Miliband still reliant on union barons – but big donors start to return

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Political parties suffer drop of almost £1m in quarter but donations still total nearly £7.9m

Ed Miliband remains more reliant on union backing than Gordon Brown was, despite the return of several wealthy backers.

Labour's quarterly income dropped by £478,000 to just over £2.9m, as trade unions cut their funding in protest at Mr Miliband's failure to back strikes by public sector employees. Even so, Labour is heavily dependent on union backing. Yesterday's figures record 185 donations totalling £2,964,471.05 of which more than two-thirds – £2,071,814.94 – came from trade unions.

Britain's biggest union, Unite, headed by Len McCluskey, gave £840,275, including £34,000 to various local branches of the party. The shopworkers union Usdaw gave £430,000, the GMB £314,000 and Unison £213,000.

Labour's biggest individual backer is the property tycoon, Andrew Rosenfeld, who gave over £152,000 in the three months to the end of June. The comedian Eddie Izzard gave more than £31,500 and the tycoon and Labour peer Alan Sugar over £12,800. The Scottish Labour Party received £53,700 from Glasgow businessman and philanthropist William Haughey.

When the Electoral Commission published similar quarterly figures last year, Labour faced the embarrassing revelation that it was down to its last two high-value donors, one of whom was the former Downing Street spin doctor Alastair Campbell. At least part of the reason was that mega-rich backers who were prepared to give generously to Labour during the Blair years were put off by Ed Miliband's brand of politics, which includes criticism of boardroom greed and bankers.

Overall, the political parties reported just under £7.9m in donations in the figures published by the Electoral Commission, a £992,312 drop from the previous quarter.

The Conservative Party had 20 fewer big donations than Labour but they were worth more, totalling £3,785,579, about £300,000 down on the previous quarter. Donors included several wealthy men who have been David Cameron's guests at meals or parties at 10 Downing Street or Chequers, among them the financier Michael Farmer, who gave £512,450, to add to more than £3m he has given the Tories over the past six years, the Tory peer Stanley Fink, who gave £74,000; and Sir Anthony Bamford, who gave £60,000 via JCB Research.

Labour says that Electoral Commission figures overstate its dependence on union funds, because the law requires parties to declare only donations over £7,500 to the party nationally or £1,500 to local parties. Labour receives hundreds of thousands of donations every year that are too small to be declared.

The Liberal Democrats declared a total of £717,797, and the Green Party declared £180,060, of which £100,000 was a single donation from long-standing activist Heather Hunt. The British National Party received a £100,000 donation from a Mr Albert Stanmore.

Giving generously: Party donors

Eddie Izzard £31,550

The multi-lingual stand-up comic has fronted Labour broadcasts and been talked of as a London mayoral candidate.

Andrew Rosenfeld £152,054

Property developer and Labour's biggest individual donor has been criticised as a former tax exile, though he now lives in the UK.

Alan Sugar £12,866

Lord Sugar remains a Labour peer and donor despite exhorting Londoners not to vote for Ken Livingstone.

Michael Farmer £512,450

The founder of RK Management, the metals hedge-firm, is David Cameron's biggest individual financial backer.

Stanley Fink £74,000

The reputed "godfather" of hedge funds returned to his old job as Conservative Party treasurer in the wake of the "cash for access" scandal in March, but then faced calls for this resignation after The Independent revealed in June that he broke anti-sleaze rules by hosting a dinner in the Lords for American Express cardholders.

Sir Anthony Bamford £60,000

The Bamford family runs the firm which produces the famous JCB earth diggers. Sir Anthony declined a peerage in June 2010 after the House of Lords Commission declined to support his nomination because of information received in confidence form the tax authorities. He controls JCB Research, a firm with no obvious assets, which gives generously to the Tories.

Heather Hunt £100,000

An active member of the Green Party for 18 years, and former candidate, she works for the Peak District National Park.

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