Political party donations in Cornwall: all is revealed

The media recently reported the reliance of the Tory Party on hedge funds, the financial sector and loot from the super-rich, while Labour continues to be dependent on the big trade unions. Both parties attracted large donations in the final quarter of 2014 and the run-up to the election. Their £8 million each in that quarter compared with a surprisingly high £3 million for the Lib Dems, £1.5 million for Ukip, just £250,000 for the Greens and a pitiful £5,000 for the SNP.

But, as the Westminster parties set about trying to buy the electorate over the next couple of months, how much money is being given directly to the local parties in Cornwall? All donations to a constituency party above £1,500 have to be reported to the Electoral Commission. The following analysis is based on details of donations provided on the Commission’s website for 2014 and the first few weeks of 2015.

Here’s the overall picture by party and constituency.

Donations of £1,500+ Jan 2014-Feb 2015 (£000s)

Camborne/
Redruth
North Cornwall South East Cornwall St Austell/
Newquay
St Ives Truro/
Falmouth
Total
Conservatives 2.0 none 15.0 19.2 5.0 none 41.2
Lib Dems 16.1 none none 12.5 7.0 5.0 40.6
Labour 119.0 none none none none 4.1 123.1
Greens/MK/Ukip none none none none none none none

As the Greens and MK rely on crowdfunding we can see why the three Westminster parties don’t need to bother with such small stuff. Nonetheless, there are interesting differences between the three neo-liberal, centr[al]ist parties. For instance, 60% of Tory donations came from outside Cornwall. The United and Cecil Club gave £5,000 to Steve Double’s campaign in St Austell and Newquay and another £5,000 to Derek Thomas at St Ives.

This organisation is described as ‘low profile’ and is registered at a stables in Iver, Bucks run by a former tobacco lobbyist. It’s also the bunch that organised a recent Tory fundraising bash in Knightsbridge, estimated to have raised at least £100,000 from the assorted super-rich who attended. Basically, it’s a conduit for channelling cash to Tory marginals, in the process providing some anonymity for its donors.

Steve Double has also been boosted by another £4,187 from the Tandridge Club, another shadowy organisation based in Surrey and one with presumably the same function as the United and Cecil Club. The rest of the useful Tory war chest of £19,200 at St Austell and Newquay came from local Tories at Fowey, which is increasingly resembling Surrey on Sea.

While Sarah Newton at Truro and Falmouth and Scott Mann at North Cornwall received no large constituency donations last year, George Eustice at Camborne and Redruth was grateful for £2,000 from FalFish, of Cardrew Industrial Estate, Redruth. Meanwhile, over in in South East Cornwall Sheryll Murray was also funded directly by business. In her case, she received £5,000 from the Offshore Group of Newcastle (north of Bude), a firm involved in offshore oil and gas and renewable energy. The rest of her donations came from the Torpoint Unionist Club with individuals John Cotton and Timothy Rice chipping in £2,500 each. Can this be the lyricist Tim Rice, Cornwall’s richest ‘resident’, with an estimated wealth of £150 million and a house on the Lizard?

What about the other wing of the coalition Government, the Lib Dems? Only Andrew George at St Ives has received a donation direct from business. He got £2,000 from the Chadwick brothers of Falmouth, who own the fashion firm Seasalt. There was another donation to his campaign in the shape of £5,000 in the name of Joanna Crocker.

Other Lib Dem candidates, while funded overall almost as well as the Tories, seem to be dependent on individuals rather than businesses or organisations. Or at least that’s the impression of the database. Julia Goldsworthy at Camborne and Redruth was the focus of the highest amount last year, with John Howson, Ian Wright, Neil Sherlock, Ray Hancock and Leigh Ibbotson listed as her donors. Leigh Ibbotson, presumably the property developer and investor and holiday park owner of that name based at Truro, also gave £5,000 to Simon Rix’s campaign in Truro and Falmouth. But Dan Rogerson and Phil Hutty in the east received no donations in this period.

Curiously, in St Austell and Newquay, in order to counter the challenge from the Tory funders from south east England, Steve Gilbert seems to be digging into his own pocket to the tune of £3,600. This was boosted by £8,873 (with some in kind as ‘premises’) donated in the name of Joanna Kenny, Lib Dem Cornwall Councillor for Newquay Pentire. This (and other) donations could possibly originate in local Lib Dem organisations. It’s unclear from the records.

But the really big money locally seems to be flowing to the Labour Party. Or more precisely one Labour candidate – Michael Foster at Camborne and Redruth. His campaign has benefited from £119,120 of donations over the past year, £42,727 to pay for ‘administrative services’ and £76, 392 described as ‘other’, maybe including payment for the rather well-produced newspapers which have been regularly falling onto local doormats over the past few months.

This money all comes from Fostermco Ltd, whose sole director is – you’ve guessed it – media entrepreneur and millionaire Michael Foster. The company appeared to have had a paid up capital of ten pence in June 2014. The other recorded donation for a Labour candidate in this period was in Truro and Falmouth, where £4,100 was given by the Red Rose Club of Truro and Neil Morson. But at present Labour has no candidate in this constituency. Perhaps they should hand over the cash to neighbouring Camborne and Redruth and really try to buy that constituency.

Update
Leigh Ibbotson is chair and fundraiser for Truro/Falmouth Lib Dems.
Ray Hancock is Lib Dem party secretray for Camborne, Redruth & Hayle

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