‘People's Prime Minister' Boris Johnson rolled out the red carpet for super-rich Tory supporters worth in excess of £25 billion at a lavish ball.
At the Tories' Winter Party, previously called the Black and White Ball, the PM offered privileged access and cosy dinners with senior ministers for cash to stuff the party's coffers.
Unnamed donors paid almost £100,000 for two games of tennis with Mr Johnson in an auction at the event, alongside hunting trips and luxury holidays.
The party raked in an estimated £500,000 from table fees alone, as 700 attendees paid up to £15,000 a table to rub shoulders with ministers and dine on fine food and costly wine.
Among the lots on offer in the auction were a pair of Brexit 50p coins – one in 22 carat gold, another in silver – in a presentation signed by the cabinet, which sold for £65,000.
Megabucks party backers could also bid on a night of whisky tasting with Liz Truss, lunch with Zac Goldsmith and dinner at an exclusive Mayfair club with Michael Gove – which raised at least £8,000.
And a day in a box at Lords for a one day cricket international between England and Australia with new Chancellor Rishi Sunak sold for £80,000.
A ride in a Lancaster Bomber with Transport Secretary Grant Shapps sold for around £2,000.
And the boards used by Boris Johnson in his Love Actually parody ad were listed with a minimum price of £1,000.
A signed photo of Margaret Thatcher sold for £4,000.
Dinner at the Carlton Club with Health Secretary Matt Hancock sold for £3,000, while a week in the Cayman Islands sold for £10,000.
Two games of tennis with Mr Johnson and party co-chair Ben Elliot were auctioned for around £45,000 each.
An eight-gun pheasant and partridge shoot in Oxfordshire was auctioned for £80,000.
Chris Luffingham, Director of Campaigns at the League Against Cruel Sports, said the auction “flies in the face of Boris Johnson’s very first speech as Prime Minister, in which he said we should promote the welfare of animals that has always been so close to the hearts of the British people.”
The auction was presented by Wynne Evans, star of the Go Compare adverts – alongside Tory co-chair Amanda Millings.
Ahead of the auction, Mr Johnson was filmed singing Max Boyce’s “Hymns and Arias” with Mr Evans on stage.
But his off-pitch performance prompted Mr Evans to say the PM had a “touch of the John Redwoods”.
Mr Redwood was infamously spotted attempting to mime along to the Welsh National Anthem at 1995s Tory conference – while he was Secretary of State for Wales.
Guests and ministers dined on Red Mullet, Salsa Verde and Artichoke.
Layton’s Brut Champagne, at around £16 a bottle, was served to revellers on arrival.
With dinner, attendees had the option of a 2017 Jeroboams White Burgundy at £18 a bottle, or a 2016 Ortega Ezquerro Crianza at around £14.
Welcoming donors to the event, Mr Johnson smirked and joked: "Welcome to our Winter Party. We used to call it the Winter Ball – but we’re a one nation party now.”
Mr Johnson left the event early, at around 9.40pm, when the auction was getting underway.
And Mr Johnson's partner Carrie Symonds was not seen at the event.
Jon Trickett, Labour ’s Shadow Minister for the Cabinet Office, said:
“The Black and White Ball is the perfect example of how the incredibly wealthy and most powerful have access to politicians.
“But aside from this pantomime, the fact of the matter is that political parties and politicians should not be taking large donations from mega-wealthy individuals and corporations. It distorts our democracy and drowns out the voices of the wider public.
“Political finance must be democratic and transparent. Labour promised this at the last General Election , and the Conservatives must do so now. I won't hold my breath."
David Ross, the millionaire Carphone Warehouse boss who secured the Prime Minister’s luxury holiday villa, was on the guest list for the event, dining at a table with Environment Secretary George Eustice.
Lubov Chernukhin, the Russian financier who has paid hundreds of thousands of pounds for access to senior ministers – including a ‘girl’s night out’ with Theresa May at last year’s fundraiser – also had a table at the event.
Ms Chernukhin, the wife of a former Putin ally, has previously played tennis with Mr Johnson and then-PM David Cameron after winning a £160,000 auction lot at the 2014 Black and White Ball.
At Monday’s event, Ms Chernukhin was seated on the same table as Education Secretary Gavin Williamson.
At 2018’s Black and White Ball, Ms Chernukhin paid £30,000 to dine with Mr Williamson – who was then Defence Secretary – in the Churchill War Rooms.
Jamie Reuben, the 33-year-old son of multi-billionaire David Reuben, was listed to sit at a table with Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab .
Also listed to spend the evening with the Foreign Secretary were six members of the Said family – a powerful family of bankers and brokers from Saudi and Syrian descent.
They included billionaire Wafic Said, 80, a close ally of Margaret Thatcher, who helped facilitate the £43 billion ‘al-Yamamah’ arms deal with Syria – the biggest arms export deal in British history.
Prince Khalid bin Blandar bin Sultan bin Abdul Aziz Al Saud, the Saudi ambassador to the UK and a senior member of the Saudi Royal Family, was also at the table.
A Conservative Party spokesperson said: “Fundraising is a legitimate part of the democratic process. The alternative is taxpayer-funding of political campaigning, which would mean less money for frontline services like schools and hospitals – or being in the pocket of the trade unions, like the Labour Party.”
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