Tories far outstrip rivals on funding

By Sam Dale

The Conservatives have received well over half of all party donations this year and far more than Labour and the Liberal Democrats combined.

A total of £12,357,714 has been given to the Tories compared with £4,072,432 for Labour and £1,931,147 for the Liberal Democrats.

The Electoral Commission published political parties’ donations and borrowing for January to March 2010.

Fourteen parties published figures totalling £19,260,000 in donations before polling day so the information could be in the public domain.

Five parties received £2,200,000 in public money during the same period.

There were 75 donations amounting to £226,014 reported which should have been reported last year.

Party loans counted just over £15 million at the end of March, overdrafts at over £18 million and guarantees for £945,000.

Political parties are required to report all donations and borrowing over £7,500 to the central party and over £1,500 to an accounting unit.

All donations over £500 must be from a permissible source but the rules have changed from previous quarters so comparisons are not possible.

Peter Wardle, chief executive of the Electoral Commission, said: “Political parties were required to submit donations and borrowing figures for this quarter by 30 April 2010.

“We usually publish this information around 20 working days after we receive it, once we have conducted our usual compliance checks.

“In the interests of transparency, we decided – in consultation with political parties – to bring forward publication on this occasion so that this information is available to voters before the UK general election.

“Because we are publishing the information early, the Commission has yet to carry out the usual compliance checks on returns.”

The Commission is contacting the parties, of which there are two, that did not supply full reports and they may be fined.

During an election parties are required to report all donations weekly and new figures will be released shortly.

Labour minister Douglas Alexander criticised the Conservatives of being funded by millionaire, non-domicile Lord Ashcroft to fund their campaign.

He said: “David Cameron just doesn’t get it. The moment the spotlight stopped being on Lord Ashcroft, the Conservatives started taking his money again.

“William Hague and David Cameron have shifted on when they knew about Lord Ashcroft’s tax status and failed to answer questions about Lord Ashcroft’s role in Conservative foreign policy.

“If David Cameron were to win on Thursday with the help of Lord Ashcroft’s money, we would no doubt find out whether his ‘Invitation to join the Government of Britain’ would be extended to the billionaire from Belize.”

In March this year the Guardian reported that Mr Hague admitted he was wrong to declare Lord Ashcroft would pay “tens of millions” of pounds more in tax.

Lord Ashcroft took his seat in the Lords after agreeing to relinquish his non-domicile status and pay tax in this country with then Tory leader, Mr Hague in 2000.