Thursday 15 July 2010

Ashcroft's revenge?

While Mr Cameron was gloating at PMQs over the Mandelson memoirs, he has Michael Ashcroft sharpening his pen, as Andy McSmith reports in The Independent, with his own insider account of the Tory campaign and its failure to win a majority.

Here on Next Left, the former Tory treasurer is known by the non-honorific Not-Lord Ashcroft as a small mark of disrespect to reflect the unconscionable decade-long delay in meeting the promise he made to become a peer.

Not-Lord A is less delighted by the LibDems than Dave is, as the Indy reports.

One upshot of the coalition is that he finds himself on the same side as Lord Oakeshott, the Liberal democrat peer who pursued him relentlessly over his tax status. "He is having to sit on the same benches as his nemesis, and he really hates that," one Tory claimed.

But he is able to use his Lords perch to promote the national interest - of Belize anyway.

Despite the change in government, he is getting nowhere with his campaign to persuade the British government to increase its military presence in Belize, which is trapped in a border dispute with its larger neighbour, Guatemala. In an answer to a question from Lord Ashcroft, the defence minister, Lord Astor of Hever, warned him to expect disappointment. "The Ministry of Defence is facing significant financial pressures and we must... focus our resources on our key areas," he wrote.

How will the Conservatives cope without Lord Ashcroft? Fortunately, they have a replacement in place.

He now has a potential rival in the financier David Rowland, who is due to take up the post of Tory party treasurer in October. Days after he was appointed, Mr Rowland discovered how treacherous internal Conservative politics can be, when the Daily Mail ran an article attacking the business past of "the former tax exile who's the new Tory Treasurer", which is thought to have been inspired by a tip-off from within party headquarters.

And what next for Not-Lord A?

Lord Ashcroft is said to be determined to retain an influential role in UK politics. One ambition is to become a media mogul by building up an online presence. He has bought into the websites Conservative Home and Politics Home.

As we discussed at the time in trying to unravel the Ashcroft mystery, the investment of £1.3 million in the blogosphere shows that Ashcroft was anticipating a breakdown of relations when the balance of cash and notoreity became less useful to the party after the general election. Ashcroft's importance over time may well be in providing one of the best-funded "grassroots" insurgency movements on the right than has ever been seen in British politics.

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