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Tue 22 June 2021

Boris Johnson’s party has been harvesting the cash of some of the richest people in the country, report Daisy Bata and Max Colbert

For the past 30 years, the Sunday Times has released its annual Rich List. A catalogue of the top 250 wealthiest people in the UK, it faced controversy last year as, amid a global pandemic and nationwide hardship, its publication struck the wrong note.

This year, the list was quietly released online midweek alongside a new ‘Giving List’ – showcasing the top individuals on the rich list who have ‘given back’ to society, led by footballer Marcus Rashford for his campaigns to provide better school meals for children.

However, congratulating the mega-wealthy on their social causes does little to obscure the revelation that the pandemic has spawned more billionaires in the UK than ever, as the Sunday Times itself reported.

Byline Times and The Citizens can additionally reveal the political connections of those featured on this year’s list. According to our research, 83 out of the 250 cited individuals have donated to the Conservative Party. Over the past two decades, they have donated almost £62 million.


The Top 10

The top 10 Conservative donors of the 83 on the Rich List make up 68% of the total donations during this time period, while four are Conservative Party peers.

Leading the pack is Lord Anthony Bamford, chairman of JCB, who has donated £8.5 million since 2002 alongside members of his family. Bamford has been a Conservative life peer since 2003, and ranks at number 38 on the Sunday Times Rich List, with an estimated wealth of £4.5 billion. Bamford is an ardent Brexiter, paying Boris Johnson £10,000 for a speech in 2019, before asking the Prime Minister to famously smash through a wall on a JCB tractor in a ‘Get Brexit Done’ publicity stunt. 

The second largest donor is John Gore. Ranked at number 101 on the Rich List, Gore is one of the biggest Conservative Party donors in history. The theatre producer has won a Tony award, an Emmy and an Olivier, and owns a vast amount of London’s West End theatres. He has donated £6.2 million to the Conservatives since 2017. 

Lord Michael Ashcroft, former Conservative deputy chair, has donated £6.2 million to the party since 2002, and ranks at number 132 on the Rich List. Ashcroft has personally donated, as well as through his company Bearwood Corporate Services. A Conservative life peer, Ashcroft faced scrutiny during the pandemic when a company linked to him won a £350 million COVID contract. Medacs, owned by Impellam, won the contract to provide laboratory staff for testing services.

Ranking at number 109 on the rich list, Australian businessman Michael Hintze has donated £4.5 million to the Conservative Party since 2002. Close behind is Lord Cruddas, another Conservative member of the House of Lords. Ranking at number 127 on the rich list, Cruddas has donated £3.3 million since 2009.

Cruddas, a former co-treasurer of the Conservative Party, caused a stir when he was given a seat in the House of Lords last year by Boris Johnson, who overruled official advice to appoint him.

Next is John Armitage. Placed at number 140 on the Sunday Times Rich List list, he has donated £3.3 million to the Tories in the past six years. Close behind is Lord Irvine Laidlaw, who has donated £3.2 million to the party of which he is also a life peer.

Laidlaw continued to donate to the Conservatives after he was labelled a “tax exile”, reneging on a promise to comply with parliamentary laws for donors when he was discovered to have ‘non-dom’ status. This led to accusations that he had obtained a peerage “under false pretences” – he had promised to move to Britain from Monaco after being made a peer, but didn’t.

Two more Conservative donors on the Rich List are British businessman John Bloor, owner of Triumph Motorcycles, and Malcolm Healy. The former has donated £3 million to the party, and ranks at number 129 on the rich list; while the latter has donated £2.3 million and ranks at number 75. 

The final big Conservative donors on the rich lists are Wafic Said and his wife, Ann R. Said. Wafic Said ranks at number 89 on the rich list and was involved in a multi-million-pound arms deal with Saudi Arabia in the 1980s.

Said “helped broker Britain’s biggest arms sale – the Al-Yamamah deal – signed by then Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher in 1985,” according to The Independent.

The top 10 Conservative Party donors on the Sunday Times rich list

(Placement on the Sunday Times Rich List in brackets)

  1. £8,524,289 – Lord Bamford and family (38)
  2. £6,241,549 – John Gore (101)
  3. £6,204,597 – Lord Ashcroft (132)
  4. £4,507,811 – Michael Hintze (109)
  5. £3,328,299 – Lord Cruddas (127)
  6. £3,271,500 – John Armitage (140)
  7. £3,111,520 – Lord Laidlaw (205)
  8. £3,018,805 – John Bloor (129)
  9. £2,310,000 – Malcolm Healey (75)
  10. £2,234,738 – Wafic Said and Rosemary Said (89)

Additional Donors

Our research suggests that 73 more Conservative donors appear on the Sunday Times Rich List. This includes James Dyson, Nicky Oppenheimer, Peter Hargreaves, Cameron Mackintosh and Lord Rothschild.

While the Conservative Party increasingly claims to represent the working class, at least one-third of Britain’s richest people seem to think it’s their party, too.

The wealthiest in society have seen their wealth skyrocket during the Coronavirus pandemic. There are now a record 171 billionaires living in the UK, according to the Sunday Times, a number which has jumped by 24%. Wealth among these individuals has grown by 21.7% to £597.2 billion.

Meanwhile, a report published by the Resolution Foundation think tank has found that, despite average incomes in the UK, Germany, and France being broadly similar, UK households have suffered greater income losses and were more likely to have taken on debt as a result of the pandemic. Due to a higher degree of systemic national inequality, the report found that, contrary to the spiralling wealth of the very richest members of society, UK households had fewer savings to draw upon and a “far less generous benefit system to protect them in hard times”.

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