whom the department is responsible, acted in this way the department would be down on them like a ton of bricks.”
Despite the overspends, Downing Street said David Cameron shared Osborne’s favourable opinion of Pickles. “I think the prime minister agrees with the chancellor’s assessment,” a No 10 spokesman said. Pickles has been forced to accept one of the highest cuts among Whitehall departments as Osborne looks for a further £11.5bn of austerity savings.
I’m Getting to be a Lord says Pickles
The former cabinet minister Eric Pickles is to be given a knighthood, Downing Street has announced. The secretary of state for communities and local government in the previous parliament will be made a knight bachelor in recognition of his public service as an MP, and his time in the cabinet and local government. Pickles, 63, who was first elected to parliament in 1992, lost his frontbench role during the reshuffle by the prime minister, David Cameron, on 11 May 2015.
He has since been made an anti-corruption tsar and remains the Brentwood and Ongar MP. He was re-elected with 59% of the vote at the general election. Pickles said his family were absolutely delighted at the news. He said: “I’m obviously very pleased with the honour and am looking forward to my day at the palace. When I left the cabinet, the prime minister asked if I would accept a knighthood and I indicated that I would, but it then has to go through a committee. I’m very pleased.” Pickles served as the Conservative party chairman from 2009-10. Before entering parliament, he had a long career in local government. He was elected to Bradford council in 1979 and was its leader between 1988 and 1990.
He has since changed his Twitter name to Sir Eric Pickles and uploaded a photo of the letter he received from the prime minister. It said: “I wanted to write to express my heartfelt gratitude for the outstanding service you have given to our great party and, in particular, for the loyalty you have always given me – both as prime minister and, before that, as leader of the opposition.”
* Donal Blaney: Co-founder and Non-Executive Chairman of The Young Britons’ Foundation. The Foundation was entirely inspired by the success, drive and spirit of the American conservative movement. “First introduced to organisations such as the American Conservative Union, the Young America’s Foundation, the Leadership Institute, Collegiate Network and the Heritage Foundation at the annual Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC), it was clear to co-founder Donal Blaney and Greg Smith that Britain was behind in the training and development of younger political activists.
“Working together, US think-tanks, activist groups and training organisations ensure that the next generation of conservative activists are well-briefed on the academic backbone of conservative ideas, trained in campaign techniques, media skills and political organisation. No one group claims a monopoly, but all contribute to conservatism in America through their own initiatives. Equally, none of these groups are directly affiliated to or at all associated with the Republican Party.
“What is most striking about all of these groups, however, is their belief in principled conservatism which can be dated back precisely to the candidacy of Barry Goldwater for President of the United States in 1964. At that time, conservatives in America were beginning to recognise the importance of individual freedom, a strong national defence, free enterprise and traditional values…”
Donal is listed at number 50 in The Times Top 100 Right-Wingers in 2014. He is also the Chief Executive of the Margaret Thatcher Centre, which is dedicated to teaching future generations worldwide about the life, values and achievements of Britain’s greatest peacetime Prime Minister. He is a law graduate of Southampton University, a solicitor and owner of his own law firm and consultancy business which has offices in England and the United States. He is a former Chairman of Southampton University Conservative Association (1993-4) and Wessex Area Conservative Students (1993-5). He is also a former Students’ Union Officer and NUS delegate.
After graduating, He became involved in the National Association of Conservative Graduates, of which he became Chairman in 1997. In 1998, he was asked by then Leader William Hague to unite the Conservative Students, Young Conservatives and the Conservative Graduates into one new youth organisation – Conservative Future – of which he became the first National Chairman (1998-9).
He served a four year term as a local councillor in Hammersmith & Fulham, and is the Chairman of the Board of Conservative Way Forward. He blogged for The Daily Mail. His non-political interests include Liverpool Football Club, choral music and the cinema. Donal is married to Marci, a former US Army reserve soldier who served in Iraq. He has homes in Kent & Florida. He was the Chief Executive of the Young Britons’ Foundation until March 2014.
The Conservative chairman, Eric Pickles,appeared to disown the leadership of the Young Britons’ Foundation, a rightwing training organisation for young Conservatives whose officials have described the NHS as “the biggest waste of money in the UK” and suggested the waterboarding of prisoners can be justified. Pickles spoke last week at a YBF rally at the House of Commons and the group is working with Conservative Future, the party’s official youth wing, on pre-election training of young Tory activists.
But yesterday that relationship came under serious strain. “We don’t agree with these views,” a spokesman for Pickles said in a brief statement. “The YBF organisation is independent of the Conservative party.” The move follows revelations in the Guardian at the weekend that the YBF’s chief executive, Donal Blaney, has taken trainees to firing ranges as part of their courses and called for police to shoot down environmental protesters who trespass. Blaney has referred to the YBF as “a Conservative madrasa”. In recent years, the organisation has enjoyed widespread support from members of the shadow cabinet, including Liam Fox, the shadow defence secretary, and Michael Gove, the shadow education secretary, both of whom have spoken at its gatherings. The YBF has also helped train several prospective parliamentary candidates. This lot are much akin to Edward Mosley’s 1930-1939 British National Party
Claire Guyton (L)Inside the club
* Claire Guyton: Is the Events Director for the Young Britons’ Foundation. A graduate from Portsmouth University reading politics, Claire was co-founder of the University Conservative Association and became secretary to the group. After graduation, Claire worked for a number of MP’s as a researcher/P.A. Her career has also included 7 years in marketing and advertising with Saatchi and Saatchi Advertising, Macmillan Publishing and Reed Elsevier.
* Peter and Bella Stringfellow: He is a British businessman and nightclub owner who has an estimated net worth of $50 million. Personal donations: £2,340.00. Personal + company donations: £39,340.
Born Peter James Stringfellow in Sheffield, he failed his 11 plus so he attended Burngreave Secondary School for a year. He then passed the exam for Sheffield Central Technical College and left three years later at the age of 15 with a 4th grade Technical Diploma. After he left school, he had multiple jobs including cinema projectionist, steel worker, member of the Merchant Navy, and a salesman.
He began running dance nights at his local church that led to launching his own club called Black Hat club in 1962. He began another club venture in 1963 called The Blue Moon. In the following year, he opened another club called King Mojo Club. The venue went on to host acts such as Jimi Hendrix, Stevie Wonder, and Ike and Tina Turner. After his success, he began opening more clubs after he relocated to London in the 70s. He then began launching additional nightspots in the United States especially in New York. Miami, and Los Angeles. Following a bankruptcy in the early 90s, he shifted the focus of all of his clubs and turned them to strip clubs.
The 2015 general election: On Friday night, while Labour-voting London congregated outside pubs to condemn the outcome of democracy, Tory supporters were celebrating the first majority Conservative government in over 20 years. And what better way to usher in five more years of neglecting the young, sick, old and disabled than by hurling cash at dancers and Dom Pérignon in the capital’s unofficial Conservative Party party HQ: Stringfellows strip club. Stringfellow, a Thatcher fan and the owner of the club he named after himself, was throwing a General Election “Victory Party”. There were no banners outside, no stream of jubilant bankers in cardboard David Cameron masks; just two intimidating bouncers and a very quiet smoking area.
After the door staff told me it was fine to hang around in the hope that I might be there when a Rolls Royce full of marauding Bullingdon boys turned up, I was approached by Derek, the biggest bouncer there. Lovely though he was, he didn’t seem to appreciate the concept of personal space. “So what are you doing here, then?” he asked, very close to my face. I explained that I was there to speak to the guests about their views on the Tory victory, but that it didn’t look like I’d be able to do much of that stuck outside the front door. So, instead, I asked Derek how he thought the clientele had voted. “It’s very much Conservative voters in there,” he said. “You’ll find people in there owe a lot to the coalition government. All these [other] people are looking back and complaining about Cameron winning, but if you think about it, what did the coalition even do that was that bad?
Derek is a long-serving member of staff at Stringfellows. The club opened as a flashy nightclub for the capital’s elite in 1980, and a decade later Peter Stringfellow introduced the table dancing. Derek has worked at the club for 25 years and remembers the transition. “It was all very fashionable back then, this table dancing,” he told me. “Last night we had an election party for the girls. We had some big spenders in that night. One guy came in and spent £29,000. That’s a lot to spend on just one evening. “What’s amazing is you still have people coming in and spending that kind of money here after all these years. I don’t know if it’s just because I’ve worked here for so long and the whole table dancing thing bores me now, but I think it’s starting to go out of fashion.” One thing Stringfellows is famous for is its loyalty to the Tory cause. A long-term donor to the conservatives, Peter Stringfellow gave over £35,000 to the party between 2003 and 2005.
“It’s true blue in there – all Conservative voters,” said another bouncer I spoke to after Derek. A guy called James – the only club-goer I was able to talk to – couldn’t vote this year, but has always been loyal to the Conservative party. “I’ve lived in America for several years, and missed the chance to register. But if I had, I would’ve definitely voted Conservative,” he told me. “Really, they are the only party right for the job now. I think they have very strong economic policies, and that’s still very important. David Cameron is the best of a bad bunch, really. The other party leaders were trying to seem appealing to people, but Cameron was the only one who seemed competent. He’s a competent person.” While the Tories enjoyed a surprisingly large share of the vote last week, some of their support – and a number of their MPs – had been snatched up by UKIP. Stringfellow himself made the headlines in 2012 for his surprise support of the party in a London by-election. “Businesses are doing a lot better round here, and there’s more of them than ever. It can’t have been all bad.”
“I think Farage is a very good businessman,” James told me as we got onto the topic. “He seems to understand what he needs to do, and executes it well. I don’t support those policies, but he’s a clever man.” This sentiment – that business is best – seemed to ring true among everyone I spoke to. Derek, for example, judged the coalition’s success on his boss’ success: “Businesses are doing a lot better round here, and there’s more of them than ever,” he said. “It can’t have been all bad.” Of course, that’s one of the main problems that non-Tories have with the Conservatives’ apparent worldview: that a happy economy is preferable to a happy society. I couldn’t get in to Stringfellows myself to pester the guests on how to justify that balance, but it’s safe to say that anyone spending almost £30,000 in one night would have their reasons.
* David Edwards: CEO of the OGN Energy Group. The Group delivers industrial projects encompassing design, engineering, construction and installation such as for floating, production, storage and offloading (FPSO) vessels and subsea jacket structures which support oil and gas platforms. In the face of market volatility the CEO of OGN Group stated that project bids have become increasingly competitive with the international playing field difficult to keep level, and externally, young people are cautious about whether oil and gas, and manufacturing in general, is a viable long-term career path. To achieve a sense of evenness, he would like to see government become more involved with the process, as very good tax concessions typically accompany such projects, and should the UK adequately grasp the opportunities that lie inside renewable energy, the sector could increase in size dramatically, resulting in long-term, sustainable jobs.
* Alexander Temerko: Russia-born director of the OGN Energy Group. Personal donations: £289,230. Personal + company donations: £474,555. At the auction, bid £90,000 for a sculpture of David Cameron – months after his energy firm received £4.5million from taxpayers. snapped up the auction prize at the Tories’ summer bash in June, but the multi-millionaire’s identity can be revealed today for the first time. After his £90,000 bid, the PM strode over to his table at the £1,000-a-head fundraiser and slapped him on the back to congratulate him, onlookers said.
Electoral Commission records show director Mr Temerko, or his wind farm firm Offshore Group Newcastle, have donated £348,155 to the party since February 2012. Eight months before Mr Temerko’s bid for the bust, Temerko’s wind energy firm Offshore Group Newcastle, which has tipped nearly £350,000 into the Tory coffers in the last couple of years, has seen its investment repaid with £4.5 million from the government’s Regional Growth Fund.
Tories insisted the donations and the grant were not connected. A party source said: “All donations are fully transparent and declared to the Electoral Commission.” Mr Temerko is also in a group of donors who dine with Mr Cameron and Cabinet ministers. Members must give at least £50,000 to join the clique.
* Lord Macfarlane of Bearsden: Scottish industrialist. Personal donations: £5,266. Established in 1949 by Lord Macfarlane, Macfarlane Group PLC takes pride in delivering innovative and cost effective packaging and labelling solutions. The company was first floated on the London Stock Exchange in 1973. The group has over 20,000 customers and employs more than 800 staff throughout the UK. Now 85, He has recently given up the bulk of many commercial positions/chairmanships and charitable works
* Edward Sagar Fort OBE: 78y Director of an engineering company based in the north of England. Personal + company donations: £33,000. Company P/A turnover approx 31M