Ten wealthy Tory supporters who attended private dinners with David Cameron and senior ministers have between them given a £1m boost to party coffers, Electoral Commission figures disclosed today.
They also underlined Labour’s heavy reliance on major trade unions for sizeable donations ahead of a move by Ed Miliband to overhaul the party’s financial links with its historic union paymasters.
In the second quarter of 2013, the Conservatives received £4,116,006 in large gifts, compared with Labour which was given £3,136,447.
The Liberal Democrats picked up £801,448, while the UK Independence Party’s growing support was reflected by a surge in donations to £160,289.
More than £1m of the Tories’ income came from businessmen who went to donors’ dinners at Downing Street over the same period. As well as Mr Cameron, other guests included Chancellor George Osborne and Theresa May, the Home Secretary.
The donors include party co-treasurers Michael Farmer, a hedge fund boss who contributed £280,770, and James Lupton, an investment banker who handed over £263,600.
Offshore Group Newcastle, an oil and gas platform company, contributed £117,300. One of its executives, Alexander Temerko, who attended a dinner, gave a further £16,000 in his own name.
Sadiq Khan, the shadow Justice Secretary, said more than two-thirds of the £1m from diners at the Leader’s Group Meals had come from the bankers and hedge fund managers “whose taxes David Cameron cut”. He accused the Prime Minister of “standing up for the millionaires who fund his party”.
Separately the Conservatives received generous gifts from high-profile business and City figures. Mark Bamford, whose brother Sir Anthony was made a peer this month, gave £115,000 and Chris Rokos, a hedge fund tycoon, donated £99,000.
Meanwhile, three-quarters of Labour’s major donations were from the trade unions. Unite, whose leader Len McCluskey has become an outspoken critic of Ed Miliband, was the party’s biggest benefactor in the quarter, contributing £772,195.
The GMB gave £485,830, while Unison donated £458,080, Usdaw £411,147 and the Communication Workers’ Union £143,121.
The contributions highlight the risk Mr Miliband is taking in proposing that trade unionists should have to “opt in” to Labour membership rather than being enrolled automatically. Critics have warned the move could cost the party as much as £7m a year in lost revenue.
Grant Shapps, the Conservative chairman, said the figures proved the unions still had a stranglehold over Labour. He added: “They choose the candidates, pick the leader and remain Labour’s biggest donors, providing three-quarters of the party’s money.”
Labour also received more than £2m in so-called ‘Short money’ and other funding to compensate for the support the Tories and Liberal Democrats receive through being in government.
The Electoral Commission figures list all donations worth more than £7,500 and the major parties say they do not reflect their income from less wealthy supporters and local fund-raising drives. Labour said only 25 per cent of its revenue so far this year had come from the unions.
The Liberal Democrat donations were down by about five per cent since the first quarter. They include gifts totalling £65,000 from the Ministry of Sound, whose founder James Palumbo was made a peer this week.
Donations to Ukip – more than double the previous quarter - included £50,000 from its Tiverton and Honiton branch in Devon and £25,000 from a former Conservative supporter, Andrew Perloff, the chairman of Panther Securities.
The figures showed Labour reduced its overdraft facilities by £2.5m over the quarter and took out two loans of £1.22m each with the Co-operative Bank and Unity Trust Bank.
It is listed as having outstanding loans of £12.79m.
The Conservatives are recorded as having £2.6m of loans and having access to overdraft facilities of up to £10.13m.
Background checks: Tory benefactors
Michael Farmer (£280,770) - The Tories’ most generous benefactor, he has given the party some £3.5m in the last seven years. Made his fortune in the metal markets.
James Lupton (£263,600) – Investment banker awarded the CBE last year for services to the arts.
Offshore Group Newcastle (£117,300) – Oil and gas drilling equipment company. A director, Alexander Temerko, gave a further £16,000.
David Harding (£100,000) – Hedge fund financier who studied theoretical physics at Cambridge.
David Ord (£77,500) – The co-owner of Bristol Port contributed £77,500 through his company.
John Frieda (£50,000) – Celebrity hairdresser with salons in London, New York and Los Angeles.
Neil Ostrer (£50,000) – Founder of major hedge fund company.
Henry Davis (£50,000) – Background unknown.
J&H Sales International (£10,000) – Recycling firm represented at dinner by a director, Ranjit Baxi.
Gary Lydiate (£2,800.93) – Heads firm which makes de-icing fluid.