David Cameron was accused of ‘gross insensitivity’ last night after it was revealed that internships with City hedge funds were sold to wealthy Tories’ children for thousands of pounds to raise cash for the party.
At the Conservatives’ Black and White Party, millionaire Tory supporters paid about £3,000 each for their children to have the golden chance of spending a week or two with a number of top finance companies and banks.
If they do well and win a full-time job, they could join the ranks of City tycoons who earn multi-million-pound bonuses.
But Labour claimed the auction was ‘grossly insensitive’ when tens of thousands of young people cannot obtain jobs.
‘This is a crass example of rich Tories buying privilege,’ said Labour MP Tom Watson. ‘Most young people could only dream of this opportunity. The Conservatives flog them like baubles and fill their coffers with the profits. It is obscene.’
The auction came weeks after the Government launched its Equality Strategy, which pledged that every Whitehall department would ‘work to promote diversity, for example through internship schemes to widen access to the Civil Service for those who are currently under-represented such as ethnic minorities and disabled people’.
Mr Cameron went to extraordinary lengths to conceal the auction by banning the media from attending the function, which is now held at an ‘events arena’ in Battersea, South London, far from its traditional venue in the heart of the West End, the Grosvenor House Hotel.
Last week it was disclosed that more than half of the Tories’ £22.5m donations last year came from City firms and bankers.
When Mr Cameron became party leader in 2005, they supplied only a quarter of the party’s income.
The 900 Black and White Party guests paid a minimum £400 a head – £4,000 for a table for ten. It is believed the event raised £500,000 for the Conservative party.
Guests included Mr Cameron and his wife Samantha, Chancellor George Osborne, Tory treasurer Lord Fink and a host of City tycoons and socialites including Emma Pilkington, girlfriend of Carphone Warehouse boss David Ross, and Olympics fundraiser Helen Macintyre, who reportedly recently had a child by Boris Johnson.
Five lucrative City internships were auctioned off for £14,000.
They included Lot 4, a two-week internship at CMC Markets, offering an ‘incredible opportunity for a potential young trader to get an inside look at the world of international finance and online trading’.
It promised that ‘this much-sought-after experience will furnish the intern’s CV with a financial brand that is recognised the world over’. It went for £3,000.
Lot 9 was a week’s work experience at Caxton Associates, a Mayfair hedge fund. It went for £2,500. Lot 10 was a week at PR company Bell Pottinger, run by the powerful former adviser to Margaret Thatcher, Lord Bell.
It said: ‘You will experience the excitement of working on tight deadlines, seeing messages being carefully executed and then translated into news stories.’ The winning bid was £2,000.
Lot 20 was a week at Arbuthnot Latham private bank. The blurb said it would provide ‘a perfect insight for a young person interested in entering the financial field in the future’. It went for £3,500.
Lot 30, donated by former Tory Treasurer Michael Spencer, was a week’s work experience at his brokerage company ICAP, source of his £1bn fortune. The winning bidder could secure the chance for a student aged 16 to 19 to ‘spend time on our dealing floor, interact with our brokers and observe deals being transacted’. It went for £3,000.
Lot 2 was a week at Amanda Wakeley’s fashion business in Chelsea, billed as ‘a fantastic opportunity to become immersed in the day-to-day operations … an unmissable opportunity to add this highly respected brand to a CV’. It went for £2,000.
Lot 14 was two weeks at Tatler magazine, the ‘social bible’. It went for £4,000. Lot 23 was two weeks at Princess Diana’s favourite shop, Knightsbridge-based Harvey Nichols. It went for £2,750.
Downton Abbey author and Tory peer Julian Fellowes donated a day’s work as an extra on the set of the new series of the ITV series. It went for £25,000. And club owner Peter Stringfellow’s champagne dinner for six raised £6,000.
Guests at the event were astonished to have their invitations checked four times before they could enter. And champagne was banned to avoid embarrassing photos. But it did not stop revellers downing gallons of Winter Pimm’s.
Last night the Tory Party declined to comment, saying it was a private function.