UK political party funding updates
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Labour on Sunday called for the Conservatives to publish the names of those involved in the secretive club for Tory donors known as the “Advisory Board”, warning the UK’s ruling party it had “serious questions” to answer about access to the top levels of Boris Johnson’s government.
On Friday, the Financial Times revealed that the board held regular meetings and calls with Johnson and chancellor Rishi Sunak. Some members of the club, which was developed by the Tory co-chair Ben Elliot, have given at least £250,000 to the Conservatives.
According to one donor, the discussions have been used by some of the donors involved in the group to call for public spending cuts and lower taxes.
Anneliese Dodds, Labour party chair, has now written to Amanda Milling, co-chair of the Conservative party, calling on the party to explain the workings of the board and publish a list of government ministers who were involved with the group alongside the names of the donors.
“It is in the public interest for you to clarify the workings of this so-called ‘Advisory Board’ and Mr Elliot’s role in offering a powerful elite exclusive access to the prime minister and chancellor — purely because of their status as Tory party donors,” Dodds wrote in the letter.
“The Conservative party needs to come clean on what access this group had, what they used that access to lobby for, and why it appears that there is one rule for high-ranking Conservatives and another rule for everyone else.”
The Conservatives say the party’s fundraising efforts have no bearing on government policy. “Government policy is in no way influenced by the donations the party receives. They are entirely separate,” a spokesman said in response to the FT’s original story about the Advisory Board on Friday.
“Donations to the Conservative party are properly and transparently declared to the Electoral Commission, published by them, and fully comply with the law. Fundraising is a legitimate part of the democratic process,” the spokesman added.
Labour claims the latest revelations regarding Elliot and the Conservative party’s fundraising operation are part of a series of “lobbying” scandals to engulf Johnson’s government.
The Tories have been under pressure over former prime minister David Cameron’s lobbying of ministers on behalf of the disgraced financier Lex Greensill and his firm Greensill Capital.
An official inquiry concluded last month that Greensill enjoyed a “sometimes extraordinarily privileged” relationship with the UK government despite the Australian financier’s ideas on supply-chain finance providing no obvious benefit to the state.
“The way that Boris Johnson and his friends go about their business seems to be less about what is right and more about what they can get away with”, said Dodds. “There cannot be one rule for high-ranking Conservatives and their friends, and another rule for everyone else.”