Tory conference exclusive: Donors are deserting the Conservatives for Ukip

Since 2010, 14 major supporters switch to give £500,000 to Eurosceptics, while Nigel Farage also picks up smaller donations as numbers giving to Tories is halved

A string of Conservative donors has deserted David Cameron and poured nearly half a million pounds into Ukip's election fighting fund, The Independent on Sunday can reveal.

Fourteen individuals have switched support from the Conservatives to Nigel Farage's party in the three years since the 2010 election, donating £488,000 to Ukip. An analysis of Electoral Commission figures also shows that the number of individual donors to the Tories overall has halved since the election, while the average donation has decreased by £14,000.

News of the donor-defectors to Ukip emerged on the eve of the Tory party conference in Manchester, in which the Prime Minister will urge the country not to give up on the coalition's austerity plan, declaring that "we are on the right track" and that the Tory party is there "for hardworking people".

But one of George Osborne's closest allies has conceded that Britain is still going through a "living standards crisis" three years into the government. Skills minister Matthew Hancock said that only families in the bottom 20 per cent of earners have seen their incomes rise since 2010.

"We are very clear that life remains tough for lots and lots of families, and the only way sustainably to make that better is to make sure we stay on track and we win what the PM calls the global race," said Mr Hancock. "You improve living standards in the long term by strengthening the economy. And of course there's lots of micro measures you can take.

"After all, why have we got a living standards crisis? Because we had the great recession and the biggest banking bust in history and everybody knows that and they will still be remembering that in years and years to come. The figures show that since 2010, the only quintile group on average who have seen their incomes rise is the bottom 20 per cent."

Mr Farage, despite the efforts to ban him from the main conference centre, will be appearing at fringe meetings hosted by the Bruges Group, the smoking lobby group Forest, and the Freedom Association, all outside the secure zone where passes are not required. The Ukip leader said last night: "What these figures, delighted with them as we are, do not show are the large numbers of people who are donating £7,000 or under so as not to reveal their names. Some of these people are very big names indeed."

While all three main political parties are struggling with raising money ahead of the election, the slump in donations to the Tories is surprising because Mr Cameron had a previously strong record of attracting financial support. The fall in donations echoes a decrease in Conservative party membership – earlier this month it was revealed that there are 134,000 members, just over half the number in 2005.

The 14 donors who have switched support to Ukip are led by Stuart Wheeler, the party's Treasurer, who gave £3.9m in the last Parliament to Mr Cameron's party. He has given £300,000 to Ukip since May 2010. Others include Lord Hesketh, who has donated £30,000 to Ukip, and Andrew Perloff, the chairman of Panther Securities.

Other former Tory donors who have defected to Ukip are: James Hanson, £10,000; William Cole, £2,000; Robin Birley, £15,000; Michael Stone, £20,000; John Scott, £7,500; Sir John Craven, £12,500; William MacDougall, £8,000; David Caldow, £16,000; Lord Stevens of Ludgate, £10,002; Lord Dartmouth, £11,000; Patrick Barbour, £20,000.

Overall, between Mr Cameron's election as leader in December 2005 and the May 2010 election, the Tories received money from 1,923 donors, but in the past three years the party has received money from around half that number, 1,056.

According to a ComRes poll for the BBC's Sunday Politics, nearly a quarter of Conservative councillors would back an electoral pact with Ukip at the next election.

A Labour source said of the donors leaving the Conservatives: "As Tory membership has halved under his leadership, David Cameron is reliant on a smaller and smaller group of out-of-touch donors."

The Prime Minister unveiled long-awaited details of his marriage tax plan yesterday, worth up to £3.85 a week for couples, targeted at single earner, basic-rate-taxpayer families. Labour claimed this would not help two-thirds of married couples because those taken out of tax altogether would not benefit.

But Mr Osborne told The Times yesterday that the marriage tax break was "not seeking to be judgemental about any individual but saying that society is generally better off when more people are getting married than divorced".

Other policies being highlighted are Tech-levels, an elite form of vocational qualification which ministers hope will give less-academic pupils a strong alternative to A-levels that is relevant to work. State funding for thousands of qualifications which the Government sees as meaningless, such as ski-chalet hosting and key-fob design, has been axed. Instead, there will be a range of Tech-level courses in genuinely beneficial subjects, Mr Hancock said. There have been 263 applications to offer courses, which will start next year. He adds: "The goal has got to be you have got to have an elite standard. It's about making sure that everybody ... has the chance to reach their potential."

A Tory source, summing up the message of the party conference, said: "There's clear evidence the economy is turning the corner, but there is still a long way to go ... We mustn't squander our hard-won economic stability ... The alternative has been set out by Labour – more borrowing, more spending, more debt."

Today, a "Save our NHS" rally will take place in Manchester, with Unite claiming that Mr Cameron misled voters over plans to privatise parts of the health service.

the tories in manchester Ukip at the gates

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
Voices
An easy-peel potato; Dave Hax has come up with an ingenious method in food preparation
voicesDave Hax's domestic tips are reminiscent of George Orwell's tea routine. The world might need revolution, but we like to sweat the small stuff, says DJ Taylor
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Jay Z has placed a bet on streaming being the future for music and videos
music
Arts and Entertainment
Festival-goers soak up the atmosphere at Glastonbury
music
News
Japan's population is projected to fall dramatically in the next 50 years (Wikimedia)
news
  • Get to the point
2015 General Election
May2015

Poll of Polls

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Project Implementation Executive

£18000 - £23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They work with major vehicle ma...

Recruitment Genius: Chiropractic Assistant

£16500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Chiropractic Assistant is needed in a ...

Recruitment Genius: Digital Account Executive - Midlands

£18000 - £26000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They work with major vehicle ma...

Recruitment Genius: Web Developer

£28000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company provides coaching ...

Day In a Page

NHS struggling to monitor the safety and efficacy of its services outsourced to private providers

Who's monitoring the outsourced NHS services?

A report finds that private firms are not being properly assessed for their quality of care
Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

The Tory MP said he did not want to stand again unless his party's manifesto ruled out a third runway. But he's doing so. Watch this space
How do Greek voters feel about Syriza's backtracking on its anti-austerity pledge?

How do Greeks feel about Syriza?

Five voters from different backgrounds tell us what they expect from Syriza's charismatic leader Alexis Tsipras
From Iraq to Libya and Syria: The wars that come back to haunt us

The wars that come back to haunt us

David Cameron should not escape blame for his role in conflicts that are still raging, argues Patrick Cockburn
Sam Baker and Lauren Laverne: Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

A new website is trying to declutter the internet to help busy women. Holly Williams meets the founders
Heston Blumenthal to cook up a spice odyssey for British astronaut manning the International Space Station

UK's Major Tum to blast off on a spice odyssey

Nothing but the best for British astronaut as chef Heston Blumenthal cooks up his rations
John Harrison's 'longitude' clock sets new record - 300 years on

‘Longitude’ clock sets new record - 300 years on

Greenwich horologists celebrate as it keeps to within a second of real time over a 100-day test
Fears in the US of being outgunned in the vital propaganda wars by Russia, China - and even Isis - have prompted a rethink on overseas broadcasters

Let the propaganda wars begin - again

'Accurate, objective, comprehensive': that was Voice of America's creed, but now its masters want it to promote US policy, reports Rupert Cornwell
Why Japan's incredible long-distance runners will never win the London Marathon

Japan's incredible long-distance runners

Every year, Japanese long-distance runners post some of the world's fastest times – yet, come next weekend, not a single elite competitor from the country will be at the London Marathon
Why does Tom Drury remain the greatest writer you've never heard of?

Tom Drury: The quiet American

His debut was considered one of the finest novels of the past 50 years, and he is every bit the equal of his contemporaries, Jonathan Franzen, Dave Eggers and David Foster Wallace
You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

Dave Hax's domestic tips are reminiscent of George Orwell's tea routine. The world might need revolution, but we like to sweat the small stuff, says DJ Taylor
Beige is back: The drab car colours of the 1970s are proving popular again

Beige to the future

Flares and flounce are back on catwalks but a revival in ’70s car paintjobs was a stack-heeled step too far – until now
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's dishes highlight the delicate essence of fresh cheeses

Bill Granger cooks with fresh cheeses

More delicate on the palate, milder, fresh cheeses can also be kinder to the waistline
Aston Villa vs Liverpool: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful,' says veteran Shay Given

Shay Given: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful'

The Villa keeper has been overlooked for a long time and has unhappy memories of the national stadium – but he is savouring his chance to play at Wembley
Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own - Michael Calvin

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own