John Key told TV3 he met Lord Michael Ashcroft, who was described as a billionaire tactician by The Times, because he was doing what he was told.
TV3 1 Sep 2008
Another New Zealand politician has secretly met with a wealthy businessman who is a generous political donor.
Except this time the politician is not Winston Peters, it is John Key.
The private jet of British billionaire businessman Lord Michael Ashcroft left New Zealand today at the end of a visit very few people knew about; a trip in which he paid a personal visit to the home of the National Party Leader.
Key was initially evasive when 3 News asked if anyone in his party had met with Lord Ashcroft.
“Yes, I think they have.”
Did he personally meet with Lord Ashcroft?
“Yes, I have. I met him at my home.”
Ashcroft is the wealthy Briton who put up the $200,000 reward for the return of the stolen medals from the Army Museum in Waiouru.
But his generosity is more usually associated with right wing politics. He is the deputy chairman of the Conservative Party in Britain.
The BBC describe him as the “Tories’ troublesome tycoon”, saying he has amassed an “immense personal fortune built up through ruthless deal making which has often shocked and unsettled the city of London”.
He has also been a generous political donor, and gave almost 2.6 million pounds to the Conservatives since 2003.
So did he offer National and Key money to help this election?
“No,” says Key.
Lord Ashcroft’s generosity has come south before though. In 2004 he gave John Howard’s Liberal Party “an Aussie gift” of $1 million.
So we pushed Key further on Lord Ashcroft’s personal visit. Did he ask if the National Party was short of money?
“No,” says Key, “But I don’t discuss donations anyway. But it wouldn’t be possible for him to give anyway – he’s an offshore entity.”
Whatever the purpose of Lord Ashcroft’s visit, he was not very keen to be filmed by 3 News as he left yesterday.
An aviation security vehicle even parked to block 3 News’ shot of him.
Key says he was just doing what he was told to.
“I just follow what was in my diary.”