Tuesday, 22 September 2009

£1.3 million from Ashcroft's Den

My earlier post on Andrew Rawnsley's resignation as editor in chief of PoliticsHome said that I would inquire as to the scale of Conservative deputy chairman Michael Ashcroft's investment to gain a controlling stake of the new media company which now owns the site.

The answer is that Ashcroft has put in £1.3 million to the new company, which includes PoliticsHome, ConservativeHome and ConservativeIntelligence.

A more than tidy sum. Though they have had to give up 57.5% of the equity in the den to secure that investment.

What this means for PoliticsHome, for the grassroots website ConservativeHome and the mooted new online blog newspaper allied to it (perhaps filling the gap in our media for some right-leaning perspective on current affairs) remains to be seen.

Here is the reply from Freddie Sayers, editor of PoliticsHome.

The new company will receive a capital injection of £1.3m. It will enable us to improve and expand the site hugely and I am really exicted about it.

As for the editorial independence of the site - it was owned by a Tory before, now it is owned by two Tories! It was accepted as non-partisan before, and I hope it will continue to be. I am the Editor, I have been obsessive about making sure we have no bias in any political direction until now, and will continue to be. I can see that I will have a job to win over the sceptics, but I feel confident that in the months ahead we can demonstrate that beyond doubt.

The proof will be in the pudding!

I should mention that I am a member of the PoliticsHome expert panel, drawn from across the political spectrum to tell you what the current groupthink in the Westminster village is.

A couple of other panellists have suggested, since my previous post, that Andrew Rawnsley's resignaton is leading them to question whether they should continue to participate, though I have no information that anybody has yet decided to withdraw.

UPDATE: 9.50pm

Sunny Hundal at Liberal Conspiracy has a report that those who have so far decided to resign from the PoliticsHome insider panel today, after seeing Andrew Rawnsley's statement about the site's political independence, include Anthony Barnett of OurKingdom, Charles Clarke MP, Matthew Taylor of the RSA, Yasmin Alibhai-Brown of the Independent, Nick Cohen of The Observer, Sunny Hundal of Liberal Conspiracy, myself from the Fabians, Neal Lawson of Compass, Denis MacShane MP and Tom Watson MP.

There may of course be others who have done so personally and which have not been publicly reported so far.

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