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Sunday, October 11, 2009

Controlling the message?

This morning's Independent on Sunday poses the question as to whether Tory donor and tax-exile, Lord Ashcroft has been buying up online influence in a bid to "shore up" his own position with David Cameron's party and ensure that he is not frozen out once the Conservatives are installed at No 10.

Lord Ashcroft has recently purchased PoliticsHome and ConservativeHome causing some high profile resignations from the former's expert "political panel", which releases opinion surveys.

Amongst the resignees are Andrew Rawnsley, a columnist for The Observer, who quit as editor-in-chief, claiming that the site's editorial independence was incompatible with Lord Ashcroft's arrival: "I became editor-in-chief on the basis that PoliticsHome was dedicated to being a non-partisan site clearly independent of any party both editorially and financially. I do not believe that can be compatible with being under the ownership of the deputy chairman of the Conservative party."

About 40 "political panel" members have now made the decision to resign, with more thought to have privately stopped working for the site.

The paper points out that Lord Ashcroft's millions have been crucial in funding Mr Cameron's campaign to target resources at key marginal seats. The party has received almost £4m donated from the peer's firm, Bearwood Corporate Services, since 2005. However, Lord Ashcroft's refusal to answer questions about his tax status has been problematic for Cameron.

The higher profile that he has now bought himself can only help to focus more attention on these issues.
Perhaps some public-spirited e-citizen could devise a gadget for display on our sites: "This blog is not owned or funded by Lord Ashcroft"?
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