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The BBC's Robin Oakley
"Tories in Harrogate rallied behind their controversial treasurer"
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The BBC's Guto Harri
"The party is desperate here to move the focus onto policy"
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Saturday, 1 April, 2000, 20:45 GMT 21:45 UK
Ashcroft hopes for 'Lord of Belize'
Michael Ashcroft in Harrogate
Michael Ashcroft speaks to the press at Harrogate
Conservative Party treasurer Michael Ashcroft wants to reflect his controversial links with Belize in his new title in the Lords, say reports.

"I hope I can be Lord Ashcroft of Belize and somewhere-in-the-UK," he was quoted as saying in the Sunday Telegraph.

"Belize runs through my bones, from my schooldays onwards and all through my life."

Mr Ashcroft denied his choice of title was a snub to the Honours Scrutiny Committee, which made him promise to return to the UK to live before giving him the peerage.


Michael Ancram
Michael Ancram: "Blair's only ideology is power"
It is not clear whether the choice of Belize would be acceptable to the Royal official who vets Lords' titles.

Mr Ashcroft received a round of applause at the Tories' spring forum on Saturday, despite the row about his peerage because of the controversies surrounding him and his bankrolling of the Tory party.

Mr Ashcroft, a millionaire business tycoon who spends most of his time in Belize, received a warm reception when he rose to give the party's annual accounts to the conference in Harrogate, North Yorkshire.

Labour 'cronies'

Conservative Party chairman Michael Ancram defended Mr Ashcroft during a break in proceedings.

"The Labour Party are desperately keen to focus on Michael to distract attention from the fact that they are trying to pack the House of Lords with their cronies."


Michael Ashcroft
Michael Ashcroft has agreed to move back to UK
But some Conservatives have criticised the appointment.

The former Tory leader of the upper house, Lord Cranborne, described the attaching of conditions to the peerage as "unprecedented" by former Tory leader in the upper house, Lord Cranborne.

He said the decision to make Mr Ashcroft a peer was "an affront to the dignity and the standing of the party".

The former Conservative prime minister, Sir Edward Heath, condemned the decision as "deplorable".

'Lowered the standing'

He told BBC Radio 4's Any Questions programme: "It has lowered the whole standing of our political institutions throughout the world."

Sir Edward said Mr Ashcroft's 3m donation to the Conservative Party must have been for some purpose, "and now we see what the purpose was".

Mr Ashcroft's name was on a list of 33 working peers - 20 Labour, four Conservative and nine Liberal Democrats published on Friday.

Their arrival will bring the number of Labour peers up to 202, alongside 236 Conservatives, 63 Liberal Democrats, 161 crossbenchers and 26 Bishops and Archbishops.

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See also:

30 Mar 00 | UK Politics
The list of new working peers
31 Mar 00 | UK Politics
Leaders under fire over new peers
30 Mar 00 | UK Politics
Fistful of peers to break log jam
18 Dec 99 | UK Politics
Ashcroft's millions boost Tories
30 Mar 00 | UK Politics
Anger over Ashcroft peerage
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