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.

Photo: Getty
Show Hide image

Scotland's vast deficit remains an obstacle to independence

Though the country's financial position has improved, independence would still risk severe austerity. 

For the SNP, the annual Scottish public spending figures bring good and bad news. The good news, such as it is, is that Scotland's deficit fell by £1.3bn in 2016/17. The bad news is that it remains £13.3bn or 8.3 per cent of GDP – three times the UK figure of 2.4 per cent (£46.2bn) and vastly higher than the white paper's worst case scenario of £5.5bn. 

These figures, it's important to note, include Scotland's geographic share of North Sea oil and gas revenue. The "oil bonus" that the SNP once boasted of has withered since the collapse in commodity prices. Though revenue rose from £56m the previous year to £208m, this remains a fraction of the £8bn recorded in 2011/12. Total public sector revenue was £312 per person below the UK average, while expenditure was £1,437 higher. Though the SNP is playing down the figures as "a snapshot", the white paper unambiguously stated: "GERS [Government Expenditure and Revenue Scotland] is the authoritative publication on Scotland’s public finances". 

As before, Nicola Sturgeon has warned of the threat posed by Brexit to the Scottish economy. But the country's black hole means the risks of independence remain immense. As a new state, Scotland would be forced to pay a premium on its debt, resulting in an even greater fiscal gap. Were it to use the pound without permission, with no independent central bank and no lender of last resort, borrowing costs would rise still further. To offset a Greek-style crisis, Scotland would be forced to impose dramatic austerity. 

Sturgeon is undoubtedly right to warn of the risks of Brexit (particularly of the "hard" variety). But for a large number of Scots, this is merely cause to avoid the added turmoil of independence. Though eventual EU membership would benefit Scotland, its UK trade is worth four times as much as that with Europe. 

Of course, for a true nationalist, economics is irrelevant. Independence is a good in itself and sovereignty always trumps prosperity (a point on which Scottish nationalists align with English Brexiteers). But if Scotland is to ever depart the UK, the SNP will need to win over pragmatists, too. In that quest, Scotland's deficit remains a vast obstacle. 

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.