Conservatives "play down" the auction at the party's annual Black and White Gala dinner this year

 
Edith Hancock
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Zac Goldsmith is taking one of last night's guests on the campaign trail (Source: Getty)

Guests heading to the Tories' Black and White Ball on Monday night weren't expecting much from this year's auction lots.

After some negative coverage in previous years – over prizes such as a dinner with Sajid Javid and shoe-shopping with Theresa May – many thought that the Tories wouldn't want to do draw too much attention to themselves.

Karl Plunkett, a director at London firm Pimlico Plumbers who was accompanying his chief exec Charlie Mullins to the gala dinner last night, told The Capitalist that, the Conservatives were planning on "playing it down this year. I think the lots will really be quite normal."

And they were normal...for the Tories, anyway. Despite a noticeable lack of cabinet ministers on the auction list this year, one of the guests at the lavish event bid £35,000 to spend a day on the campaign trail with London mayoral candidate Zac Goldsmith.

While most frontbenchers escaped shoe-shopping trips with bidders this year, to say the auction was pared down is still a bit much.

Prizes included a weekend away at the Grade 1 listed Hinwick House for 40 people, one week in a villa in the south of France for 12, and a "Bordeaux vineyard experience" for six people, complete with your very own private jet. Not exactly your average raffle.

The menu for the evening was equally lavish; venison in a white chocolate sauce and tarte tatin with apple mousse, but the party did plump for an English sparkling wine at the reception.

Perhaps they did try to tone things down this year after all.

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