“A little bit of money goes a very long way.”
Political donations have been at the heart of many a scandal, but does it matter that at local and national level, parties are so dependent on private money?
Donors such as
Sir Roger De Haan, major shareholder in Saga, Property Developer and Philanthropist
Their donations have been to both local and the national Tory party; and each of them have been mired in in allegations there donations have led them to receive preferential treatment.
Many suspect this preferential treatment has been bought by the extensive donations they have given, before or after they donated. The public suspect they may have received a favorable decision by a planning committee or received access to the right people.
The finances of British political parties were largely unregulated before the Labour government that came to power in 1997 passed the Political Parties, Elections and Referendums Act 2000 (PPERA). PPERA was based on a report on party funding published in 1998. It regulates the funding and spending of political parties, candidates and certain others, and created the Electoral Commission to monitor this.
Donations worth over £7,500 to national parties must be declared, as must be donations worth £1,500 or more to local associations.
Speaking anonymously to Tory party workers in local office’s across Kent one said:
“Any donation over £1,000 always represents a significant donor to a local party and helps us survive. Of course, it levers favour, and it has always been such.”
Many Tory party workers at local level were realistic about the fact donations did curry favour, and helped lubricate access, and the ear of either the local leader of the Tory party, or the MP.
Since 2001, all local Kent Conservative Party Associations have received £1.1 million of donations, from 344 donors, according to the electoral commission.
The Conservative association who has received the most is Folkestone & Hythe Conservatives. Their total of £182,539 received in donations accounts for 17% of all donations made to Kent Conservative Associations, followed by Thanet (North & South), and in third place Dover. These three have received 45% of all donations in the last 20 years.
In deprivation terms these three areas rank highly, yet there is enough money within these districts to ensure that both the local party and MP are returned at each election be it national or local.
Staying with Dover, on Monday 22nd July 2019, the Conservative party suspended the whip from then Dover MP Charlie – Sex Predator – Elphicke, after the Crown Prosecution Service announced he had been charged with three counts of sexual assault against two women.
We note the Dover Conservative Association received two donations, each of £2,000 from Mr Patrick R Evershed (26/11/2019) and Mr David A Freud (14/11/2019), more commonly known as Lord Freud, who later breached parliament’s code of conduct when he and five MPs tried to get senior judges to intervene in a hearing on whether references to support the former MP Charlie Elphicke at his sentencing for sexual assault could be made public.
Moving on we have set out the donors to the local Tory associations. If there is anyone on them you believe we should know about please do drop us a line.
So why do those on the spreadsheets donate locally?
Have they received preferential treatment?
Have they won a tender/contract with a council,
Or have they simply donated because they’re nice innocent people and just want to give money away to their local Tory association? After all political donations are legal.
But it is not just those who donate locally. There are individuals and companies who donate to the central Tory party from Kent.
Between Jan 2016 and Dec 2020, they have sent £5 million in donation to the central Tory Party based in London.
The top ten individuals are:
We happen to believe that overwhelmingly the donors to all political parties are not venal. They are putting their money where their mouths are. Backing the causes they believe in. Or are we being naive?
They say that no good deed goes unpunished.
Just ask Mark Quinn, a highly successful property developer across Kent. He has given in excess of £7 million to various charities associated with autism, sport and health among others. He has also donated £127,000 to both local and national Tory parties. There is no “conflict of interest” in any of what he has done, as donations are perfectly legal. Yet he is traduced.
Sir Roger De Haan has given away hundreds of thousands of pounds, if not millions through the Roger De Haan Charitable Trust. He has redeveloped the seafront and harbour arm with his money, yes some has been public, but that had to be match funded. Yes, he and his wife have donated £261,000 to both the local and national Tory party, all legitimately and above board. Yet he is traduced.
And Leo Griggs has donated a £1,000 pound plus to his local Tory party and become the chosen one to build council homes for the local district council. Did the donation help secure the contract to build the council homes, or is he offering a price nobody else can match? Again he has been traduced.
So if donations give the perception of currying favor locally and nationally, what is the alternative?
It is right that there is transparency for large donations such as those above and that the media should be free to scrutinise and report on them. However we should not forget cynicism is a human failing that can not easily be overcome.
Many in the public rightly feel that politics is a rich person’s game. One way to counter that is to reduce the power of money in politics. But like Saint Augustine, British politicians often say they are all for probity. Just not yet. Until they are, a little bit of money at local and national will continue to go a very long way.
The Shepway Vox Team
Dissent is NOT a Crime