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Friday, July 05, 2019

When money is no object

Modern politics is all about money, and with a fairly toothless Electoral Commission, devoid of the necessary powers and, in some cases the gumption, to prevent abuses, the political party that can raise the most cash always has an advantage.

Without doubt that party has always been the Conservative Party, and with the decline in membership and influence for the Trade Union movement, their fundraising advantage has been magnified over recent elections. But, apart from tapping some mega-rich people for huge donations, how does the Conservative Party fill its coffers? This article in the Guardian may provide a clue.

The paper reveals that Conservative donors have spent lavish sums on hunting trips and champagne parties at a fundraising auction attended by the prime minister, Theresa May, and her potential successors, Boris Johnson and Jeremy Hunt.

These included a £15,000, eight-person excursion to shoot pheasants on a Scottish estate and a £27,000 all-expenses paid trip to the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix. Both were among the lots at the annual Tory summer ball on Wednesday:

Conservative politicians reportedly took a break from the leadership race to give the departing prime minister a standing ovation at the event at the private Hurlingham Club in Fulham, south-west London.

Video messages from cabinet ministers and the former Tory leaders David Cameron and William Hague offering May their thanks were also played to guests as they ate rare beef and drank expensive wine. One donor who was sitting at the same table as the work and pensions secretary, Amber Rudd, is said to have stumped up £40,000 for a private champagne party for 100 people at the London Cabaret Club in Bloomsbury.

An advertisement for the prize is said to have offered a choice of entertainment including The Great Gatsby and James Bond.

Meanwhile, a brochure described the shooting trip as “an opportunity to take a 20-bird, high-quality pheasant shoot in Dumfriesshire” at the Raehills estate, with accommodation, dinner and breakfast included.

A signed photograph of Johnson and Cameron and a £24,000 private jet day trip for nine people to any destination in Europe were also sold.

The paper adds that Conservative donors have stumped up large amounts of money at previous fundraising events. At the party’s Black and White ball last year, a bidder paid about £55,000 for the privilege of spending a working day with May.

Earlier this year, Electoral Commission figures showed donations to the Conservatives had fallen sharply. Between 1 January and 31 March, the party accepted £3.83m from 220 separate donors, compared with £7.45m from 230 donors in the final quarter of 2018. That is still a lot of money, and one indication as to why reports of the Tory Party's demise are, as ever, widely exaggerated.
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