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How the Lib Dems raised more funding than Labour

Brexit has boosted Tim Farron's party's fortunes.

The Liberal Democrats may still be trailing Labour in the polls (though the most pessimistic MPs fear that could eventually change) but they have overtaken Jeremy Corbyn's party in the donation stakes. In quarter four of 2016, the Lib Dems raised £1,972,904 to Labour's £1,970,055 - the first time the party has beaten the opposition in 10 years and the first time it has ever raised more if trade union donations are included.

The figures reflect how Brexit has strengthened the Lib Dems and further weakened Labour. Businessman Greg Nasmyth gave Tim Farron's party £1m: the largest donation in Q4 and the largest the party has received for a decade. Nasmyth's largesse was gifted to aid the Lib Dems' fight against Brexit. Unlike Jeremy Corbyn, Farron has demanded that the government promise a referendum on the UK's withdrawal agreement.

Lib Dem president Sal Brinton said: "These donations are because of Brexit. People want a voice that believes Britain is open, tolerant and united.  Millions of people want to be heard, and a clear voice saying Britain must stay in the heart of Europe.  This voice is the Liberal Democrats.

“Labour do not offer that any more, they are Theresa May’s cheerleaders.

"Money is not the full picture here: we have had a famous by-election victory in Richmond Park, made 30 council gains up and down the country, and have our highest membership this century. Whatever is going on in Jeremy Corbyn’s divided and extreme Labour Party, it is clear the Liberal Democrat fightback is on, providing the real opposition to the Conservative Brexit government."

As private donations to Labour have dried up (a trend which began under Ed Miliband), Corbyn's party has become ever more dependent on union funding. It received £1.2m from four unions (Unite, GMB, USDAW and CWU) but just £291,879 from its five largest individual backers. Labour's decision to back Brexit has hindered new fundraising opportunities (though the party is debt-free for the first time in a decade after a surge in membership).

The unions' dominance adds significance to the Unite general secretary election, in which Labour rebels are backing Gerard Coyne to beat Len McCluskey. But as I wrote yesterday, the party's largest affiliate and donor is set to remain in the left's hands.

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.

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Theresa May is paying the price for mismanaging Boris Johnson

The Foreign Secretary's bruised ego may end up destroying Theresa May. 

And to think that Theresa May scheduled her big speech for this Friday to make sure that Conservative party conference wouldn’t be dominated by the matter of Brexit. Now, thanks to Boris Johnson, it won’t just be her conference, but Labour’s, which is overshadowed by Brexit in general and Tory in-fighting in particular. (One imagines that the Labour leadership will find a way to cope somehow.)

May is paying the price for mismanaging Johnson during her period of political hegemony after she became leader. After he was betrayed by Michael Gove and lacking any particular faction in the parliamentary party, she brought him back from the brink of political death by making him Foreign Secretary, but also used her strength and his weakness to shrink his empire.

The Foreign Office had its responsibility for negotiating Brexit hived off to the newly-created Department for Exiting the European Union (Dexeu) and for navigating post-Brexit trade deals to the Department of International Trade. Johnson was given control of one of the great offices of state, but with no responsibility at all for the greatest foreign policy challenge since the Second World War.

Adding to his discomfort, the new Foreign Secretary was regularly the subject of jokes from the Prime Minister and cabinet colleagues. May likened him to a dog that had to be put down. Philip Hammond quipped about him during his joke-fuelled 2017 Budget. All of which gave Johnson’s allies the impression that Johnson-hunting was a licensed sport as far as Downing Street was concerned. He was then shut out of the election campaign and has continued to be a marginalised figure even as the disappointing election result forced May to involve the wider cabinet in policymaking.

His sense of exclusion from the discussions around May’s Florence speech only added to his sense of isolation. May forgot that if you aren’t going to kill, don’t wound: now, thanks to her lost majority, she can’t afford to put any of the Brexiteers out in the cold, and Johnson is once again where he wants to be: centre-stage. 

Stephen Bush is special correspondent at the New Statesman. His daily briefing, Morning Call, provides a quick and essential guide to domestic and global politics.