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Lord Ashcroft's lurid claims heap pressure on David Cameron

By Nigel Morris

David Cameron faced pressure over when he knew about Lord Ashcroft's controversial tax arrangements, as the Conservative peer made a succession of lurid claims about the Prime Minister's past.

He alleged the future Prime Minister had taken part as an Oxford student in a bizarre dining club ritual in which he "put a private part of his anatomy" into a dead pig's mouth and had belonged to a "dope-smoking group".

After a day of internet mockery, Mr Cameron made his first public appearance last night since the news broke.

It was, perhaps unfortunately for the PM, to welcome the Danish prime minister - Lars Lokke Rasmussen - to 10 Downing Street.

Mr Cameron's detractors were quick to remind him that Denmark is the world's biggest bacon exporter.

In a new biography of Mr Cameron, Call Me Dave, Lord Ashcroft also suggests that the Tory leader misled the public over the peer's non-dom status before the election in May 2010.

When details emerged in March 2010, senior Tories insisted he had only just learned about the peer's tax position and Mr Cameron said the full details were "only" known by Lord Ashcroft and the Inland Revenue.

But their version was contradicted by Lord Ashcroft who said: "In 2009, I discussed the matter in detail with Cameron. He was therefore fully aware of my status as a so-called 'non-dom'."

The Prime Minister's official spokeswoman refused to be drawn on the peer's claims.

She said: "I'm not intending to dignify this book by offering any comment or any PM reaction to it."

Asked when Mr Cameron knew about Lord Ashcroft's non-dom status, she replied: "I'm not going to get into that; that predates the time of not just this Government but the last government."

Sources close to the Prime Minister said they "did not recognise" the drug and pig accusations.

Jonathan Ashworth, the shadow minister without portfolio, said there was a "serious question mark over the consistency of the Prime Minister's statements" and that he should "immediately clarify" when he first knew of Lord Ashcroft's non-dom status.

The Scottish First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon, told Channel Four News that the allegation "perhaps shouldn't just be allowed to disappear into the ether".

Lord Ashcroft's book, written with journalist Isabel Oakeshott, comes five years after he fell out spectacularly with the Prime Minister.

As a major Tory donor and party treasurer, he had expected a significant job in the Coalition government in 2010, but was only offered a junior post, which he rejected.

Belfast Telegraph


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