10 most controversial Tory scandals

We take a look at the Conservative party’s biggest scandals

LondonlovesBusiness.com looks back at the Conservative Party’s top scandals in living memory. There were so, so many to choose from, but we think these are the most controversial.

Cash for questions


In 1994, The Guardian alleged two Conservative members of parliament, Neil Hamilton and Tim Smith, had received cash from Harrods owner Mohamed Al-Fayed in exchange for parliamentary questions. They were both forced to resign.

Fairly recently, MP Patrick Mercer was filmed calling David Cameron “despicable” and making disparaging comments about ethnic minority soldiers, but it was a 2013 Panorama investigation which found he did not disclose payments for consultancy work which saw him agree to stand down at the next election. Many critics have labelled this a second “cash for questions” scandal.


After The Telegraph first published details of MPs’ expenses, a number of shocking instances of Tories (among others) totally abusing the guidelines started to come out. We’re all familiar with Peter Viggars, who thought it would be perfectly acceptable to charge the exchequer for a “floating duck island”, and Douglas Hogg, who thought having his moat cleaned was a legitimate parliamentary expense.

However, you might have missed a few of the more amusing ones: John Gummer spent £9,000 on having moles removed from his country estate; James Arbuthnot paid £43.56 for a garlic press from a shopping channel; and David Heathcoat-Amory spent £380 on horse manure. I sh*t you not.

There was also sneaky Derek Conway, who “employed” his full-time student son (who lived in Newcastle, by the way) as a researcher, paying him more than £40,000 over three years. He also claimed £97 for two toilet seats.

John and Edwina

John Major and Edwina Currie

When this story broke we were all surprised, confused, and, well… it seems kind of harsh to say “disgusted”. The affair between then whip John Major and backbencher Edwina Currie began in 1984 and lasted four years, but amazingly was kept a secret until 2002 when Currie serialised her diaries in The Times.

When it was eventually revealed, Major said: “It is the one event in my life of which I am most ashamed and I have long feared would be made public.”

Boris upsets people

Boris seems to say something scandalous every few days, but even he has outdone himself on a few occasions. In 2004, he upset the city of Liverpool after saying scousers were wallowing in “disproportionate” grief over the kidnap and murder of Ken Bigley in Iraq and over the 1989 Hillsborough disaster, where 96 football fans died.

He also offended the entire country of Papua New Guinea. Watch this Have I Got News For You clip to see what happened:

While we’re talking scandals, it’s also worth noting Boris has a lovechild from an affair in 2009, has admitted to another affair which resulted in an abortion and a miscarriage, and apparently there was a third.

Profumo affair

After hearing the word Profumo so many times, you almost forget it’s actually somebody’s name. John Profumo was the secretary of state for war in 1961, who had an affair with 19-year old showgirl Christine Keeler, which he initially lied about but eventually admitted.

The scandal exploded because of Keeler’s involvement with a Soviet naval attaché who was known by MI5 to be an intelligence officer. The whole debacle is pretty long and complicated – so much so that the Criminal Cases Review Commission is still looking at the verdict of the trial of Stephen Ward, the man who introduced Profumo and Keeler and was charged with living off immoral earnings related to their relationship. Ward committed suicide during the trial at the Old Bailey.

Of course, if you want the short-cut, you can see Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Stephen Ward The Musical on now at the Aldwych Theatre.

Thatcher vs the Queen

Margaret Thatcher and the Queen 1983

The two most powerful women in Britain famously didn’t get on. The 1986, the Sunday Times headline “Queen dismayed by ‘uncaring’ Thatcher” revealed the monarch and PM didn’t see eye to eye, and proved a point of contention between the two.

One of the Queen’s biographers described the monarch as “a bit of a leftie” who allegedly had concerns about how the nation was divided. The Queen also feared the commonwealth would be ripped apart as Thatcher did not impose sanctions on the apartheid regime in South Africa.

Cecil Parkinson

Former trade secretary Cecil Parkinson made shameful attempts to hide his affair with his Commons secretary Sara Keays. Parkinson’s daughter from the affair, Flora Keays, born in the early 1980s, was subjected to a life of secrecy, unable even to talk about her own life in public, after Parkinson sought a draconian injunction to keep her hidden from public life.

This meant up until the age of 18, she was unable to take part in school events, appear in school photos or have her achievements put up on the walls, as her existence had to be kept a secret. Parkinson had never attempted to contact his daughter, even after an operation to remove a brain tumour when she was four years old left her with brain damage. Sadly, Flora said in an interview a few years ago she’d still like to have contact with her dad if he would see her. There’s a special place in hell for that guy.

Cash for access

Former Defence Secretary Liam Fox

Former Defence Secretary Liam Fox

In this comparatively recent scandal, the Tories were found to be offering to introduce companies to the PM and other well-connected people for money. In 2011, Liam Fox resigned after details of his friendship with lobbyist Adam Werrity became public. Fox allowed Werrity to live rent-free in his taxpayer-funded London flat, while questions were raised about Werrity’s defence-based business interests, telling people he was an advisor to Fox and making introductions to the minister.

Similarly, Conservative party co-treasurer Peter Cruddas was forced to quit in 2012 after offering access to the PM in exchange for a £250,000 donation to the party.

Lord Lambton

In 1973, the peer was pictured in bed with two prostitutes and smoking a joint. This alone would have been enough to force the married MP to resign, but it was discovered that the ring of prostitutes which Lambton used had other high-profile clients, including the then leader of the House of Lords, Lord Jellicoe.

As a result, Prime Minister Ted Heath brought in MI5 to investigate whether Lambton was the victim of a blackmail attempt. In interviews with agents, Lambton said he began numerous affairs because he was bored with his job.

After the scandal had been investigated, he moved to Italy, living in a 400-year-old mansion built for Pope Alexander VII.

Jeremy Hunt’s string of scandals - and the bizarre fact he is still in the cabinet

Jeremy Hunt

Since being elected to government in 2005, Hunt has been involved in a string of scandals which when put together outshine some of the bigger scandals on this list. Yet somehow the impervious MP has gone on to be rewarded with ever more responsibility.

Here are some instances where other MPs and the public have called for the Teflon-coated minister’s resignation:

·         In 2009, he was forced to repay £9,500 of taxpayers’ cash after allowing his election agent to live rent-free in his subsidised home. This was after he had also breached the rules for claiming for a property that was his designated main home.

·         In 2010, it was discovered his former parliamentary assistant had been given a civil service job. The assistant was the daughter of a Conservative life peer who had also been the director of Hunt’s company.

·         In 2010, he apologised after suggesting hooliganism was to blame for the 1989 Hillsborough disaster.

·         In 2012, it was revealed he was a tax avoider (something Cameron said he would not tolerate) after dodging more than £100,000 in tax in a property deal.

·         Again in 2012, close links were discovered between his office and Rupert Murdoch’s company News Corporation. Hunt, at the time, was handling the company’s bid to take over BSkyB. It was found Hunt and his advisors had communicated sensitive information to Murdoch.

·         In 2013, the British Medical Association said he displayed “complete ignorance” after saying he thought the abortion limit should be changed to 12 weeks.

·         His expenses featured: 1p for a 12-second phonecall, £75 on five candles, £700 on signs for one of his houses and a whopping £3,180 on stamps, envelopes and labels (in one year).

Why is Hunt still in the cabinet? Labour leader Ed Miliband once said “it beggars belief” but maybe it has something to do with Hunt’s support during his buddy David Cameron’s leadership campaign?


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