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Who Are Johnson’s 22 Big Money Backers? And Did They Influence the No Confidence Vote?

Sam Bright and Max Colbert dig into the potential impact of Tory donors on the survival of Boris Johnson as Prime Minister

Prime Minister Boris Johnson waits behind the stage to deliver a speech at the Old Naval College, Greenwich, London. Photo: Andrew Parsons/No 10

Who Are Johnson’s 22 Big Money Backers?And Did They Influence the No Confidence Vote?

Sam Bright and Max Colbert dig into the potential impact of Tory donors on the survival of Boris Johnson as Prime Minister

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Amid the political posturing surrounding the vote of confidence in Boris Johnson’s leadership of the Conservative Party on Monday, an intervention was received from outside Parliament – delivered by the Sun’s political editor, Harry Cole.

It was a letter from 22 big-money Conservative donors, calling on Conservative MPs to let the Prime Minister “get on with it”.

“Business needs certainty and stability,” the letter read, “so we need Boris Johnson to remain as our Prime Minister, and he has our unwavering support”.

This statement was later used by Culture Secretary Nadine Dorries – a fervent Johnson supporter – to implore MPs to back the Prime Minister, although she somewhat misrepresented its contents.

“The Conservative Party donors have said themselves that they aren’t going to support the party if the Prime Minister is removed. I think a number of MPs in marginal seats need to hear that,” Dorries told Sky News.

However, despite Dorries’ skewing of the facts, it is clear that these influential donors did attempt to sway the Conservative confidence vote – using their status as major party funders.

The question is: were they successful?

We analysed the 65 Conservative-held constituency parties that have received funds from these 22 donors since 2017, finding that just over half (33) of MPs representing these seats explicitly declared their confidence in Johnson prior to the contest, while only six explicitly called on him to leave office. The remainder (26) have not stated whether they voted for or against the Prime Minister (Conservative confidence votes are held using a secret ballot system).

Of those who declared their confidence in Johnson, 13 do not hold Government roles, while 20 owe their jobs to the Prime Minister. In other words, of the MPs who have benefitted from funds provided by the big donors, only 13 (20%) declared their support for Johnson despite not having a Government title.

This could be explained by the fact that Johnson has appointed his key allies to Government posts – people who would have voted for him even if they were ordinary backbenchers – or it could signal that Johnson’s support is only preserved by his ability to award positions of power.

In total, 27 of this cohort of 65 MPs hold administrative roles, which is roughly equivalent to the total proportion of Conservative MPs who are on Johnson’s payroll (44%).

Black Ties and Dark MoneyThe ConservativeCash-for-Access Machine

Sam Bright and Max Colbert

Of the who didn’t declare their voting intention, six hold Government positions. If we assume that these six MPs would have backed Johnson, while the remaining undecided MPs would have split equally between the two camps, we’re left with 49 (75%) of the MPs in support of Johnson, and 16 against (25%).

Even if these six MPs all voted against Johnson, he would have received 66% of support among this cohort of 65 MPs – a larger percentage than among Conservative MPs overall (at 58%).

So, for whatever reason, the 65 MPs whose constituencies have received funds from the 22 big donors are more likely to be Johnson supporters than the wider ranks of Conservative MPs.

According to our research, these donors have given some £52 million to the party and Johnson’s various political campaigns since 2001, all are men, while nine are recorded on the Sunday Times Rich List with a combined net worth of £35.3 billion. But who are they?

Sir William Adderley – £758,000

Sir William Adderley has donated £258,000 personally to the Conservatives since 2021, and a further £500,000 through an investment firm under his control – WA Capital Limited – which also gave £50,000 to the Vote Leave EU Referendum campaign. £250,000 of his donations were a single gift in November 2021.

Adderley is a British billionaire and founder of the Dunelm Group, with him and his wife Jean owning 43% of the business. He and his family have an estimated net worth of £1.78 billion, and is number 103 on the Sunday Times Rich List 2022 At one point he held a £250 million stake in Marks & Spencer, before later selling it.

He received a knighthood in June 2021. 

Sir Henry Angest – £9,645,656

A friend of former Prime Minister David Cameron, Sir Henry Angest has donated both personally and through the Arbuthnot Banking Group – of which he is chairman and CEO and reportedly owns a 55% stake – and Flowidea. Through Arbuthnot Latham & Co, he also ‘lent’ the Conservatives £5 million in 2019, and a further £500,000 through Wyler Investments – that was repaid. He has an estimated net worth of £190 million.

A fierce adversary of City regulation, he has expressed support for a number of right-wing causes, including the Taxpayers’ Alliance, and has donated, largely through Flowdea, to Global Britain, the Freedom Foundation, and the Atlantic Bridge

He was knighted in 2015 for ‘political services’. He is a former Conservative Party Treasurer, and a member of the Leader’s Group – a Tory donor society that affords access to senior politicians.

Lord Anthony Bamford – £12,781,748

Chair of JCB, Lord Bamford and his family have donated millions to the Conservatives both personally and through iterations of JCB. Lord Bamford and his family have an estimated net worth of £4.3 billion, and are 42nd on the 2022 Rich List. Lord Bamford has also donated considerable sums to Boris Johnson – helping to fund his 2019 Conservative leadership bid.

Lord Bamford has previously donated a JCB digger for auction at a Conservative fundraiser, has leant Boris Johnson his helicopter, while his wife Lady Bamford arranged for the Prime Minister to received organic food boxes delivered to Number 10 during lockdown

Lord Zameer Choudrey – £1,302,614

Lord Choudrey and companies linked to him – notably Bestway, a firm founded by his uncle – have donated well over £1.3 million to the Conservatives in recent years

Lord Choudrey has co-chaired the Conservative Friends of Pakistan, and is a Leader’s Group member

He was nominated for a life peerage in Theresa May’s resignation honours list, and was appointed as Baron Choudrey in October 2019. 

Lord Peter Cruddas – £4,319,174

Lord Cruddas – who has donated £4.3 million to Conservative causes, politicians, the central party and to the Vote Leave campaign – was also appointed Conservative co-treasurer in 2011. He resigned from this role when it was revealed that he was offering access to the Prime Minister and Chancellor for up to £250,000.

He has been a Leader’s Group member and is 189 on the Sunday Times Rich List, along with Lady Cruddas, with an estimated net worth of £907 million.

He was nominated for a life peerage in December 2020 by Boris Johnson.

Graham Edwards – £753,604

Graham Edwards is a co-founder and executive chair of the investment company Telereal Trillium, and has held a board position on the right-wing Centre for Policy Studies think-tank.

Sir Anthony Gallagher – £4,360,391

Sir Anthony Gallagher has personally donated £20,000 in 2012, and has since donated a further £4.3 million through companies under his control. He once hosted a 50th birthday party for David Cameron, and has attended Leader’s Group events.

He was given a knighthood under Johnson, and gave the Prime Minister’s son Wilfred a £780 envelope opener made of sterling silver, registered as a gift by the Cabinet Office.

John Gore – £6,591,549

Entertainment producer John Gore is one of just 15 individuals who gave the Conservatives £4.4 million for Johnson’s 2019 General Election war chest, also topping the list of single donations the party received during that year.

Gore is yet another Conservative mega-donor and Leader’s Group attendee.

He has donated a staggering £6.5 million to the Conservatives in recent years and is ranked 109th on the Sunday Times Rich List, with an estimated net worth of £1.7 billion.

Christopher Harborne – £278,888

While Harborne has donated substantial sums to the Conservatives, he’s also donated a whopping £13.7 million to Reform UK – the right-wing populist brainchild of Nigel Farage and Richard Tice. His contributions helped Farage’s party to raise more than Labour and the Lib Democrats before the 2019 European elections.

Richard Harpin – £1,351,880

Another Leader’s Group member, Harpin is the founder and CEO of HomeServe and has personally donated £1.3 million to the Conservatives since 2008. He also founded an investment fund in 2015, Growth Partner, which donated £49,725 to the Tories in 2018.

During the Cameron era, his firm was probed for mis-selling insurance, for which he was subsequently fined £30.6 million

Dominic Johnson – £340,221

Dominic Johnson has donated £338,391 to the Conservatives in cash and non-cash donations between 2006 and 2021. He is also the founding partner (along with Cabinet minister Jacob-Rees Mogg) and CEO of Somerset Capital Management.

Johnson is one of at least 16 Conservative allies to have been given paid ‘independent’ roles in Johnson’s Government, as reported in late 2021, appointed by the Department of International Trade in December 2021.

He was vice chair of the Conservative Party between 2016 and 2019.

Malik Karim – £895,751

Malik Karim, the current treasurer of the Conservative Party, has donated £872,000 to the Conservatives between 2014 and 2021, while his firm – Fenchurch Advisory – is also behind a further £23,750 in donations.

It was reported in November 2021 that Karim, an investment banker, could make millions from the controversial takeover of the pensions and insurance mutual by a US private equity firm

Karim recently hosted a Conservative fundraising event, at which Chancellor Rishi Sunak was the guest of honour, with tables fetching up to £10,000. 

Lord Leigh of Hurley – £397,172

Lord Leigh of Hurley has donated £253,173 to the party since 2001. He is also a co-founder of Cavendish Corporate Finance, behind a further £143,999 in donations, and is a party treasurer, as well as the chair of the Leader’s Group.

Stuart Marks – £176,000

Stuart Marks has donated £119,500 personally and a further £56,500 through his company, L Marks.

Marks has served as Conservative treasurer for the north and a senior Conservative Party treasurer, and was honoured by Theresa May, receiving a CBE and claiming that it had been given for unpaid fundraising services to the party. 

During the pandemic, a company referred to the Government by Marks through the ‘VIP lane’, the Paper Drinking Straw Company, won a £20 million contract to provide surgical masks. 

Steve Morgan – £1,437,500

Morgan is another high-roller when it comes to donations, who has via Bridgemere – a company he controls – donated almost £1.5 million to the Conservative Party. He is number 210 on the 2022 Sunday Times Rich List, with an estimated net worth of £789 million.

Like many of the other signatories, Morgan is involved in the property and housing sector. He was awarded a CBE in 2016. 

Dr Selva Pankaj – £354,000

Dr Selva Pankaj is CEO of the Regent Group, which operates London’s Regent College.

He appears on the Electoral Commission website as Selvanayagam Pankayachelvan, and has donated £352,000 to the Conservative Central Party. He has also paid at least £50,000 annually to the Tories, suggesting that he, like many of the other individuals, has Leader’s Group status.

Steve Parkin – £739,854

Parkin, a Leader’s Group member and a prominent Conservative donor, has given £730,000 to the Conservatives personally, and a further £9,854 through his company, Clipper Logistics.

Clipper was another recipient of a high-value COVID contract, as previously reported by Byline Times. The firm was initially awarded £1.3 million to distribute personal protective equipment, while the contract itself was held back from publication for months. It was eventually reported that Clipper’s deal had been repeatedly renewed at a cost of £650,000 a month, costing the taxpayer an estimated £11 million

Simon Reuben – £2,164,894

Simon Reuben is one of two brothers who are longstanding supporters of the Conservative Party. The family is listed third on the Sunday Times Rich List 2022.

Aside from a documented £4,000 donation to Boris Johnson from brother David in 2008, the family has donated to the Conservatives through a string of other companies; Motcomb Estates (£64,390), Investors in Private Capital (£1.1 million), Kirkglade (£40,000), Wellesley Capital Investment (£25,000), Wellington Pub Company (£25,000), and Criterion Asset Management (£25,000).

David’s son, James, or ‘Jamie’, has also donated £873,104 to the Conservative Party since 2009. The Reuben brothers own about a-tenth of Newcastle United football club, and Jamie was reportedly interested in buying Chelsea after sanctions were imposed on its Russian owner Roman Abramovich.

Jamie was also committee chair of Boris Johnson’s 2012 London Mayoral Campaign and donated in 2019 to his Conservative leadership bid.

David P Ross – £841,360

David P Ross was one of the co-founders of the Carphone Warehouse, and has personally donated £841,360 to the Conservatives since 2001. 

After Johnson was elected as Mayor of London in 2008, Ross was his nominee to the board of London Organising Committee of the 2012 Olympic Games.

Also a friend of David Cameron, Ross was in the running, back in 2014, to become the chair of education regulator Ofsted.

Howard Shore – £1,766,787

Howard Shore has donated £923,440 to the Conservatives personally and a further £843,347 through his company Shore Capital to both the Conservatives and Vote Leave.

He has been a prominent supporter of the party since 2006, and was one of Cameron’s earliest financial backers. He has advocated for lighter regulation on the financial sector, and is a Leader’s Group member.

Shore was reported by the Guardian in February this year to be one of six Tory donors given top cultural jobs under the Johnson administration, as a trustee of the Tate art gallery in London. 

Fazan Tahir – £108,000

Tahir was the chairman of the Conservative Entrepreneurs and Business Relations Board for London and South England between 2013 and 2016, and is a director of the Conservative Friends of Pakistan.

Professor Christopher Wood – £637,500

Professor Christopher Wood has personally donated more than £637,500 to the Tories since 2017, and a Chris Wood is also featured in a list of 2013-18 Leader’s Group members produced by DeSmog.

This article was produced by the Byline Intelligence Team – a collaborative investigative project formed by Byline Times with The Citizens. If you would like to find out more about the Intelligence Team and how to fund its work, click on the button below.

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