Tories raised three times as much as Labour in pre-election donations

·3-min read
<span>Photograph: Stefan Rousseau/PA</span>
Photograph: Stefan Rousseau/PA

Boris Johnson’s Conservatives raised nearly £40m in the months leading up to the general election, more than three times the amount raised by Labour, according to figures released by the elections watchdog.

Data disclosed by the Electoral commission shows that the Tories reported donations of £37.74m in the last three months of 2019, compared with £10.69m raised by Jeremy Corbyn’s party.

The Liberal Democrats raised more than Labour, with donations of £13.6m for Jo Swinson’s campaign, but won just 11 seats in December.

The SNP reported donations of £213,000, but ended the election with 48 MPs. Nigel Farage’s Brexit party raised £7.15m, but failed to win a seat.

In 2019, political parties in Great Britain reported accepting more than £113,119,000 in donations, the largest value ever reported in one year. This is almost £40m more than in 2017, the year with the previous largest value of donations.

In the fourth quarter of 2019, 14 registered political parties reported £70,113,414 in donations and public funds – the biggest amount since records began.

Money that has flown into the Tories over 12 weeks to 31 December includes more than £3.2m from the JCB-linked companies owned by the family of the Brexiter billionaire Lord Bamford.

During the campaign, Johnson memorably drove one of their diggers through a wall of polystyrene bricks as he promised to break the EU deadlock and “get Brexit done”.

Payments include three donations worth £2.3m from JC Bamford Excavators as well as another £900,000 from JCB Services.

Three £1m donations came from Brexiter businessman Peter Hargreaves, the theatre magnate John Gore and Bridgemere UK, a property company chaired by former Redrow boss Steve Morgan.

Another property company which specialises in building leasehold homes, JS Bloor (Services), gave the party £750,000.

The Tories received a £500,000 gift in two tranches from Ann R Saïd in November, the data shows. She is the wife of Syrian-born former arms dealer Wafic Saïd, who cannot donate because he is tax resident in Monaco.

Fund managers and City investors have returned to the party under Johnson, following some nervousness about the stability of Theresa May’s government.

Michael Spencer’s investment vehicle IPGL gave the Tories £500,000 in December.

The pulling power of the Conservatives was demonstrated this week at the lavish Black and White ball held in Battersea, south London.

A document leaked to the Guardian showed that the fundraising event on Tuesday was organised by a committee that includes the Carphone Warehouse founder, David Ross, who called in a favour to provide the prime minister and his girlfriend, Carrie Symonds, with a free holiday in Mustique over the new year.

Jay Rutland, the Essex businessman who is ma Tamara Ecclestone, is also on the list of organisers. He previously worked in the financial sector in the City of London but in 2012 was banned from trading over “market abuse”.

Around 700 people, paying £15,000 for a table of eight, attended the Conservatives’ winter party. According to the Sun, Lubov Chernukhin, who is married to a former ally of Vladimir Putin, paid £45,000 to pay tennis with the prime minister.

She is a regular donor to the party and has previously paid to have dinner with Gavin Williamson when he was defence secretary and to spend an evening with Theresa May.

The single biggest donation in the run-up to the election was made by Lord Sainsbury, the former chairman of Sainsbury’s, who gave £8m to the Liberal Democrats.

Labour’s biggest donors were unions, with Unite giving £3.5m, Unison £741,000 and Usdaw £500,000. The Brexit party received more than £6m from the businessman Christopher Harborne.

Louise Edwards, the director of regulation at the commission, said: “The value of the donations accepted by parties in the last quarter exceeded the previous high, from 2017, by almost £28m.”

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