The Conservative Party is heavily reliant for its funds on millions of pounds in donations from wealthy bankers, hedge fund bosses and a network of secretive dining clubs stretching across shire England.
For the first time ever, a true picture of the sources of Tory funding can be revealed with the launch of a new website, searchthemoney.com.
The site shows that super-rich financiers and hedge fund executives have given a total of £25.3 million over a seven year period, with the four biggest individual banking donors giving a staggering £10 million between them, raising questions about the seriousness of government’s commitment to reform the failing finance sector.
Additionally, hundreds of thousands of pounds are poured into the party coffers from obscure dining clubs. These clubs are not required to reveal who their members are, and are not required to report donations up to £7,500, posing questions about whether these clubs are actually being used to sidestep political donation laws.
Billed as ‘the website David Cameron doesn’t want you to see’, searchthemoney.com lifts the lid on the huge sums of murky money being channelled to Conservative HQ and Tory MPs with the constituencies of cabinet ministers among those benefiting.
Using the latest available data, searchthemoney.com is the only site that gives users the chance to scrutinise Tory funding by interest group, constituency or MP, revealing the top 10 wealthy finance men funding the party to be:
|Finance||Michael Farmer||£4,018,250.00||Self-described “fat cat”, and Conservative party treasurer.|
|Finance||Michael Spencer,IPGL Ltd||£3,783,424.05||Michael Spencer was caught up in the recent “Cash for Cameron” scandal after it was revealed he had dined with the PM at his Downing Street flat and had lunch at Chequers.|
|Finance||Michael Hintze||£1,327,650.00||Owner of hedge fund company CQS and according to the Forbes Rich List is the 913th richest person in the world|
|Finance||Peter A Cruddas||£1,022,795.66||Founder of the company CMC Markets. Briefly chairman of the conservative party before resigning over the “Cash for Access” scandal.|
|Investment||George M Magan||£811,217.64||Made a life peer in 2011 as Baron of Castletown. Sunday Times rich list estimated his wealth at £60m. Presently deputy chairman of the Conservative Foundation.|
|Hedge fund||Paul Ruddock||£600,098.42||Knighted in early 2012 for services to the arts. He is also CEO of the Lansdowne hedge fund which made a profit on the collapse of Northern Rock.|
|Hedge fund||Jonathan Wood||£585,000.00||Ran the hedge fund SRM Global, which was the biggest shareholder in Northern Rock when it collapsed.|
|Investment||Peter J Hall||£515,540.00||Founded Hunter Hall an investment company and recently funded Andrew Grayling’s private university that will charge £18000 per year.|
|Hedge fund||Hugh Sloane||£508,500.00||Hedge Fund manager, one of the founders of the firm Sloane Robinson. Channel 4 highlighted a government U-turn over Cayman Islands – a base for many of Hugh Sloane’s companies.|
|Hedge fund||James Lyle||£500,000.00||Co-founded New York-based hedge fund Millgate Capital in 1997. Previously worked at bankers Morgan Stanley and ran the hedge fund Tiger Management.|
Additionally, some £942,075 has been donated since 2005 by two clubs alone, the secretive United & Cecil Club and the elite Carlton Club, providing Tory MPs with donations without having to reveal the majority of the donors.
Searchthemoney.com managing editor, Laurence Durnan, said: “This site is about bringing balance back to public understanding of party funding. There has been a relentless hammering of trade union funding, which is transparent, but no real focus on how the party in power, the Conservatives, gets its cash.
“We are shining a light on a dark zone in party funding and have found that Tory money stretches from the City to the shires – but is not as clear as it ought to be. It comes via a network of secret donors who gather in obscure dining clubs and super-wealthy players in the finance industry.
“It will disturb voters that the party in power and the City of London are so entwined. The public will rightly ask: who are the people behind these secret supper clubs, and are they making a mockery of donations law? They must come out of the shadows.
“This is now a question of trust. If the Tories do not want to be regarded as the party with a shady money habit and a heavy dependency on a few super-wealthy people, it needs to come clean on who is really paying its way.”
According to searchthemoney.com, since 2005 the United and Cecil Club donated over £392,000 in total to individual Tory MPs while the Carlton Club, including its political committee, distributed some £549,000, a grand total of £942,075.
Supper clubs are only required to report the donations they receive to the Electoral Commission if they are in excess of £7,500 – so donors who donate up to £7,500 a year won’t have their names reported to the Commission. And there is nothing stopping people donating multiple £7,500s to multiple clubs. There is no way of the public keeping tabs on such money movements.
The United and Cecil club has been funnelling money to MPs in marginal seats in order to bolster the Tory effort to hang onto them come election time including:
- £16,500 to Stephen Metcalfe MP for South Basildon and East Thurrock
- £6000 to Robert Halfon MP for Harlow
- £6000 to Mike Freer MP in Finchley and Golders Green
- £19,300 to Charlotte Leslie MP in Bristol North West.
The 400-member strong United and Cecil club came to prominence earlier this year when it was revealed to be ‘coordinating’ an anti-devolution fundraiser in Scotland from an address in Haywards Heath.
Last November, the Electoral Commission forced the U&CC to return an £850 ‘impermissible’ donation on the basis that it had been given by a donor not on the UK electoral register. And in 2009 the club was part of a network of wealthy individuals and operations funnelling money into the Conservatives’ general election operation, including £3000 to Pendle Tories’ efforts to unseat the sitting Labour MP.
Searchthemoney.com will went live at 1pm on August 22nd.
For further information, please contact Laurence Durnan on 07851 122 292.
Follow on Twitter @SearchTheMoney
News item from the Daily Mirror