Tories boosted by £5m donation from health entrepreneur amid dwindling pool of supporters

Frank Hester gives massive sum, as Sunak increasingly reliant on small group of mega-wealthy backers

Adam Forrest
Political Correspondent
Wednesday 06 September 2023 08:34 BST
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Rishi Sunak has been boosted by huge donations from a few wealthy supporters
Rishi Sunak has been boosted by huge donations from a few wealthy supporters (Getty/PA)

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The Conservatives have been handed huge £5m donation from a millionaire healthcare entrepreneur, as the party relies on a select group of mega-rich backers to boost its coffers.

Frank Hester, founder and chief executive of The Phoenix Partnership (TPP), has given the seven-figure sum to Rishi Sunak’s party in a boost to the PM’s spending power ahead of the next general election.

The news comes after The Independent revealed that Mr Sunak is being forced to rely on a small pool of wealthy donors.

An astonishing four-fifths of all individual donations made to the Tories since he entered Downing Street have come from just 10 wealthy people.

Ex-donor Sir Rocco Forte claimed that the government’s “incompetence” had driven many backers away, after Tory donations slumped in 2022 in the wake of turmoil under Boris Johnson and Liz Truss.

And Mohamed Amersi, who with his partner has donated £750,000 to the Tories, told The Independent that he would give money to Labour politicians.

Mr Hester’s massive £5m gift – which makes him the party’s joint-bigger backer under Sunak – will be disclosed by the Electoral Commission when it publishes its latest quarterly data on political donations.

It comes after commission records show that TTP donated £11,300 to the Tories in February and also £145,000 in March.

The company told The Mirror this month that the personal donations should have been made in Mr Hester’s name and that he had since repaid the money back to his firm.

According to the TTP website, Mr Hester founded the company in 1997 as he worked on integrated care models. TPP describes the firm as providing “leading software that is transforming healthcare worldwide”.

In 2015, the businessman was given an OBE for his services to healthcare. Mr Hester has been invited on several government trade missions in the past, including visiting India with then-prime minister David Cameron in 2013.

He appeared at number 321 on the 2023 Sunday Times Rich List, with the newspaper estimating his wealth at £415m.

The Rich List said Mr Hester spotted an opportunity to build IT software for the NHS “when his GP wife grumbled about her computers at work”. TTP has been contacted for comment.

Mr Hester’s donation will be welcomed by the Conservative Party, which said it would not be commenting, after a slump in financial fortunes last year.

In 2022, the Tories, according to the Electoral Commission’s annual accounts, recorded a loss of £2.3m in what the party described as a “turbulent year”.

Income from donations fell by £2.4m compared with 2021, with party officials saying this was partly due to “donor pledges moving into 2023”.

But financial support in 2023 looks to be considerably up, with the party recording more than £12m in donations in the first three months of the year. That figure far outstripped rival parties, with Labour raising £4.4m and the Liberal Democrats £1.3m.

The total for the Tories in the first quarter of the year was boosted by a £5m donation from Mohamed Mansour, the party’s senior treasurer and a former minister in the government of Egyptian autocrat Hosni Mubarak.

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