Cameron rejects calls to pay back £160K tennis match donation

David Cameron and Boris Johnson playing tennis Both David Cameron and Boris Johnson are keen fans of the game

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David Cameron has rejected calls to pay back a £160,000 donation to the Conservatives from the wife of a former member of President Putin's government.

Mr Cameron said he would not accept money from a "Putin crony" but Lubov Chernukhin "certainly wasn't that".

Mrs Chernukhin bid for a tennis match with the PM and London mayor Boris Johnson at a fundraising event.

The PM, who is pushing for tougher sanctions against Russia, has been accused of hypocrisy over the donation.

But speaking on a visit to the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow, he said handing the money back was not "the right approach" because Mrs Chernukhin had "lived in Britain for many years" and was now a British citizen.

Mr Cameron has criticised France for going through with a deal to sell warships to the country despite Moscow's backing for separatists in Ukraine.

But France's Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius hit back on Monday, suggesting Britain should look at the number of Russian oligarchs in London before criticising his country.

Fundraising ball

Downing Street rejected the charge of hypocrisy, saying there had been no criticism of Mr Cameron from "around the EU table".

David Cameron and Boris Johnson say Lubov Chernukhin is not "one of Putin's cronies"

"The PM and other EU leaders are entirely focused on what should be done following the terrible loss of life rather than raising other issues," said a source.

A tennis match with the prime minister and Boris Johnson was the star lot at a Tory fundraising ball held in London earlier this month, which reportedly raised £500,000 for the party's general election war chest.

A Tory spokesman said the gift from Mrs Chernukhin, a longstanding Conservative donor, would not be paid back because it was within the rules and would be declared to the Electoral Commission.

Her husband Vladimir, who was a Russian finance minister, was sacked in 2004 and had fallen out with President Putin and did not have links with the Putin regime, added the spokesman, and the couple were now both British citizens.

The spokesman said he was confident all gifts from donors with Russian links were in order and complied with the rules.

'Full checks'

Asked by Sky News about whether he would take part in the game, Boris Johnson said: "I think we've got to do something that actually hits Putin and his government where it hurts and make a real difference to their attitude.

"I know about this tennis match, they volunteered me to play tennis with some geezer and it's very, very important that full checks are carried out to ensure this is not someone who is an intimate of Putin or a crony and we are doing that at the moment."

He later issued a statement, saying: "We need to exert maximum pressure on Putin to do the right thing in Ukraine by targeting him and his cronies.

"I'm assured by the government that Mr Chernukhin doesn't fall into that category.

"It's important that we don't lash out with measures that would simply attack all Russians everywhere."

Chris Bryant Labour MP Chris Bryant is calling on the Conservatives to hand back the money

Labour MP Chris Bryant called on the Conservatives to pay the money back, telling The Guardian: "President Putin will just laugh at David Cameron if he is taking £160,000 from one of his old mates while trying to pretend he is being robust on Russia's illegal annexation of Crimea and almost certain criminal involvement in the bringing down of MH17.

"Since 2010 Cameron has repeatedly misread Russia. He has wanted just to do business with Russians and take Russian money but there's a black heart at the centre of the present regime. The Tories should give the money back. He can't possibly be seen to play this game of tennis."

A number of wealthy, UK-based Russians have donated money to the Conservative Party in recent years.

At the same fundraising dinner, Ukrainian-born energy magnate Alexander Temerko, a political opponent of Putin who successfully fought extradition proceedings to remain in Britain, is reported to have paid £90,000 for a bronze bust of Mr Cameron, which he donated to the Carlton Club.

Mr Temerko, a former senior executive at Russian oil giant Yukos, who is now a British citizen, has made donations of more than £280,000 to central Tory funds or MPs in the past two years, according to The Electoral Commission.

Labour MP John Healey has written to the PM demanding to know what background checks he has overseen on Russians who have donated to the Conservatives during his tenure as party leader, and whether Russian donors have been able to meet ministers to discuss politics.

It comes as an influential committee of MPs said UK licences to export arms worth millions of pounds to Russia remained in place despite fears Moscow is arming rebels in Ukraine.

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Politics Live

    23:59: Good night

    That's all from us for today - the day which marked 100 days until the general election and saw the NHS and the economy high on the political agenda. Political leaders set aside their differences to commemorate the liberation 70 years ago of the Nazi death camp at Auschwitz in Poland. Prime Minister David Cameron, Labour leader Ed Miliband and the Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg met survivors of the Holocaust at an event in London. We will be back at 0600 to follow the story of the general election - including this week's Prime Minister's Questions.

    23:55: Poll tracker

    The polls will be coming thick and fast in the coming months - keep up to date with the BBC's new interactive poll tracker, which lets you see the results of polls conducted by a range of organisations.

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    21:18: Green supporters
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    21:08: Caught out BBC Sport
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    20:43: Strike suspended
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    20:29: Cable aide quits
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    20:27: Economic inequality The Guardian
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    20:08: TV debates ITV News

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    18:25: ComRes poll ITV News
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    17:52: Remembering the Holocaust
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    17:39: TV debate row
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    17:30: Afghanistan Jonathan Beale Defence correspondent, BBC News
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    17:24: Post-election scenarios Carole Walker Political correspondent, BBC News
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    17:08: Health strike

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    17:08: Fracking fallout
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    @VickiYoung01 17:04: Vicki Young, BBC chief political correspondent

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    16:56: Chilcot delays Carole Walker Political correspondent, BBC News
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    16:24: Packaging rebellion? The Spectator
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    @ChrisMasonBBC 16:12: Chris Mason, BBC political correspondent

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    16:09: 1974 once more
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    Kings College, Cambridge and Clare College, Cambridge

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    @rosschawkins 15:40: Ross Hawkins, BBC political correspondent

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    15:35: 'Pandering to UKIP agenda' Buzzfeed

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    15:20: UKIP after Farage The Huffington Post
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    15:11: Live from Westminster
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    @bbcnickrobinson 15:03: Nick Robinson, Political Editor, BBC News

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    15:00: The final 100 days - previous trends
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    14:47: Clegg: 'The right balance'

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    14:45: Housing benefit Daily Politics
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    14:40: 'Sense of powerlessness' The Independent

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    14:29: Voting priorities The Daily Telegraph

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    L-R: Leanne Wood (Plaid Cymru), Nigel Farage (Ukip), Nicola Sturgeon (SNP), David Cameron (Conservative), Natalie Bennett (Green Party), Nick Clegg (Liberal Democrat), Ed Miliband (Labour).
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    14:10: Sheffield Hallam The World at One BBC Radio 4

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    13:52: 'Hung territory' The World at One BBC Radio 4

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    13:52: 'Slender' lead The World at One BBC Radio 4

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    13:44: Archive treat No 99: The swingometer's debut Alex Hunt Politics editor, BBC News Online
    Bob McKenzie introduces the swingometer

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    Each day from now until 7 May we'll be bringing you a classic election clip from the BBC archives. We've already selected a fair few but do feel free to suggest some via email at or via Twitter @ialexhunt

    13:34: 'NHS anxiety' The World at One BBC Radio 4 Presented by Martha Kearney

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    13:30: 'Real reform' The World at One BBC Radio 4

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    13:16: Can NHS and social care be combined? Nick Triggle Health correspondent

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    13:03: Breaking News The World at One BBC Radio 4

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    12:59: Pensioner benefits Robin Brant Political Correspondent, BBC News, in Sale

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    12:54: Cider workers
    David Cameron and George Osborne

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    12:38: Ashdown the voiceover Daily Politics
    Daily Politics

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    12:31: Pic: Today's Daily Politics line-up
    Daily Politics

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    12:25: Coalition NHS reforms "moved too fast" Daily Politics Live on BBC Two

    Former Lib Dem leader Lord Ashdown says the coalition NHS reforms "moved too fast". "We tried to be too radical," Lord Ashdown said, adding that reforms were made faster than was "sensible". His made his comments to presenter Jo Coburn during a discussion on the NHS with Labour's Shadow Health Minister Andrew Gwynne and Conservative MP Dr Sarah Wollaston.

    12:22: Cameron wants early TV debates BBC Radio 2
    The 2010 election

    On election debates, Mr Cameron talks up his desire for them to take place before the campaign starts in early April. While they were "excellent" in 2010, he says they "took the life" out of the campaign and, this time around, he wants them "out of the way" before the campaign starts in earnest. The current plans are for three debates during the official campaign....

    12:20: 'Intensely reasonable' on immigration BBC Radio 2

    The British public are "intensely reasonable" about the issue of immigration, Mr Cameron says. He does not regret setting a target before the last election of cutting net migration to less than 100,000 a year, as he believes this would make Britain "better and stronger". When presenter Jeremy Vine suggests that immigration and the NHS are not among the Conservatives' six main election themes, Mr Cameron says this is not the case and the broadcaster has been "badly briefed".

    12:14: Cameron welcomes GDP figures BBC Radio 2

    Reacting to the GDP figures, Mr Cameron says the economy is "moving ahead". While the "job is not done", the prime minister says the recovery is "on the right track".

    12:12: Miliband attacks privatisation Robin Brant Political Correspondent, BBC News, in Sale

    The Conservative health secretary is "disgusting" and Labour's years in power were "glorious" said one questioner; this was not a tough crowd. Ed Miliband spoke about "creeping privatisation" in the NHS as he outlined Labour's ten year plan to rescue, as he put it, a "precious" health service. Then he went further. He appeared to attack privatisation overall. He said legislation under the coalition made the model for NHS reform the privatisation of utilities in the 1980s; saying "we kind of know where that got us don't we?" He may have meant the electricity providers, firms that he has repeatedly attacked, but he wasn't specific. So he appeared to be condemning what's happened at British Airways, BT and a host of others firms. And for the record he told me he doesn't use private healthcare and has never used private healthcare.

    12:08: GDP figures over the years
    Chart showing UK GDP since 1990

    The BBC's economy tracker looks at GDP figures since the 1990s.

    12:07: Cameron on tax BBC Radio 2

    "You can't tax your way to wealth and success," the prime minister tells Jeremy Vine - claiming that this is something Labour "doesn't understand". He also repeats his pledge to make a reduction in the benefits cap "one of the first things" he would do if he wins the next election.

    12:05: Cameron Vine BBC Radio 2

    David Cameron has been clocking up the media appearances today. He is about to appear on the Jeremy Vine show on Radio 2.

    Tweet @BBC_HaveYourSay 11:57: Get involved

    @notayesmansecon tweets: As the UK's housing boom fades so does its economic growth #GDP #GBP #ukhousing

    11:45: Rich versus poor Robert Peston Business editor, BBC News

    tweets: And who has paid for the recovery, rich or poor, asks Robert Peston?

    @leicesterliz 11:37: Liz Kendall, Labour MP

    Labour MP Liz Kendall tweets: Social care workforce neglected and exploited for too long. Zero hours contracts, 15 min visits will never provide quality care #labnhsplan

    11:37: Osborne on economy BBC News Channel
    Chancellor George Osborne

    Chancellor George Osborne says the latest GDP figures show the recovery of the UK economy is "on track".

    11:31: Poll tracker

    While we are looking at trackers, how are the parties faring? Compare current ratings from a range of pollsters, and see how parties have performed since 2010 with our interactive poll tracker.

    Poll tracker
    Email Get involved

    Christine St Claire in UK, emails: A fifteen minute visit is just ludicrous. Of course visits need to be longer. How can anyone get the help they need in such a short time. Well done Ed Miliband, you will get my vote.

    11:24: Significant slowdown? Robert Peston Business editor, BBC News

    The BBC's economics editor Robert Peston asks: How significant is the slowdown in the British economy, given that the dominant service sector is still booming, but construction is shrinking and manufacturing almost back to flatlining?

    11:24: GDP figures
    Rolled up sterline notes

    Mr Balls was speaking after ONS figures showed the UK's economy grew by 2.6% last year, the fastest pace since 2007 and up from 1.7% in 2013 - although there was a slowdown in the final three months of 2014.

    Email Get involved

    Christine Anderson in UK, emails: Unless carers are paid a decent wage and travel money the proposals won't make any difference

    Tweet @BBC_HaveYourSay Get involved

    @carowilb tweets: 100 days until the general election. I'm intrigued to see what Cameron is going to come up with #NHS

    11:09: Ed Balls on living standards BBC News Channel
    Ed Balls

    Shadow chancellor Ed Balls also told the BBC News Channel living standards had been stagnant for too long. "When Conservatives say they have fixed the economy, most people say who for, not for me... if that's Tory success, just think of what failure would look like."

    11:00: Election pledges
    Ed Miliband David Cameron

    A quick recap - with 100 days to the election, Labour and the Conservative Party are setting out their stalls. Ed Miliband has given a speech on Labour's "10-year plan" for the NHS - which pledges new safety checks to identify people at risk of hospitalisation and recruiting 5,000 new home care - in Manchester. Meanwhile, David Cameron has been outlining plans to cut the benefits cap - from £26,000 to £23,000 - to pay for more apprenticeships.

    10:50: GDP figures
    Graph showing components of UK GDP

    This is from the BBC's Business Live team: It's worth noting a couple of things from today's GDP figures. The first is that the official estimate is below the forecast from the Office for Budget Responsibility at the time of the Autumn Statement that economic growth would be 3% in 2014. The second is that while, as the ONS says, there has been widespread growth across all major components of GDP since the start of 2013, the service industries remain the largest and steadiest contributor to economic growth. In fairness to the OBR, it did originally forecast GDP growth for 2014 of 2.7% back in March last year.

    10:49: Mental health

    Mr Miliband says there is still a stigma with mental health, and the nation has got to find a way to talk about it.

    @ChrisMasonBBC Chris Mason, BBC political correspondent

    tweets: Ed Miliband: "Because of his broken promises, what tuition fees are for Nick Clegg, the NHS has become for David Cameron."

    10:40: Dementia care

    Ed Miliband is now taking questions from the audience in Trafford, including on his plans for dementia care and the role of pharmacies in the NHS.

    10:39: Key principle

    A bit more on that speech by Ed Miliband - he said the "key principle" to making the NHS sustainable and successful is investment, so the NHS has "time to care".

    10:33: Trust

    David Cameron can't be trusted with our NHS, Mr Miliband suggests.



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