The donation of Australian $1 million – £410,000 – was believed to have been the largest single political donation in the country’s history. I made it prior to the 2004 general election as a show of support for John Howard, the country’s Prime Minister and leader of the International Democratic Union. I have long been a great admirer of John and he was struggling against the Labour Party, which seemed poised to take power. In fact, in October 2004, John secured a fourth term and, if my donation helped him to victory at the polls, then I am delighted.
The complaint was rejected.
The article claimed that the complainant, the former treasurer of the Conservative Party, had, along with four other directors of a company called Tyco, been accused of making ‘false and misleading statements’ to the public and using deceptive accounting to boost the share price falsely. The piece made clear that the allegations were yet to be tested in court and that a Tyco spokesman had made clear that they were ‘totally without any foundation’. In addition, a spokesman for Lord Ashcroft was quoted denying the allegations and the article made clear that such lawsuits were common in America…..
The Commission noted the complainant’s objections that the newspaper had initially approached his spokesman for a comment only a few hours before publication. In some cases this might be a factor that the Commission would take into account – usually if the approach was so late that somebody had no reasonable opportunity to comment on a story that, by omitting their comments, would be inaccurate or misleading in breach of the Code if published. In this case, however, the Commission noted that the article had used the comments of the complainant’s spokesman and lawyer to make the complainant’s point of view very clear. Readers could have been in no doubt that the complainant vigorously disputed the allegations. The Commission also noted that the article had explained that such lawsuits were common in America and that the company believed that lawyers were attempting to blackmail the firm. In all these circumstances the Commission could find no breach of the Code.