Are the big Tory donors running away from David Cameron? The Times reports that many of the major backers have held back on coughing up funds, as a result of their dissatisfaction with Cameron’s leadership:
‘Some donors have told The Times that they are pessimistic about the next election. Other donors complain about government disarray, lack of action on the economy, irritation at gay marriage plans and the party’s stance on bonuses and bankers. Boris Johnson is attracting some interest from the donor community, according to two of them.’
So far, the Tories are £1.28 million down on the same period in 2011. But it is the depleted income from Lord Ashcroft, Michael Spencer, Lord Harris and Michael Hintze that is most apparent. The graph below shows how donations from the big guns have changed over the past few years:
However, this depleted level does not necessarily mean these donors have lost faith in Cameron entirely. The figures quoted for 2012 are only for Q1 and Q2, leaving six months left for the funds to roll in. No doubt many of his backers will be watching this autumn’s proalition love-in to see if Cameron has rediscovered his mojo and whether this is enough to throw their weight behind him once again.
The reference point in the electoral cycle for these figures is 2007 — two years into the last parliamentary session. However, this bears little relation to where the Conservative Party stands now. The Tories were in opposition and their popularity was on the rise. They also had a different chairman, before Eric Pickles joined the Cabinet. This was also before the financial crisis and the numerous donation scandals that have made being a major donor so much more arduous.
But most significantly, it was the year of the ‘election that never was’. Gordon Brown was riding high with a nine-point lead and presented the first serious threat to David Cameron with rumours of a snap election. There was plenty of cause to line the party’s treasure chest.
It is easy to see why donors might be uneasy about the government’s policy direction at present. Many of the policies listed above — gay marriage, bankers, bonuses — are not what Ashcroft, Spencer et al gave their money for. But thankfully for Cameron, he still has two years (and no heir apparent) to bring them back into the tent.Tags: Conservatives, David Cameron, Donations, UK politics