It doesn’t take long for any political leader to realise the importance of the moneymen and women bankrolling the party.
Keeping them happy enough to carry on parting with their cash but without letting them dictate policy is one of the trickiest problems a leader faces. At the moment donations to the Conservative and Labour parties are running almost neck-and-neck, respectively receiving £3,663,024 and £3,681,486 in the first three months of the year.
Conservative donors tend to be strongly Eurosceptic and hostile to the concept of equal marriage and some are known to be flirting with switching support to Ukip. Lord Ashcroft, who has given the Tories £10m, recently cut off the flow of money – reportedly out of disillusionment with “fringe issues” such as same-sex marriage and over the party’s electoral prospects.
About one-quarter of Labour’s cash comes from union contributions, leaving Ed Miliband with the problem of reassuring left-wing leaders like Len McCluskey of Unite that he is championing their priorities.
On the other hand, if he tacked rightwards he might be able to tempt Lord Sainsbury, who gave the party £18.5m when Tony Blair was leader, to reopen his wallet.
Or perhaps he would still be wasting his time. In an interview the multimillionaire peer said he wished he was disappointed David Miliband failed to win the leadership in 2010 – and had not changed his mind.
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