Tory leadership rivals Boris Johnson and Jeremy Hunt will host a secretive fundraising dinner for City bigwigs this week as the cash-strapped Conservative party looks to top up its coffers.
Around 100 business chiefs have been invited to attend the central London knees-up on Tuesday night, with tickets priced at £1,000 a head.
Both Johnson and Hunt have been instructed to attend the exclusive shindig, and are expected to each say a few words before mingling with City bosses.
Separately, the two sides are understood to have held talks about a possible Square Mile hustings, in which Johnson and Hunt would battle it out over business issues. However, a source told City A.M. Johnson declined to take part, and such an event is yet to materialise.
Some eyebrows will be raised over the timing of Tuesday’s fundraising dinner, which will be held on the same night as a cancelled BBC debate between the two contenders to become the next prime minister.
The broadcaster last week admitted that its Question Time special was unlikely to go ahead after one candidate raised concerns about the make-up of the show’s audience.
Hunt, who has previously slammed his rival over his failure to take part in debates, said he was not the one blocking the live show.
This week’s fundraiser, first reported by the Sunday Telegraph, will give the leadership contenders the chance to lay out their credentials as business-friendly prime ministers.
Johnson has spent much of his campaign trying to distance himself from a notorious incident last year when he responded to businesses’ concerns about a no-deal Brexit by saying “fuck business”.
The former foreign secretary has argued that his words were taken out of context, and insisted he has always stood up for UK business.
Meanwhile, Hunt has consistently talked up his background as an entrepreneur, arguing his experience as a deal maker puts him in a strong position to lead Brexit negotiations.
The glitzy dinner will also provide a much-needed cash injection for the Conservative party, which has seen funds begin to dry up amid growing discontent among donors over Theresa May’s leadership.
Additional reporting by Alexandra Rogers
Main image credit: Getty