The parties’ annual accounts for 2013 have been published by the Electoral Commission and they contain what to most will be a surprise: Labour outraised the Conservatives by nearly £8m last year. The opposition received £33.4m (spending £27.9m), while the Tories received £25.4m (spending £23.5m). With the Conservatives frequently thought to be rolling in it due to such wheezes as flogging off tennis matches with David Cameron and Boris Johnson to Russian oligarchs, and Labour often described as “on the brink of bankruptcy”, the numbers don’t fit the narrative.
So how to explain them? Much of the difference is accounted for by the £6.9m Labour received in “short money”, the state funding made available to assist opposition parties with their costs (and named after Edward Short, the Labour politician who first proposed the system). But even if we exclude this revenue source, Labour still raised £1.1m more than the Tories (who themselves received £659,000 from the state).
Of this total, the largest chunk (£8m) came from party affiliates, most notably the trade unions, but Labour also received £5.1m from individual donors (including £1.6m from businessman John Mills), £3.1m from commercial income, £0.6m from fundraising and £5.7m from party members, the number of which increased from 187,537 in 2012 to 189,531. If small donations are included (the Electoral Commission does not record donations below £7,500), the sum raised from members stands at more than £8m, making them the largest source of funding.
The Conservatives again failed to publish a membership figure, but the number released last year by the party under media pressure put constituency membership at just 134,000. The central party’s income from membership (most pay subs to their local association) rose slightly from £747,000 to £749,000.
After running a dangerously high deficit of £411,000 last year, the Lib Dems moved into the black, achieving a small surplus of £0.2m. The party’s membership also increased from 42,501 to 43,451, although this is still well down on the 2010 level of 65,038.