In the next five years, Britain needs Liberal voices standing up for our place in Europe, for our civil liberties, for human rights and for an open, tolerant and united Britain.
If you pay £16,500 you can have an advert on the canvas bags or lanyards issued to delegates. If you want an exhibition stand in a plum spot you’ll pay anything up to £27,500. And, according to press reports, you’ll need to cough up more than £3,000 to rub shoulders very briefly over lunch with national luminaries such as Liam Fox, Chris Grayling or even Theresa May herself.
Welcome to the great love-in between British business and theConservative Party, which will be on ample — and expensive — display this week at the party conference in Birmingham.
I do not disapprove of businesses paying to participate in party conference events — indeed, I encouraged it when I was leader of my own party. Nor do I begrudge the Conservatives for raising their price tag to get as much into their party coffers as possible. As long as we’re stuck with our opaque party funding rules — the reform of which has been repeatedly blocked by both the Conservative and Labour parties — it’s just the way of the world.
No, my big query about the huge financial donations provided by British businesses to the Conservative Party is not based on sanctimony but simply this: why are businesses supporting a party which now poses such a serious threat to the long-term health of the British economy?
Liberal Democrats on Surrey County Council have revealed almost £67m of public money has been spent on buying properties outside the county, using a council-owned property company called Halsey Garton Property Limited. The properties purchased with funding from the Conservative-run Council were mainly warehouses situated in locations such as Wiltshire, Bristol, Worksop and Salford. The most expensive acquisition was an office in Bristol, at the cost of just under £20m.