Page last updated at 16:10 GMT, Tuesday, 22 September 2009 17:10 UK

Lord Ashcroft buys into Tory site

Lord Ashcroft
Lord Ashcroft is one of the Tories' biggest donors

Deputy Conservative chairman Lord Ashcroft has bought a stake in the grassroots website ConservativeHome.

ConservativeHome and its non-partisan sister site PoliticsHome will both be part of a new media company in which Lord Ashcroft owns a 57.5% stake.

ConservativeHome editor Tim Montgomerie said he was "satisfied" with assurances the peer did not want to interfere with the site's editorial policy.

But PoliticsHome editor-in-chief Andrew Rawnsley has resigned.

Mr Rawnsley, who is also associate editor of The Observer newspaper, said he took the job on the basis that PoliticsHome was "clearly independent of any party both editorially and financially".

He told the Guardian: "It was essential for users of the site that they could feel absolute confidence in the political independence of PoliticsHome.

"I do not believe that can be compatible with being under the ownership of the deputy chairman of the Conservative Party."

The chairman of PoliticsHome Stephan Shakespeare will be the main minority shareholder and chairman in the new company.

In a statement on the website, he said: "PoliticsHome will of course remain strictly non-partisan in all aspects of its coverage and readers can continue to have absolute confidence in its editorial independence."

Mr Montgomerie, whose site describes itself as "independent of the Conservative Party but supportive of it", wrote: "I have been given solid assurances by Michael (Ashcroft) that he does not wish to interfere with ConservativeHome's editorial policy in any way.

"I am completely satisfied with those assurances and am delighted that such a major figure in the Conservative Party is willing to invest in the future of this website."

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