Tories' election war chest gets £5m boost

Conservative donations are more than all other parties combined
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Indy Politics

The conservatives raised more than £5m for their election war chest in just three months – far more than all the other political parties put together.

A series of wealthy donors, including one of Britain's richest men, gave lavish donations, while Lord Ashcroft, the Tory deputy chairman, spent a further £90,000 on the drive to capture crucial marginal seats.

The Electoral Commission announced that the Conservatives received £5,269,186 between July and September, compared with £3,045,377 given to Labour and £816,663 to the Liberal Democrats. Fifteen other parties received £401,372 between them.

The flood of money to the Conservatives echoes Labour's success in attracting large sums before Tony Blair's 1997 general election landslide. The Tories raised £3,236,828 from individual donors, with the largest gift of £252,000 coming from Michael Farmer, a hedge fund manager.

The engineering tycoon Jeffrey Whaley handed over £250,000 and David Rowland, a property developer, gave £140,000, as well as vehicles worth £83,000. Poju Zabludowicz, a property magnate whose estimated £500m fortune makes him Britain's 18th richest man, gave two donations totalling £100,000.

Abduladem Mayet, a company director, contributed £118,000 to Tory coffers. Christian Meissner, who was appointed co-chief executive of Lehman Brothers' activities across Europe and the Middle East a week before the bank collapsed, gave the Tories £31,500. He works for Nomura, which took over Lehman's European and Asian division.

Companies gave a total of £1,635,127 to the Conservatives. They included £250,000 from Warwickshire-based IM Properties, £130,000 from the research arm of mechanical excavator manufacturers JCB, and £125,000 from FIL Investment Management.

The casino operators Aspinalls gave £10,000 to Richmond Park Tories, where Zac Goldsmith is trying to oust the Liberal Democrats. The Newmarket bloodstock auctioneers Tattersalls donated £6,000 to its local Conservative Association in South West Suffolk.

The Conservatives declared receiving gifts in kind worth £493,864 in the third quarter of the year. The largest amount of support – £91,900 – came through Lord Ashcroft's company, Bearwood Corporate Services. The sum covered "consultancy, focus groups, opinion research, printing and related costs". The Tory deputy chairman heads a team charged with directing operations in the marginal seats that hold the key to the election result.

The Electoral Commission is investigating Bearwood's donations, which have exceeded £3m, following allegations that it may not be a genuine UK trading company.

The majority of Labour's donations came from the trade unions, with £760,825 coming from Unison, £601,053 from Unite's Amicus section and £305,150 from its TGWU section. Another £202,557 came from individuals and £194,543 from companies.

The Liberal Democrats' biggest donor was the Joseph Rowntree Reform Trust, which contributed £230,833. Ukip received £86,290 over the period, the Green Party £76,316 and the British National Party £20,100.

The precarious state of Labour's finances was underlined by the disclosure it had £9,768,122 of debts at the end of September, compared with £4,153,939 for the Conservatives and £337,185 for the Liberal Democrats.

Peter Wardle, the Commission's chief executive, voiced concerns about the late reporting of donations. He said: "As the general election approaches, voters will be especially interested in how the political parties are funded and it's important all the information is available to them in a timely manner."

£252,000

Largest gift to Tories, from Michael Farmer, a hedge fund manager.

Source: Electoral Commission

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