Donations to UK political parties almost double to £93m in 2023 | Party financing

Political parties accepted £93 million in donations last year, boosted by new Tory and Labor mega-donors, with the 2024 election set to be the biggest spending campaign ever.

Electoral Commission figures show the Conservatives raised £9.8 million and Labor raised £6 million in the final quarter of the year.

The Labor Party has said 2023 is its biggest fundraising year in its history, and the traditional gap between the two parties in how much they are able to raise from individual donors appears to be narrowing.

The Conservatives received £10 million from health technology entrepreneur Frank Hester and his company, Phoenix Partnership (Leeds). Hester is a new donor to the party and has said he supports Rishi Sunak because of his approach to AI.

Another big donor was Selva Pankaj, who runs Regent College London and other private education businesses, who gave £125,000.

Labour’s biggest donor in 2023 was Gary Lubner, the former Autoglass boss, who contributed £4.5 million. He began donating to the party in 2022.

Fran Perrin, daughter of peer David Sainsbury, is Labour’s biggest donor. She started donating significant amounts from 2021 and has now given over £2.3 million.

Parties are expected to raise record amounts ahead of the election after the Conservatives increased spending limits for the pre-election period from £19m to £34m.

Louise Edwards, director of regulation at the Electoral Commission, said: “More than £93 million in donations were accepted by political parties in 2023, almost double the amount from the previous year. As a general election approaches, it is not uncommon to see an increase in donations as political parties begin campaigning.

“While there is no limit to what parties can raise, spending limits were put in place ahead of the election to ensure a level playing field. »

In the year before David Cameron’s election in 2015, political parties raised a total of £96 million. The figure was £73 million for the year before Theresa May’s instant contest in 2017 and £117 million before Boris Johnson’s victory in 2019.

Among those who donated cash last year was Jeremy Hunt, the chancellor, who has given more money to his own constituency’s Conservative party over the past four months to boost his chances of re-election.

The chancellor donated £18,084 last November, according to Electoral Commission records, bringing the total amount he has donated since the last general election to £123,345.

This week the Guardian revealed he had donated £105,261 to the South West Surrey Conservative Association over the past five years, from the last general election held in December 2019 until June 2023.

The most recent accounts from Hunt’s local association said its record was “at a less than satisfactory level”. A note indicated that annual membership dues were expected to increase this year.

Hunt’s seat of Godalming and Ash is a key target for the Liberal Democrats. A poll by Savanta shows the Liberal Democrats are on track to win the “blue wall” constituency, which would make Hunt the first chancellor in modern times to lose his Commons seat.

Over the past week, Hunt has repeatedly said he hopes to “continue to serve” his constituents, and noted: “I hope to be chancellor after the election.”

Asked if he had spent £105,000 from February 2021 to June 2023 over fears of losing his seat, Hunt told Sky News on Wednesday: “I invested that money mainly because during the pandemic it was not possible to raise funds in the normal way. .

“I have a brilliant team in my constituency and we run fantastic local campaigns and I wanted to keep that going despite the fact we couldn’t raise money. But did I (have) a tough fight against the Liberal Democrats? Absolutely. And I never took that for granted.

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