Kwasi Kwarteng under pressure for champagne reception at hedge fund boss’ home

The Labor leader has written to her Conservative counterpart, urging him to provide a full list of those attending a private champagne reception Kwasi Kwarteng attended just hours after his controversial ‘mini’ budget.

Tory leader Jake Berry has defended the Chancellor’s meeting with financiers at the home of a wealthy hedge fund manager, despite City traders shorting the pound following his announcement of unfunded tax cuts. Berry insisted on Sunday that City investors and other donors should be “praised” by the public.

Labor leader Anneliese Dodds has written to Berry asking him to provide a full list of those who attended the event and whether they paid a fee to attend or pledged donations. She also asked whether officers were present and minutes were being kept, “and if not, why not” given the possible disclosure of sensitive information.

“Many people are disgusted by the image of champagne-sipping Conservative donors encouraging the Chancellor to push for more tax cuts for billionaires, while at the same time many members of the British public are denied access to a mortgage,” she wrote.

But Berry said on Sunday that nothing bad should be read of the fact that Kwarteng was socialized with financial numbers shortly after the tax cut announcement, sending sterling into freefall and triggering a sharp rise in gilt yields.

The Tory leader insisted no confidential information was discussed during the gathering, where he said Kwarteng was consuming soft drinks rather than champagne.

“We often do champagne receptions for donors in the Conservative Party and really these people should be commended because we don’t have public funding for political parties and these people make money and donate to political parties in the same way they do for Labor party and the Liberal Democrats,” he told Sky News.

Berry said the event was not dominated by hedge funds but was attended by “some of the UK’s leading entrepreneurs”. When asked if any hedge fund managers were present at the event, Berry acknowledged that they were: “There was, or I think there was one that I know of.”

That appears to be a reference to Andrew Law, head of hedge fund Caxton Associates and Tory donor, who hosted the private event.

One of the participants said, “There were 20 or 30 people there. It was a post-budget briefing from the chancellor, so everything he said was in the public domain, nothing new. It wasn’t a celebration, it was a post-budget briefing for the people who are likely to be investing in the UK.”

According to The Sunday Times, the guest list included stockbroker Howard Shore, banker Sir Henry Angest, financier Lord Leigh of Hurley and William Salomon of Hansa Capital, as well as other figures from sectors such as hospitality, healthcare and real estate.

Kwarteng used to work at Odey Asset Management, a hedge fund whose founder Crispin Odey has been shorting sterling in recent weeks.

https://www.ft.com/content/7f5fc97a-0446-480d-ac9a-2a5f503c7622 Kwasi Kwarteng under pressure for champagne reception at hedge fund boss’ home

Adam Bradshaw

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