£1 million donation for Lib Dems helps party oppose Brexit

As a member of the Party’s Federal Board and Federal Finance and Resources Committee, I knew that the party were to receive a £1 million donation. We were not told who had donated it. We were told that we would only find out along with everyone else when it was published by the Electoral Commission – which it will be on Thursday. However, the FT has the inside track and has this story today:

The donation from Greg Nasmyth, whose family made its fortune from Argus Media, the energy information business, will be reported on Thursday when Electoral Commission figures are published. It comes as the Lib Dems gain momentum as an anti-Brexit party, committed to advocating a referendum on the terms of Britain’s departure from the EU. Mr Nasmyth is understood to have been motivated by the party’s position on the EU and also on green issues. He agreed the donation in July, soon after the Brexit vote. It was finally made in October in the run-up to the December by-election in Richmond Park, where the Lib Dem candidate ousted the Brexit-backing millionaire Zac Goldsmith.

Securing this donation is an excellent achievement by the Fundraising team at party HQ. They will need to bring in substantially more than this very generous donation if the party is to properly oppose Brexit. Labour are clearly not interested in standing in the Government’s way. The Liberal Democrats are unique in British politics – a UK wide party which opposes brexit in general and Theresa May’s Brexit Max in particular with every fibre of its being. We have a great message and talented and innovative campaigners. What we need are the resources to deliver that message to the people on an unprecedented scale for us. That is the challenge for party Treasurer Mike German and the fundraising team at HQ. 

We actually need to change the culture in the party about asking for money. We need to take lessons from those who have been very successful raising money for their own campaigns – Jo Swinson was one of the best, as was Edinburgh Western MSP Alex Cole-Hamilton. We tend to be too reticent about asking and we urgently need training and support so that party representatives at all levels feel confident about how to do it and to be aware of all the diligence and legal requireents that apply in these matters.

You can’t fuel a co-ordinated, national campaign on passion and fresh air. We will need more money than we have ever had before to do it properly.

* Caron Lindsay is Editor of Liberal Democrat Voice and blogs at Caron's Musings

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22 Comments

  • Lorenzo Cherin 1st Mar '17 - 2:03pm

    Is the party trying to oppose Brexit , in which case why does Tim say he respects the result of the referendum ? It is that we are advocating a soft Brexit rather than hard.

    He now seems to be arguing for a constructive approach , a referendum on the outcome of the negotiations with the possibility of saying , no , the electorate would prefer to stay in the EU.

    That is not the same as a million pounds to help us oppose Brexit.

    With UKIP in a mode of literally destruction as far as winning elections, and Labour so odd a party of opposing forces, this is a time for this party to be radical and, importantly, more so, moderate.

    The country cries out for the need of a mainstream party.

    The million pounds should be utilised more constructively or described more subtly .

  • Catherine Jane Crosland 1st Mar '17 - 2:45pm

    I agree with Lorenzo’s comments. The official policy of the “referendum on the deal” is, theoretically at least, not meant to be about opposing Brexit, but just about giving the public the final say on the deal. This should mean accepting the public’s decision if they decide to accept the deal. In practice, I suppose we all know the “referendum on the deal” policy is really about trying to oppose Brexit, but that is not how Tim Farron has been trying to present it.
    Is it up to the party how the money is spent, or must it all be spent specifically on opposing Brexit? If the latter, then I can’t help feeling a bit worried that this seems to be a case of a wealthy donor dictating party policy. Sorry to sound negative – it was obviously a generous gift, but it does seem to raise a number of questions.

  • Catherine Jane Crosland 1st Mar '17 - 3:31pm

    Following my last comment – reading the article again, it sounds as if the donor just made a generous donation to the party, not necessarily saying it must be used to oppose Brexit. So why describe it as “a million pounds to oppose Brexit”? Surely the party should be campaigning on many issues.

  • I’m not sure whether Lorenzo is a radical moderate or a moderate radical, but I certainly share his caution about accepting large sums from a multi-millionaire. I would look for an assurance that he who pays the piper won’t be calling the tune. Remember Michael Brown ?

    Before we get too impressed, let’s remember the banner heading in the title at the top of LDV,

    “The most-read independent website by and for Lib Dem supporters. Not paid for by trade unions or millionaires”.

    Can we also have a guarantee that the next tranche of Lib Dem Peers (if there ever is one) won’t contain a Lord Nasmyth.

  • Leekliberal 1st Mar '17 - 8:26pm

    Are we the only political party on the planet who when given £1 million to promote our ideas has it’s members agonising about accepting the cash? Money from donors can be given for all sorts of reasons but it is for us to decide how to spend it. I expect more large donations to us from those entrepreneurs who like us understand how disastrous May’s hard brexit will be for our economy. The donations will make it possible for us to challenge and possibly replace the hapless Labour Party so that the Tories will at last have to face an effective opposition!

  • @ Leek Liberal I’m not agonising in the least, Mr Leek, and your naive enthusiasm and ambition to turn 9 into 250 does you credit.

    It’s just that some of us remember the embarrassment caused by Michael Brown (remember him ?) ; feel quite strongly that party policy s not for sale ; and from experience are wary of patronage and seats for sale in the Lords.

  • Nonconformistradical 1st Mar '17 - 9:18pm

    “It’s just that some of us remember the embarrassment caused by Michael Brown (remember him ?) ; feel quite strongly that party policy s not for sale ; and from experience are wary of patronage and seats for sale in the Lords.”

    We might also remember that Paddy Ashdown, when party leader, turned down the offer of a £1m donation from Mohamed Al Fayed

  • The party tightened up its processes markedly after Michael Brown – though the Electoral Commission, in what is probably the most investigated donation ever, has never AFAIK said that the party didn’t deal with things correctly.

  • I fully welcome this donation and the way that Caron has reported it. In the ideal world Parliament would have imposed a £10k limit on donations (as I believe was recommended by the Committee on Standards in Public Life) and introduced a higher level of public funding for political parties. We don’t live in an ideal world and the other major Parties have far more funding than we do. We therefore need more donors like Greg Nasmyth making major donations from £10,000 upwards – people who are supporting us because they believe in the general thrust of our policies. We certainly need donors like this in the West Midlands to support Beverley Nielsen’s campaign to be Metro Mayor. Getting our message out to 2 million voters is tough with limited funds and what support she is getting is substantially around her support for a soft Brexit.
    I have every confidence that Mike German and the HQ team are doing proper due diligence on those from whom they are accepting donations, and that the donation policies they share with donors make it clear that details of Party policy are “not for sale”.

    (I should declare that I have worked as a fundraising consultant for the last 25+ years and am currently Chair for Fundraising in the West Mids region.)

  • Michael Cole 2nd Mar '17 - 11:21am

    @David Raw who comments “Mr Leek, and your naive enthusiasm and ambition to turn 9 into 250 does you credit.”

    Yet again you use cheap sarcasm to belittle someone that you don’t know and have never met. Please show a little more respect to other contributors.

    There is nothing naive about aspiring to replace the hapless Labour Party.

  • Nigel Jones 2nd Mar '17 - 11:21am

    John Kelly is right to say our policies are not for sale. We also need to build local parties with more activists; we must not become a top-heavy party; we need solid local bases.

  • @ Michael Cole Michael, it’s impossible to know someone who shelters behind an anonymous title, but they shouldn’t be too surprised if they get a response when they accuse others who do give their names and do have genuine concerns about large donations of ‘agonising’.

    As to replacing the Labour Party, I’ve been living in hope since I first heard Jo Grimond say that in 1961…….. but let us hope..

  • Peter Watson 2nd Mar '17 - 1:37pm

    I understand the concerns about huge donations from wealthy people, and party members will certainly have to temper the way they talk about funding and donations for other parties, but if it is any comfort, this website (https://www.gregorynasmyth.com/) suggests that in this case the donor has a lot of concerns with which Lib Dems would empathise.

  • I’m happy to say – FANTASTIC!

    I’m struggling to accept the negative approach some may take to this – being happy about funding doesn’t mean you can’t be careful and wishing due diligence at the same time. (we were found innocent, remember, in the as mentioned).

    I’m really hopeful that we can put this to good use and I have faith in our HQ that this can happen.

    I echo the comments about that calling people “naive” and making up numbers that someone didn’t say is not helpful.

    Constructive, challenging debate always welcome. As is consideration of other’s welfare and using language carefully.

  • Leekliberal 2nd Mar '17 - 7:57pm

    Michael Cole says ‘Please show a little more respect to other contributors.’ re David Raw’s comment on my contribution. In thanking him for that, could I say that as someone who regularly reads David Raw’s well thought out comments, I believe his words were kindly meant.

  • @ Leek Liberal. That is very generous of you. Thank you.

  • David Sheppard 4th Mar '17 - 7:48pm

    I hope this money is used to target council seat effort.Please give a large chunk to ALDC to use in target seats.Please don’t throw it away on billboards!

  • If you knock out that £1million donation then the party raised about £150m more than in the comparable quarter in 2015 but quite a bit less than the comparable period in 2012/13. Though the General election will have skewed any figures for 2014 and I suspect the 2015 figure.

    Genuine question though – why the secrecy. This is (a) good news and (b) something that will be made public anyway. Why wait until someone else reports it?

  • £ 150 million ?

  • Peter Watson 5th Mar '17 - 10:16pm

    @Hywel “Why wait until someone else reports it?”
    I suspect that a quote in the original article answers this question: “It [the donation] was finally made in October in the run-up to the December by-election in Richmond Park, where the Lib Dem candidate ousted the Brexit-backing millionaire Zac Goldsmith.”

  • Interesting revelations about the £1m donor and his anti-Semitic views in Guido today.

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