Ms Joan LB Edwards: the mystery donor who bequeathed £99,423 to the Lib Dems – our 20% share as “the party of government of the day”

Chris Harlow and James Waterson at City A.M. has the bizarre story:

Eyebrows were raised this morning when it was revealed that the top individual donor to political parties in the second quarter of the year was one “Ms Joan L B Edwards” who gave the Conservatives £420,576 and the Lib Dems £99,423.

Ms Edwards has not shown any particular interest in politics in the past so onlookers immediately wondered whether she was spurred into action by the coalition’s success.

But City A.M. can reveal that it is actually the result of a bizarre bequest. Ms Edwards recently died and a mole says the money was left “to whoever was the party of government of the day”.

The coalition complicated matters but it was agreed that the donation would be split between the Lib Dems and the Conservatives based on the number of MPs and cabinet ministers they both have.

So had she passed away while Labour were in power, they would have received the full £519,999.

Some £520k to whoever was in the right place at the right time: truly, a roulette bequest.

I wonder if this windfall for the Lib Dems is at all related to the “late receipt of a bequest” to which the party ascribed its £410k deficit last year? (See my report here for details.) If yes, then — generous as this £99k is — it wouldn’t have made much of a dent in it. And it’s not the kind of donation we’re likely to get two years running. [Update: David Allworthy, in a comment below, says it's not.] As I noted then: “legacies are by their very nature unpredictable: it’s not something we can rely on this year. Ideally the party needs to break even on its regular incomings/outgoings and then be able to use windfalls for investment.”

* Stephen Tall is Co-Editor of Liberal Democrat Voice, and editor of the 2013 publication, The Coalition and Beyond: Liberal Reforms for the Decade Ahead. He is also a Research Associate for the liberal think-tank CentreForum and writes at his own site, The Collected Stephen Tall.

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17 Comments

  • David Allworthy 13th Aug '13 - 2:31pm

    Correct Stephen the Edwards legacy was not the one referred to in last years accounts. If I gave you the clue that we had now received £300,000 in two installments in Quarter 1 and Quarter 2 this year you could probably work out which one it is.

    David

  • Sounds quite a windfall, David!

  • This sounds like a very bizarre wish to leave this money to the governing party of the day.

    I wonder if the lady actually meant that it was her wish to leave the money entirely to the “government” and not the “governing party” but it was not worded properly.

    Who know’s, but it is all very odd

  • Clear Thinker 13th Aug '13 - 7:07pm

    Why would the party invest?

  • Martin Pierce 13th Aug '13 - 8:54pm

    First past the post does us in again! If it had been split according to votes cast between the governing parties we would have got £208,000

  • Except reports suggest her will intended the recipients to be the government of the day not the governing political party. Sounds like a grasping willful misinterpretation to me….

  • @simon presumably her executors were pretty clear it wasn’t to go to the government but to the parties otherwise they wouldn’t have handed over the money to them.

  • Andrew Noblet 14th Aug '13 - 10:37am

    I wonder how the terms of theWill were actually worded. Given the amount I would have thought the donors solicitor would have firmed up the wording for clarity. I would interpret it as a gift to the state rather than the political parties involved in the running of the Government. In a sense all elected political parties have a role in government. Her Majesties Loyal opposition included.

  • “legacies are by their very nature unpredictable: it’s not something we can rely on this year. Ideally the party needs to break even on its regular incomings/outgoings and then be able to use windfalls for investment.”

    It’s not something I know a lot about but I would have thought that a managed legacies programme would produce a broadly regular income when averaged over a few years. Obviously there might be peaks an troughs within that but there are plenty of bodies who have large legacy programmes and they must be able to make some broad projections.

  • Details of making bequests to the party (which I assume and hope include a suggested unambiguous wording!) are at:
    http://www.libdems.org.uk/legacyfund.aspx

  • Peter Watson 15th Aug '13 - 9:38am

    @Hywel
    I love the idea of a “managed legacies program”. I have images of Lib Dems systematically culling wealthy benefactors in order to regulate the cash flow. :-)

  • Not QUITE what I was meaning :-)

  • “The role of the executors, in this case two solicitors, is to read the will and do what it says. The beneficiary simply receives the cheque.”

    That’s just a bit too easy, though. In general, if you are paid money which by rights belongs to someone else, as a result of an error by a third party, and if you believe that an error has been made, then you have a legal obligation to get that error corrected. If you don’t try to get it corrected then you may be guilty of a criminal offence.

    Did the parties believe an error had been made? If not, why have they now repaid the money?

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