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Conservative Leadership Hopefuls have Raked in £300,000 Over Last Year

Sascha Lavin reveals the big donations already flooding the Conservative contest

The 2021 Conservative Party Conference. Photo: Mark Thomas/Alamy

Conservative Leadership Hopefuls have Raked in£300,000 Over Last Year

Sascha Lavin reveals the big donations already flooding the Conservative contest

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With a Conservative leadership contest underway, new analysis by the Byline Intelligence Team has found that the top 14 Tory frontrunners have raked in £307,270 in donations since July 2021. 

Although Boris Johnson’s resignation speech yesterday failed to mention any of his more damaging legacies, the hundreds of thousands of pounds already pocketed by the main Conservative contenders shows the party’s indebtedness to private donors during the Johnson era.

Home Secretary Priti Patel has received the lion’s share of the donations, pocketing £140,000 in the 12 month period. All the funds have been donated since February, when whispers of an upcoming no confidence vote in the Prime Minister first began. Patel’s income has included a £100,000 donation from leading oil trade Pierre Andurand.

Campaign group Uplift pointed to the Conservative Party’s poor environmental track record when Andurand’s donation was first declared, and explained that “the risk is that donations are being skewed by a flow of money to Conservative politicians from oil and gas interests”.

It is impossible to know what, if any, influence donors like Andurand could have over Patel or any other Conservative contender, but the party has a long history of offering access to senior government figures in return for significant sums of money.

Although little is known about the Conservative Party’s internal leadership spending rules, a leaked document from the 2019 contest suggested that each candidate is allowed to spend £150,000 over the course of their campaign. 

This £300,000 donated to Conservative leadership hopefuls rivals the total figure donated to the Labour Party by private donors during the entire 2019 General Election campaign.

The 2019 campaign attracted roughly £19 million in donations from individuals and £6.5 million from companies, £19.3 million (76%) of which ended up in the hands of the Conservative Party. Much of the rest, £4.1 million, was funnelled to Nigel Farage’s Brexit Party. 

Labour, by contrast, received little more than £350,000 from individuals and private enterprises.

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Tom Tugendhat, who announced his candidacy this morning, has received donations totalling almost half of the apparent spending limit, raking in £65,000 in donations. More than a third was generously given by prolific Conservative donor Lord Michael Spencer of Alresford – the chairman of right-wing think-tank the Centre for Policy Studies and a shareholder in the controversial TV network GB News. 

Keen Brexiteer and anti-net zero MP Steve Baker has also accumulated thousands of pounds worth of donations. Baker – who threw his hat in the ring on the BBC Today programme yesterday by saying, “the reality is that some people I deeply respect are telling me, even imploring me, to do it” – has pocketed £13,400 in donations since July 2021.

Perhaps Neil Record is of those “imploring” Baker to run: the chairman of the climate change sceptic Global Warming Policy Forum – at which Baker is a trustee – gave £5,000 to the Conservative MP earlier this year. 

Big Money Contest

However, six Conservative hopefuls – Ben Wallace, Jeremy Hunt, Liz Truss, Nadhim Zahawi, Penny Moradaunt and Suella Braverman – appear to not have received any donations over the 12 month period.

Between the eight MPs who did receive money, their individual donations averaged more than £38,000 – exceeding half the annual salary of an MP. 

Despite not pocketing any donations over the past year, Zahawi is unlikely to be worried about his campaign finances – he is one of the richest prospective contenders, along with Sajid Javid and Rishi Sunak. 

Zahawi – who replaced Sunak as Chancellor earlier this week – is estimated to have a fortune of up to £100 million, with a portion of his wealth held in offshore companies

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Sunak, along with his Indian heiress wife, Akshata Murty, became the first frontline politician to be included in the Sunday Times’ ‘rich list’ earlier this year. With a combined net worth of £730 million, the £50,000 donation received by the former Chancellor from Teesside millionaire Dean Benson in November is likely to be little more than a drop in the ocean to Sunak. 

Javid is another prospective leadership contender with immense personal wealth. Before joining Parliament, Javid earned up to £3 million a year as a banker. Like Murty, Javid held non-dom status for six years, allowing him to legally avoid UK tax on overseas earnings.

Dominic Raab may have ruled himself out of the running in the leadership contest, but the Deputy Prime Minister has still accumulated £76,486 in donations in the past year. The Liberal Democrats are fiercely attempting to unseat Raab in his Esher and Walton seat, with a recent YouGov poll suggesting that the Cabinet minister would lose if a general election was held today.

Over the coming months, as the Conservative hopefuls jostle for the keys to Number 10, many will promise that their leadership will mark an end of the sleaze and scandal under the Johnson years. But, with hundreds of thousands of pounds already pumped into the contest, how much will really change? 

There is no suggestion of wrongdoing on the part of any donors or MPs listed in this article.

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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