On the Politics Show, Sunday 29 March 2009,
Jon Sopel interviewed
Stuart Wheeler, Former Tory Donor.
JON SOPEL: The spread betting millionaire, Stuart Wheeler, has been one of the Tory Party's biggest donors. Back in 2001, he gave them more than five million pounds.
He's continued to give them smaller amounts, ever since. Last year it was around fifty thousand, but today he's announced that he's voting UKIP at the next European elections and he's stuffing a hundred thousand quid in their Euro sceptic pocket.
So, he says he wants to remain a member of the Conservative Party. He's with me now. So how is that possible.
STUART WHEELER: Well there's nothing to stop you being a member of the Conservative Party, unless they decide to turn me out, and giving money to UKIP. It really, really matters what's going on in the European Union and what I want to do is to get a message over to both the main parties, in the European Elections, that the public knows that. Your own poll the other day showed that 55% were in favour of withdrawing from the EU but having good business contacts with them.
JON SOPEL: So your message to Conservative voters for the European elections is vote UKIP.
STUART WHEELER: It is. And I had dinner with somebody who I thought was a really old fashioned pro-Conservative last night and I told him what I was doing, I thought he'd be horrified, he said no, I'm doing exactly the same, you're absolutely right and I hope a lot of other people will do the same and also will give money to UKIP.
JON SOPEL: If you were the Chairman of the Conservative Party, wouldn't you say, we've got to kick Stuart Wheeler out.
STUART WHEELER: No, I don't think I would because
JON SOPEL: Even though you're giving money to another party and coming on this programme and saying, I urge Conservative voters to support a rival party?
STUART WHEELER: In the votes for the European elections, it's the message that matters. Unfortunately, the only elected part of the European Union is the er - the European Parliament and that's what these elections are about, but has practically no power at all. So all that matters is the message that's given.
JON SOPEL: Have you spoken to Tory central office about this?
STUART WHEELER: Yesterday I rang them before anybody else would know and I gave a message for David Cameron.
JON SOPEL: And what was their response?
STUART WHEELER: Well, he said he'd pass it on. I didn't get a response actually.
JON SOPEL: Because yesterday, when we spoke to Tory Central Office, they said, well you know, this is not an issue. Today they're saying, actually, we need to take a view on this, so I think that maybe support for you is dwindling.
STUART WHEELER: In the Conservative Party?
JON SOPEL: Yeah.
STUART WHEELER: Well, that will be very sad for me but it's so important. I think it's very important the Conservatives win the next election but even more important is getting the European Union right. I'm afraid I've put that above getting the Conservatives in.
JON SOPEL: What have the Tories done wrong because they said they're committed to a referendum on the Lisbon Treaty? What more could you ask them to do that they're not already doing?
STUART WHEELER: (overlaps)
on the 26th September 2007, David Cameron gave what he called a cast iron guarantee about that, he's never repeated it and what we need is not merely a commitment in absolutely no wriggle-room terms that they will have such a referendum if Lisbon is not law when they get in to power, that's one thing. But it's quite likely that Lisbon will be law when they get in to power and I want them to give a commitment that they'll have a referendum even then, not on whether to take our ratification back, it will be too late for that, but whether the British people accept it and if they don't, then Cameron will have a mandate for a big renegotiation.
JON SOPEL: I mean you've made your fortune in spread betting. What if one of your employees suddenly turns up to work and goes on the airwaves publicly to say, actually don't bet with our company, bet with another company.
STUART WHEELER: Well that's completely different, you're talking about one of my employees, I'm not an employee of the Conservative Party, I have no loyalty, other than to this country.
JON SOPEL: Right. What do you say then to other charge that this is about vanity on the part of Stuart Wheeler. A Conservative blogger, Iain Dale described you today as a menace. 'He needs a regular fix of publicity. Wheeler is a walking advertisement for the benefit of state funding of political parties, to which I am opposed'.
STUART WHEELER: Well I'm opposed to it as well but whether it's a vanity or not, you'd better ask my daughters, they're rather inclined to agree with him about that but actually, I mind like hell about it
JON SOPEL: So you are a bit vain about it?
STUART WHEELER: I think anyone who enjoys coming on a show with you, you probably are a bit vain about being on the show yourself. But I mind about this issue, it's really important to the people of this country and I hope they're going to give the Conservatives and Labour the message, which is very, very important.
JON SOPEL: And if the Tories kick you out, you shrug your shoulders?
STUART WHEELER: I won't shrug my shoulders, I'll be sorry. But it won't alter my stance at all.
JON SOPEL: Right. And do you believe though that this sort of action actually impacts people the way they're going to vote?
STUART WHEELER: Well I hope so because the more they understand that it's affecting their pockets, it's affecting their jobs, it's affecting everything and it really matters - it's not just a side show. The amount that its costing this country is comparable to the amount we're going to have to borrow next year, which everyone is horrified about. It really matters.
JON SOPEL: Okay Stuart Wheeler, we must leave it there. Thank you very much indeed for being with us. We did ask the Conservative Party itself to speak to us on the programme about this, noone was available.
END OF INTERVIEW
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The Politics Show
Sunday 29 March 2009 at 12:00 GMT
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