Received Friday 30th April.
Dear Mr Causon
Thank you for your open email.
When I accepted the invitation to attend a meeting of the Cheltenham branch of the Gloucestershire Palestine Solidarity Group last December I made it quite clear I had visited Israel the previous year, with other candidates, at the invitation of the Conservative Friends of Israel. The three-night visit was registered with the Electoral Commission entirely as the rules dictate.
I made it very clear at that meeting that I was open-minded about the debate over the Middle East. Indeed my reason for accepting your invitation was to acquaint myself with your arguments and broaden my exposure to the issues, as is my membership of the Conservative Middle Eastern Council. I subsequently attended the public meeting at St Matthews Church in February of the Gloucestershire Palestine Solidarity Group.
The donation to my campaign from David Lewis, whom I know and have met many times in a social context and not always through his affilitaion to the Conservative Friends of Israel, was made entirely in accordance with the rules of the Electoral Commission and was registered as such. You will have to accept my word that there is nothing sinister behind this support at all other than he and I share many similar interests and his donation is entirely unconditional.
I have made it quite clear that if elected I am prepared to visit the Middle East and Palestine as early as I can so I can be aware of both sides of this issue, something I very much hope to be able to honour.
I understand entirely that feelings run extremely high in this debate but the donation you mention has no connotations whatsoever about my support for a single side in this debate and must not be confused with my intentions to learn more about this part of the world.
There is a real danger that aspirant Members of Parliament might be persuaded not to open their eyes at all to the troubles of this region if observers jump to conclusions about perceived behaviour. That would in itself be a tragedy and would help not at all the peoples of this profoundly troubled part of the world.