Lib Dem candidate accused of 'buying seat'

Nigel Morris
Thursday 04 March 2010 01:00

An "enormously wealthy" businessman hoping to become a Liberal Democrat MP has given the party almost £300,000 in just three years, it has emerged.

The money has been donated by Chris Nicholson, who is standing for the Liberal Democrats in Streatham, south London. Keith Hill, who is stepping down as Labour MP for Streatham at the election, told the Commons that nearly all of the money had been spent on campaigning in the constituency. He added: "Even Lord Ashcroft cannot compete with spending on this gargantuan scale."

Mr Nicholson, a partner at the accountancy giant KPMG, is battling to overturn a Labour majority of 7,466 in the constituency.

Mr Hill claimed the scale of spending in his seat by an "enormously wealthy man who was recently in command of £800,000 bonuses" was "frankly undemocratic". He claimed: "What we are seeing here is the attempted purchase of a parliamentary seat."

Mr Nicholson is one of the biggest donors to the Liberal Democrats, who lag far behind the Tories and Labour in their ability to raise funds.

He gave the party £57,300 in 2007, £104,894.64 in 2008 and £125,700 last year, a total of £287,894.64. The party had to return a gift of £40,000 from him in 2007 which was ruled impermissible because he was not on the electoral register at the time.

The Tory candidate in Streatham, Rahoul Bhansali, has described Liberal Democrat attacks on Conservative funding as "extremely hypocritical" in the light of the Liberal Democrats' spending.

Last night Mr Nicholson said Labour was able to draw on Mr Hill's Commons communications allowance and the newspaper produced by Labour-run Lambeth council to get the party's message across.

"Contrary to what Keith Hill alleges, we are being outspent by Labour in terms of what they are putting out. A lot of that is coming from public funds."

He added: "It is a sign of how desperate they are that they are making these allegations."

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