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Wednesday, June 02, 2021

Call for investigation into donations to the Tories

There is an interesting story on Business Insider, who report that the Electoral Commission has been asked to launch an "urgent investigation" into multiple potential breaches of the law by the Conservative Party, after an investigation revealed that Prime Minister Boris Johnson's party had received tens of thousands of pounds from companies that no longer exist. The website says that questions are centred on three donations totalling £20,000 made to the party by two companies, Stridewell Estates and Unionist Buildings:

Insider's investigation revealed that Electoral Commission records showed the Conservative Party had accepted a £10,000 donation from Stridewell Estates, whose director was the property magnate and Tory donor Brian Gillies, in November 2019, more than three years after the company was dissolved in November 2016.

A spokesperson for Stridewell Estates had previously told Insider that "there must be a mistake. ... It is very possible that the company that donated has been recorded incorrectly."

A £6,000 donation from Unionist Buildings was accepted by the local association of the Foreign Office Minister Wendy Morton in June 2017, after the company was dissolved in January 2017 — and then a further £4,000 was registered by Morton in January 2020.

As is made clear in the article, political-finance laws state that a company is a permissible donor only if it is registered under the Companies Act 2006, incorporated in the UK, and "carries on business in the United Kingdom." The Electoral Commission has the power to apply to the courts to seek forfeiture of impermissible donations "as well as or instead of" using a sanction. Under the law, they can levy fines as a sanction of up to £20,000 per offense.

There is though a case for the law to be made tougher:

Steve Goodrich, head of research and investigations at Transparency International UK, told Insider: "The rules on company donations make it far too easy for money of unknown provenance to enter UK politics. Parties should at least be checking to see if their corporate donors are at least 'carrying on business' in Britain, yet that's such a low hurdle to pass as to be next to meaningless.

"The law needs changing so political donations from companies can only derive from genuine commercial activities."

I will await the outcome of this investigation with interest.
No wonder Tories wants to abolish the Electoral Commission.
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