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The BBC's Nicholas Jones
"Stuart Wheeler acquired shares worth 90million"
 real 56k

Conservative Party sponsor, Stuart Wheeler
"If I was offered an honour, I would reject it"
 real 56k

Thursday, 18 January, 2001, 11:11 GMT
I gain nothing - 5m Tory donor
Stuart Wheeler
Stuart Wheeler: Insists he is not a 'political animal'
The businessman who pledged 5m to the Conservative Party has insisted that he will gain nothing personally from his donation.

Stuart Wheeler, who made his millions from IG Index, the betting company he founded, said he pledged the money because he wants to give William Hague the best chance of winning the next election.

No single donation can hide the fact that they lack support where they need it most from the British people

Labour spokesman

He has already handed over 1m to the Tories and a further 4m has been promised.

Mr Wheeler told the BBC: "I certainly think they have a chance of winning and I am not doing this to help them put up a jolly a good show, I am doing it to help them have a really good chance of winning."

But he rejected suggestions that his donation would buy him any benefits from a Tory government saying that 5m might make a lot of difference for the Conservatives but not a great deal for him and his family.

"I am not a political animal myself I do not want anything for myself, I want nothing for the company, I don't want a peerage.

"I do want to see the Conservatives win the next election because I thing that would be far better for the country largely, though not entirely, because I think William Hague will be a very much better prime minister than Tony Blair."

Betting man

The donation will see the Conservatives catch up in the fund-raising stakes with Labour, which recently received three separate donations of 2m.

IG index was established by Mr Wheeler in 1974.

It introduced betting on the London financial markets, moving into sports betting and then financial trading.

The company is currently forecasting a Labour election victory and said its chief executive is going against predictions.

"Stuart doesn't set the book or our odds," said a company spokesman.

"They relate to the current state of the opinion polls and bets that people place with us.

Disclosures sought

"He is at odds with IG's predictions at the moment, but those odds can change and move and it will be interesting to see how, and if, they do move before the election."

IG is also offering bets on the numbers of seats the main political parties will win at the election and predicts the Tories will secure 212 to 220 seats and Labour 372 to 380.

The Tories have said that they have no hesitation in taking money from a man who has made millions out of betting and financial speculation.

"It's a perfectly respectable business," said a Tory party spokesman.

Commenting on the donation, a Labour spokesman said: "No matter what finances the Conservatives secure from their dwindling band of supporters, no single donation can hide the fact that they lack support where they need it most from the British people.

'Corrupt' system

"Given their new willingness to identify this donor, they should immediately reveal the full list of donors who funded the Conservative Party at the last election, something they have repeatedly refused to do."

Malcolm Bruce, chairman of the parliamentary Liberal Democrats, repeated the call for state funding of political parties.

He said: "The status quo makes politicians dependent on donations. When individuals make such large donations, their expectations of influence can't be ignored.

"The system is corrupt. The wisdom of whether the Tories can deliver anything in the foreseeable future is also questionable.

"Until we have state funding of political parties, the Dutch auction will continue."

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18 Jan 01 | UK Politics
Stuart Wheeler: 5 million man
04 Jan 01 | UK Politics
Donations mark start of election battle
05 Jan 01 | UK Politics
Party donations under fire
04 Jan 01 | UK Politics
Labour discloses 4m donations
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