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Lord Saatchi defends advertising bill to cash-strapped Tories

LONDON - Lord Maurice Saatchi has broken his silence over a reported £2.5m bill from his advertising firms to the Conservative Party for work, including the disastrous General Election campaign, done while he was chairman, insisting he has done nothing wrong.

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Following a week of speculation that the bills from M&C Saatchi and the Immediate Sales Company could be as high as £2.5m, Lord Saatchi has released a statement saying the practices adopted by his companies have been the same as they were when Margaret Thatcher was leader.

"I acted as party chairman as an unpaid volunteer, charging no salary, no fees and no expenses for the 18-month period," Lord Saatchi said. 

Lord Saatchi is keen to make clear that even though he had the title of chairman, he played no part in briefings concerning advertising after leader Michael Howard appointed Australian pollster Lynton Crosby as campaigns director last October.

He said: "I asked Michael Howard at the time if I could change my own title to non-executive chairman in order to reflect the new position, but this was rejected."

He added: "Ironically, I first saw many of the party's advertisements and party political broadcasts when they appeared in the media."

Lord Saatchi quit as chairman following the party's General Election defeat in May.

He is understood to have angered figures within the party, which has debts of around £13.5m, by publicly criticising the failed election campaign.

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