The people funding the Tory party: there are fewer of them than you think

New research shows that more than half of the party’s donations in the last decade came from just 50

You've heard of Michael Ashcroft – the billionaire who supposedly "owns" the Tory party – but what of Irvine Laidlaw or Michael Spencer?

Although he was targeted by the press because of his questionable tax status, Ashcroft has for many become synonymous with big cash donations and the influence that comes with it. But he is by no means the Conservative Party's biggest donor. New research by the LSE reveals the way in which huge donors are able largely to avoid publicity, while staying completely within the law, by splitting up donations between family members or personal and company donations.

By collating cash given by the Tories' biggest donors, as well as that given by their husbands, wives, family members, business partners or companies, researchers have built up a detailed picture of the people funding the party.

They found that, in the past decade, £72m – more than half of the party's declared cash donation income – was donated to the Conservative Party by just 50 of these "donor groups".

Of this, £44.5m – amounting to just under one-third (31.9 per cent) of total donations – came from the top 15.

The Tory donor Stuart Wheeler made headlines last month when he said that it was "absolutely natural and unobjectionable" for big donors to gain influence over policy, and called for the cap to be scrapped. In response to the charge that this "big donor" culture had made politics less fair, he said: "Fairness isn't the be all and end all."

Evidently, some tightening up needs to be done to ensure that the spirit as well as the letter of the law placing a cap on donations is obeyed.

You can view the list of big cash donors to the Conservative Party here.

NOTE: There is no suggestion that the Conservatives are unique in this respect. Previous LSE research highlighted the importance of big donors to all three of the major political parties.

Samira Shackle is a freelance journalist, who tweets @samirashackle. She was formerly a staff writer for the New Statesman.

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Diane Abbott tweeting the fake lesbian quote won’t detract from Theresa May’s gay rights record

The shadow home secretary tweeted a quote about lesbians which can’t be traced to the Prime Minister.

Diane Abbott has deleted her tweet of a quote that’s been whizzing around Twitter, supposedly attributed to Theresa May.

The meme suggests that the Prime Minister, when a councillor in Merton and Wimbledon in the Eighties, once said: “Curbing the promotion of lesbianism in Merton’s schools starts with girls having male role models in their lives.”


Twitter screengrab

But there is no evidence available to prove that May ever said this. The quotation was investigated by Gay Star News and BuzzFeed when it started being shared ahead of the election. Just like Dan Hannan's pictures from his country walk and erm, pretty much every pro-Leave politician suggesting the NHS would get £350m extra a week after Brexit, Abbott’s tweet was a bad idea. It’s good she deleted it.

However, this doesn’t take away from Theresa May’s poor track record on gay rights, which has been collated by PinkNews and others:

1998: She voted against reducing the age of consent for gay sex.

1999: She voted against equalising the age of consent, again.

2000: She voted against repealing Section 28, and Vice has uncovered an interview she did in her forties with a student paper when she said “most parents want the comfort of knowing Section 28 is there”, referring to the legislation stopping “the promotion of homosexuality in schools”.

2000: She did not show up to another vote on making the age of consent for gay people equal to the one for straight people.

2001: She voted against same-sex adoption.

2002: She voted against same-sex adoption, again.

2003: She did not vote on repealing Section 28.

2004: She missed all four votes on the gender recognition bill. (But she did vote in favour of civil partnerships this year).

2007: She missed a vote on protecting gay people from discrimination (the part of the Equality Act that would prevent b&bs and wedding cake makers discriminating against gay people, for example).

2008: She opposed IVF for same-sex couples, voting in favour of a child needing a “father and mother” before allowing a woman to have IVF treatment.

Since then, May has softened her stance on gay rights, apologised for her past voting record, and voted in favour of same-sex marriage. “I have changed my view. If those votes were taken today, I would take a different vote,” she said.

But your mole can think of at least one politician who’s always been on the right side of history regarding gay rights. Diane Abbott.

I'm a mole, innit.