Tory funds drive hit by mail gaffe

The Conservative party’s fund raising drive has suffered an embarrassing set back after it mistakenly told supporters in a mailing that it planned to raise taxes and sell out to Europe.

Tory chairman Jeremy Hanley mailed a two-page fund-raising letter to 25,000 people, but on thousands of the mail shots the crucial words, “We also have powerful criticisms of Labour” were missed out. So Hanley’s letter says the Tories plan to endorse the Social Chapter and that spending plans will result in higher taxes.

The mistake arose when the laser printing programme for the letter failed, missing out the crucial line.

“The letter was not written incorrectly, but there was a problem on the laser printing for which Mail Marketing, which produced the letter for us, accepts full responsibility,” says Frances Penn, executive director of Team 1000, the Tory group which sent out the letter.

The Tories are generally given printed material for mail outs, data selection – in this case supplied by CCN – and the cost of the production of the mailings in donations or at a discount,. The party pays for postage.

Hanley denies that the party is in financial trouble, though it has accelerated debt repayment to the Royal Bank of Scotland, which holds the bulk of its overdraft.

“Our finances are in an extremely healthy state. We are reducing our borrowings and building up our war chest to fight the general election. The borrowing certainly will be below £16m. We intend to reduce it to zero and build up the war chest within the reasonably near future,” says Hanley.

Hanley says the party’s income has increased, largely because the cost of fighting the European elections has been absorbed. There have also been substantial bequests to the party from supporters.

It is understood that one of those supporters is Maurice Saatchi, who is believed to be keen to pay off the Tory party’s remaining debt owed to Saatchi & Saatchi Advertising. Observers say that if the party was freed from this debt it would be easier to move the advertising account into Maurice Saatchi’s new agency.

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