An open letter to Lord (Michael) Ashcroft

This entry was posted on
Tuesday, November 24th, 2009
9:26 am and is filed
under Tories! Tories! Tories!.

Dear Lord Ashcroft,

Apologies for the open letter, but the better part of two months has been wasted going through the ‘proper channels’ on this matter, and your staff only appeared to show mild interest (at best) when there was a whiff of negative publicity in the air. I might have attempted to pass an email on through fellow blogger Iain Dale, but that man has proved to be thoroughly petty and untrustworthy in recent times (to the extent that he can’t even be trusted to pass on a simple message, no matter how serious the matter might be).

So here I am, airing these rather sensitive questions in public. I regret if it causes you any embarrassment, but I humbly submit that if you have any issues with that, then you should take it up with the people you have manning the ramparts.

I am writing to ask about a man by the name of Dominic Wightman (aka Dominic Whiteman, aka Richard Walker) who claims to have conducted a meeting with you and gained funding for VIGIL, a “private intelligence-gathering network” focusing on “extreme Islamism,” with an investigative/publicity remit including “Muslim faith schools, infiltration of police forces, immigration departments and local government by extreme Islamists… FGM (Female Genital Mutilation) and Muslim honour violence across the continent” (source).

Rather than waste any more time, I’ll take us straight to the questions that need answering:

1 – Wightman claimed in July 2006 that he was in contact with your PA at the time to arrange a meeting with you personally in London*. Is this claim true?

[*If your diaries and records let you down, you can always check your passport, as you may have been out of the country at the time.]

2 – Wightman also claimed that this meeting was arranged specifically to discuss funding for VIGIL. Is this claim true?

3 – Wightman went on to claim that the meeting took place, as scheduled, on Thursday 20 July, 2006. Is this claim true?

4 – Wightman also maintained that he left that meeting with a generous promise of funding. (He described the result as being beyond his expectations**.) Is this claim true?

[**The exceeded expectations he told others of may have referred to some small amount of funding where none was expected, or funding on a faster timetable than expected, rather than any amount beyond his known expectations (which were, early in VIGIL’s history, as high as £250,000) if, indeed, there was any truth to this claim at all.]

5 – Wightman then claimed that he went on to collect a cheque within 10 days of that meeting, implying heavily that it had come from you or your organisation. Is this claim true?

6 – Wightman went on to claim that subsequent delays in accessing the funds were the result of his/your wish to handle these funds discreetly through offshore trusts. Is this claim true?

Personally, I doubt that any of what Wightman claimed was true, but speaking as someone who has been taken in by Wightman, it would not surprise me if the meeting took place and he misrepresented the nature of that meeting and/or made false/misleading claims/implications about successfully obtaining funding from you.

I should stress that some of Wightman’s claims and implications reach into a vague area involving a number of wealthy Conservatives who he blames in part for the collapse of VIGIL (alongside those who were ‘greedy’ enough to expect to be paid when a wage was promised) but yours is the only name that emerged alongside any specific claim of a meeting or funding.

You are therefore in a unique position to prove or disprove the veracity of claims that are central to Dominic Wightman’s assertions about his past and present actions and intentions with regards to VIGIL and those involved (and/or his influence within the Conservative ranks, then or now).

Again, I recognise the potential for embarrassment and regret having to put you in this position, but there is a clear difference between being innocently taken in by someone like Wightman to any extent and (knowingly or otherwise) providing a conman with vital cover in order to avoid a few blushes, and I wanted to be sure that you were given a clear opportunity to do what is right.

I would, obviously, prefer that this matter were cleared up quickly with no remaining doubts or shadows, but if there are any confidential aspects to your answer(s), any fair and relevant request for confidentiality will be respected and honoured.


Tim Ireland

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