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 Images
Show Hide image

Why are boundary changes bad for Labour?

New boundaries, a smaller House of Commons and the shift to individual electoral registration all tilt the electoral battlefield further towards the Conservatives. Why?

The government has confirmed it will push ahead with plans to reduce the House of Commons to 600 seats from 650.  Why is that such bad news for the Labour Party? 

The damage is twofold. The switch to individual electoral registration will hurt Labour more than its rivals. . Constituency boundaries in Britain are drawn on registered electors, not by population - the average seat has around 70,000 voters but a population of 90,000, although there are significant variations within that. On the whole, at present, Labour MPs tend to have seats with fewer voters than their Conservative counterparts. These changes were halted by the Liberal Democrats in the coalition years but are now back on course.

The new, 600-member constituencies will all but eliminate those variations on mainland Britain, although the Isle of Wight, and the Scottish island constituencies will remain special cases. The net effect will be to reduce the number of Labour seats - and to make the remaining seats more marginal. (Of the 50 seats that would have been eradicated had the 2013 review taken place, 35 were held by Labour, including deputy leader Tom Watson's seat of West Bromwich East.)

Why will Labour seats become more marginal? For the most part, as seats expand, they will take on increasing numbers of suburban and rural voters, who tend to vote Conservative. The city of Leicester is a good example: currently the city sends three Labour MPs to Westminster, each with large majorities. Under boundary changes, all three could become more marginal as they take on more wards from the surrounding county. Liz Kendall's Leicester West seat is likely to have a particularly large influx of Tory voters, turning the seat - a Labour stronghold since 1945 - into a marginal. 

The pattern is fairly consistent throughout the United Kingdom - Labour safe seats either vanishing or becoming marginal or even Tory seats. On Merseyside, three seats - Frank Field's Birkenhead, a Labour seat since 1950, and two marginal Labour held seats, Wirral South and Wirral West - will become two: a safe Labour seat, and a safe Conservative seat on the Wirral. Lillian Greenwood, the Shadow Transport Secretary, would see her Nottingham seat take more of the Nottinghamshire countryside, becoming a Conservative-held marginal. 

The traffic - at least in the 2013 review - was not entirely one-way. Jane Ellison, the Tory MP for Battersea, would find herself fighting a seat with a notional Labour majority of just under 3,000, as opposed to her current majority of close to 8,000. 

But the net effect of the boundary review and the shrinking of the size of the House of Commons would be to the advantage of the Conservatives. If the 2015 election had been held using the 2013 boundaries, the Tories would have a majority of 22 – and Labour would have just 216 seats against 232 now.

It may be, however, that Labour dodges a bullet – because while the boundary changes would have given the Conservatives a bigger majority, they would have significantly fewer MPs – down to 311 from 330, a loss of 19 members of Parliament. Although the whips are attempting to steady the nerves of backbenchers about the potential loss of their seats, that the number of Conservative MPs who face involuntary retirement due to boundary changes is bigger than the party’s parliamentary majority may force a U-Turn.

That said, Labour’s relatively weak electoral showing may calm jittery Tory MPs. Two months into Ed Miliband’s leadership, Labour averaged 39 per cent in the polls. They got 31 per cent of the vote in 2015. Two months into Tony Blair’s leadership, Labour were on 53 per cent of the vote. They got 43 per cent of the vote. A month and a half into Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership, Labour is on 31 per cent of the vote.  A Blair-style drop of ten points would see the Tories net 388 seats under the new boundaries, with Labour on 131. A smaller Miliband-style drop would give the Conservatives 364, and leave Labour with 153 MPs.  

On Labour’s current trajectory, Tory MPs who lose out due to boundary changes may feel comfortable in their chances of picking up a seat elsewhere. 

Stephen Bush is editor of the Staggers, the New Statesman’s political blog. He usually writes about politics.