Tories receive more than £1m from donor dinner guests

The latest donation figures show the party was given £1.04m from donors who attended private dinners with David Cameron and other senior Conservative ministers.

The Tories were unsurprisingly quick to go on the attack after the latest political donation figures showed that the trade unions were responsible for 77 per cent (£2.4m) of payments to Labour in quarter two. Conservative chairman Grant Shapps declared: 

Despite Ed Miliband’s promise of change, these independent figures prove his Labour Party is still dominated by the trade unions. They choose the candidates, pick the leader and remain Labour’s biggest donors - providing three quarters of the Party's money.

Until Ed Miliband stops taking his union paymasters’ cash, he will be too weak to stand up for hardworking people. Instead, he can only offer what the union barons want in return for their money - the same old Labour policy of more spending, more borrowing and more debt, exactly what got us into this mess in the first place.

And it's hardworking people who would pay the price with higher mortgage rates and higher bills.

But the Labour machine has now swung into action, with the party revealing that the Tories received £1,042,970.93 in the last quarter from donors who attended private dinners with David Cameron and other senior Conservative ministers. Of this total, £694,370 was from donors in the financial sector, including investment banker James Lupton, and hedge fund managers David Harding, Michael Farmer and Neil Ostrer

Sadiq Khan said: 

The Tories have raked in over £1 million from private dinners with David Cameron and senior Ministers in the last quarter. And more than two thirds of that comes from the City – the bankers and hedge fund bosses whose taxes David Cameron cut.

Hardworking families are seeing their living standards squeezed, with prices rising faster than wages. Meanwhile David Cameron shows how out of touch he is, standing up for the millionaires who fund his party.

It's nearly two months since David Cameron promised to publish the results of Lord Gold's inquiry into the Tories' dinners for donors. We're still waiting. It's time for him to come clean.

Ed Miliband has called for a cap of £5,000 on all donations (including those from trade unions) but with no sign of a cross-party deal in sight, the concern in Labour remains that his union reforms will gift the Tories a significant funding advantage. Party officials expect around 10 per cent of the 2.7 million political levy payers to affiliate themselves to Labour, which would see the party's income from this source fall from £8m to less than £1m. 

David Cameron waits for the arrival of Emirati Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi Mohammed bin Zayed al-Nahyan ahead of a meeting at 10 Downing Street on July 15, 2013. Photograph: Getty Images.

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.

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Hannan Fodder: This week, Daniel Hannan gets his excuses in early

I didn't do it. 

Since Daniel Hannan, a formerly obscure MEP, has emerged as the anointed intellectual of the Brexit elite, The Staggers is charting his ascendancy...

When I started this column, there were some nay-sayers talking Britain down by doubting that I was seriously going to write about Daniel Hannan every week. Surely no one could be that obsessed with the activities of one obscure MEP? And surely no politician could say enough ludicrous things to be worthy of such an obsession?

They were wrong, on both counts. Daniel and I are as one on this: Leave and Remain, working hand in glove to deliver on our shared national mission. There’s a lesson there for my fellow Remoaners, I’m sure.

Anyway. It’s week three, and just as I was worrying what I might write this week, Dan has ridden to the rescue by writing not one but two columns making the same argument – using, indeed, many of the exact same phrases (“not a club, but a protection racket”). Like all the most effective political campaigns, Dan has a message of the week.

First up, on Monday, there was this headline, in the conservative American journal, the Washington Examiner:

“Why Brexit should work out for everyone”

And yesterday, there was his column on Conservative Home:

“We will get a good deal – because rational self-interest will overcome the Eurocrats’ fury”

The message of the two columns is straightforward: cooler heads will prevail. Britain wants an amicable separation. The EU needs Britain’s military strength and budget contributions, and both sides want to keep the single market intact.

The Con Home piece makes the further argument that it’s only the Eurocrats who want to be hardline about this. National governments – who have to answer to actual electorates – will be more willing to negotiate.

And so, for all the bluster now, Theresa May and Donald Tusk will be skipping through a meadow, arm in arm, before the year is out.

Before we go any further, I have a confession: I found myself nodding along with some of this. Yes, of course it’s in nobody’s interests to create unnecessary enmity between Britain and the continent. Of course no one will want to crash the economy. Of course.

I’ve been told by friends on the centre-right that Hannan has a compelling, faintly hypnotic quality when he speaks and, in retrospect, this brief moment of finding myself half-agreeing with him scares the living shit out of me. So from this point on, I’d like everyone to keep an eye on me in case I start going weird, and to give me a sharp whack round the back of the head if you ever catch me starting a tweet with the word, “Friends-”.

Anyway. Shortly after reading things, reality began to dawn for me in a way it apparently hasn’t for Daniel Hannan, and I began cataloguing the ways in which his argument is stupid.

Problem number one: Remarkably for a man who’s been in the European Parliament for nearly two decades, he’s misunderstood the EU. He notes that “deeper integration can be more like a religious dogma than a political creed”, but entirely misses the reason for this. For many Europeans, especially those from countries which didn’t have as much fun in the Second World War as Britain did, the EU, for all its myriad flaws, is something to which they feel an emotional attachment: not their country, but not something entirely separate from it either.

Consequently, it’s neither a club, nor a “protection racket”: it’s more akin to a family. A rational and sensible Brexit will be difficult for the exact same reasons that so few divorcing couples rationally agree not to bother wasting money on lawyers: because the very act of leaving feels like a betrayal.

Or, to put it more concisely, courtesy of Buzzfeed’s Marie Le Conte:

Problem number two: even if everyone was to negotiate purely in terms of rational interest, our interests are not the same. The over-riding goal of German policy for decades has been to hold the EU together, even if that creates other problems. (Exhibit A: Greece.) So there’s at least a chance that the German leadership will genuinely see deterring more departures as more important than mutual prosperity or a good relationship with Britain.

And France, whose presidential candidates are lining up to give Britain a kicking, is mysteriously not mentioned anywhere in either of Daniel’s columns, presumably because doing so would undermine his argument.

So – the list of priorities Hannan describes may look rational from a British perspective. Unfortunately, though, the people on the other side of the negotiating table won’t have a British perspective.

Problem number three is this line from the Con Home piece:

“Might it truly be more interested in deterring states from leaving than in promoting the welfare of its peoples? If so, there surely can be no further doubt that we were right to opt out.”

If there any rhetorical technique more skin-crawlingly horrible, than, “Your response to my behaviour justifies my behaviour”?

I could go on, about how there’s no reason to think that Daniel’s relatively gentle vision of Brexit is shared by Nigel Farage, UKIP, or a significant number of those who voted Leave. Or about the polls which show that, far from the EU’s response to the referendum pushing more European nations towards the door, support for the union has actually spiked since the referendum – that Britain has become not a beacon of hope but a cautionary tale.

But I’m running out of words, and there’ll be other chances to explore such things. So instead I’m going to end on this:

Hannan’s argument – that only an irrational Europe would not deliver a good Brexit – is remarkably, parodically self-serving. It allows him to believe that, if Brexit goes horribly wrong, well, it must all be the fault of those inflexible Eurocrats, mustn’t it? It can’t possibly be because Brexit was a bad idea in the first place, or because liberal Leavers used nasty, populist ones to achieve their goals.

Read today, there are elements of Hannan’s columns that are compelling, even persuasive. From the perspective of 2020, I fear, they might simply read like one long explanation of why nothing that has happened since will have been his fault.

Jonn Elledge is the editor of the New Statesman's sister site CityMetric. He is on Twitter, far too much, as @JonnElledge.