The senior Tory minister Penny Mordaunt has suggested her colleagues should stop taking funds from Alexander Temerko, a major party donor who described her as an “absolutely uncontrollable woman” and “threat to national security”.
Mordaunt, a trade minister, said she had no issue with colleagues who have historically accepted money from Temerko but said everyone should be aware now how he has treated her.
The row between Temerko and Mordaunt arose after the government blocked an application by his company, Aquind, to build a subsea electricity cable between France and the UK. Mordaunt, whose Portsmouth constituency would have been affected, campaigned against the £1.2bn project.
Temerko last donated to the party last year but he has recently socialised with Conservatives, including having dinner with the former cabinet minister Jeremy Hunt this week, and meeting a cabinet minister in the House of Lords. Temerko is also a friend of Boris Johnson and is known to refer to him as Sasha, after Johnson’s real first name, Alexander.
In a statement, Mordaunt said the party’s code of conduct “should apply to all members including donors”. She added: “Donating to a political party is a social good. It enables democracy and good things to happen in our communities. I know that the donor community feel doubly let down when someone does not abide by the behaviour we expect.
“As an MP I am shocked that a party donor has threatened me just for doing my job and representing my constituents. His comments speak for themselves. Donors don’t control MPs. Donors don’t get to decide what MPs do or think.”
“In the context of what is happening in Ukraine I want to make it clear my concerns about Mr Temerko have nothing to do with his heritage or former employment,” she added. “It has everything to do with his behaviour towards me and my constituents.
“Nor do I have an issue with colleagues or associations who have historically accepted donations from him in good faith. They will have had no knowledge of these issues. But everyone does now.”
She added: “Members of parliament should not be threatened. Our democracy should not be undermined. Bullies should not be tolerated.”
Hunt told Business Insider, which first reported the row: “Alexander Temerko is a Ukrainian-born British businessman who has spent his life standing up to Putin and as such encountered considerable personal danger. It was a privilege to meet him yesterday to express my condolences over the family members he has just lost back home as a result of Putin’s evil war.”
Temerko’s spokesperson has been approached for comment.
Temerko made the comments about Mordaunt in January, when Kwasi Kwarteng, the business secretary, ruled against the project, saying its “adverse effects weigh against the proposed development”.
Together, Aquind and its co-owner Temerko have donated £1.1m to the Tory party, including contributions to 21 Tory MPs and ministers.
In October, the Guardian and BBC reported that documents in the Pandora papers suggested Aquind’s majority owner, Viktor Fedotov, secretly co-owned a company once accused of participating in a massive embezzlement scheme in Russia.
Lawyers for Fedotov and Aquind strongly denied all accusations of wrongdoing. The company has said it has operated in an open and transparent manner, saying its donations were “entirely lawful, properly declared and have not been made in return for any special treatment”. The Conservatives have also said all donations were legally and properly declared.