3. There was insufficient evidence to conclude that the Conservative Party was uncertain who the donor was when accepting donations.
The Electoral Commission said the party 'had reason to question whether the donor was Ashcroft rather than BCS.' But to prove the party was uncertain on this point, it would be necessary to determine the party's 'state of mind.'
Unfortunately the Commission had no power to compel witnesses to attend in-person interviews to conclusively decipher this. It asked various party officers and staff to attend interviews on a voluntary basis, but they failed to do so.
So, when all's said and done, did the report really clear Michael Ashcroft?
According to the Conservatives, yes.
A party spokesman said: "Following an 18-month investigation, the Electoral Commission has definitively concluded that donations made by Bearwood, the company in which Lord Ashcroft has an interest, were legal, permissible and correctly reported. It has now been put beyond doubt that donations from Bearwood were entirely legitimate."
Certainly, no one can dispute the fact that the Commission decided no breach of the Parties, Elections and Referendums Act 2000 occurred and no legal action should be taken against the Conservative Party.
But I invite you to read the Electoral Commission report in full yourself and then make up your own mind about whether the report cleared Ashcroft.
- Belize Ignores Global Tax Accord; Spotlight Turns To Ashcroft (FindLaw, 9 February 2010 )
- Lord Ashcroft A Non-Domicile, Admits Senior Tory (FindLaw, 11 February 2010)
- Ashcroft Admits Non-Dom Status (FindLaw, 2 March 2010)
- Pressure Mounts On Electoral Commission To Publish Ashcroft Report (FindLaw, 3 March 2010)