With David ("Call me Dave") Cameron desperately trying to inject some momentum into a pretty lacklustre campaign, where he has succeeded in losing a ten point lead that he had previously maintained for some two years, it's worth by-passing the "We are the NICE Party Honest? Spin" to remember who is actually paying the piper.
Until 2002, it was Lord Ashcroft who (then at least) actually gave donations to the Conservative Party under his own name. From 2003, donations came through Bearwood Corporate services, a small company whose headquarters are a service address at a firm of accountants in Southampton. He also runs Flying Lion, a private airline. His wife, Susan Anstey, is an active Tory donor.
The Times (1st March 2010) published a short guide to the money donated by Lord Ashcroft, his companies and his relations:
2001: £6,996 cash and £51,750 non cash
2002: £22,980 non cash
Lord Ashcroft for visit for Liam Fox to Oman and Saudi Arabia in 2006: £3,200
2003: £27,000 cash
2004: £274,063 cash plus £9,269 non cash
2005: £667,165 cash plus £28,291 non cash
2006: £59,136 cash plus £444,619 non cash
2007: £275,000 cash plus £1.42m non cash
2008: £300,000 cash plus £1.3m non cash
2009: £0 cash plus £329,858 non cash
Bearwood to "Conservatives for Change" in 2002/3: £24,000
2006 2 trips, to Khartoum and Prague £19,819
2009 3 trips, to US, Qatar and China £20,393
Just to make things interesting it does not stop here...
Susan Anstey (Lady Ashcroft)
2003: £5,100 cash plus £5,777 non cash
2004: £9,350 cash plus £76,382 non cash
2005: £7,000 non cash
2006: £20,860 cash plus £51,850 non cash
2008: £263,000 cash plus £600 non cash
2009: £5,000 cash plus £124,520 non cash
Susan Anstey to David Cameron leadership campaign in 2005: £20,000
Susan Anstey to Steve Norris campaign: £75,000
Bearwood total since David Cameron came in (Q1 2006 to Q4 2009): £4.13 out of £89.5 million (4.6 per cent)
A couple of questions, firstly, is this called representation without taxation? And can poor (figuratively rather than literally) old Lord Ashcroft get his money back when David ("Call me Dave") Cameron fails to deliver the goods for the previously agreed price? Or at least reclaim his investment through the courts under trades descriptions - as he must have thought he was buying a political party not a political road traffic accident?