10 things you might not have known about party political funding over the last decade

The Electoral Commission website is a data-mine of information for those interested in all aspects of party political funding.

For those who’d rather not get their hands dirty doing the mining themselves, below you’ll find 10 interesting (in my opinion) facts I discovered there.

But for those of you interested in excavating further, I’ve uploaded Google spreadsheets of the three main parties’ donations received between 2001 and 2011 (incl.):

And here are those 10 interesting facts I promised you…

1) In total, the Lib Dems raised £33,742,984 in donations from 2001-11. This compares with £173,742,956 for the Labour Party, and £182,418,146 for the Conservatives.

2) The Lib Dems received £19,906,609 (59% of total donations) from 373 gifts in excess of £10,000.

3) In comparison, the Conservatives received £149,834,472 (82%) from 2,632 gifts in excess of £10,000; and the Labour party £156,991,215 (90%) from 1,330 gifts in excess of £10,000.

4) £27,877,979 (83%) of the Lib Dem total was received from 4,325 individuals and 701 corporates by the Lib Dems.

5) In comparison, the Labour Party received £56,556,081 (32% of total donations) from 1,750 individuals and 1,041 corporates; while the Conservatives received £166,052,423 (91%) from 6,798 individuals and 2,938 corporates.

6) The Labour party received £110,087,436 (63% of total donations) from the trade unions between 2001-11. The Conservative party received £53,003,532 (29%) from corporates.

7) Michael Brown’s five donations (totalling £2.45m) via 5th Avenue Partners between February and May 2005 accounted for 7% of the party’s total donations in this period.

8 ) The single biggest gift, other than Michael Brown’s, was £418,700, donated by the Joseph Rowntree Reform Trust Ltd in November 2006.

9) The biggest individual donor is Lord (David) Alliance, who’s given c.£695k, with Lord (Paul) Strasburger (c.£645k) not far behind.

10) The Lib Dems received a total of £15,859,758 from public funds. This compares with £14,048,629 for Labour (which was in government for most of this period), and £44,263,521 for the Tories.

NB: all figures are based on declarable donations counted by the Electoral Commission, the definition of which has changed has changed over the years, and which does not include all donations given to parties.

Note: point 8 originally and mistakenly referred to the Joseph Rowntree Charitable Trust. This was corrected to the Joseph Rowntree Reform Trust Ltd on 25/2/2012.

* Stephen was Editor (and Co-Editor) of Liberal Democrat Voice from 2007 to 2015, and writes at The Collected Stephen Tall.

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  • Richard Dean 25th Feb '12 - 8:33pm

    Interesting to compare these statistics with other numbers. Dividing the numbers in item 1 by the numbers of MPs of the three parties in parliament today, and then dividing by 10 for the ten years of donations, the cost of getting an MP into parliament comes out as

    59k per year for a Liberal Democrat MP
    60k per year for a Conservative MP
    68k per year for a Labour MP

    Consequently, we are the cheapest! To form a government of 326 MPs, it seems that we need to raise 326 x 59k = 19 million per year. Is my math correct?

  • Do these take account of my point in the previous thread that now only donations above £1.5k are published whereas a few years ago

  • Stephen Tall 25th Feb '12 - 10:40pm

    @ Hywel – see the NB at the foot of the post. The figures are based on declarable donations as classified by and published by the Electoral Commission. As you say, that definition has changed over time, though I don’t think it’ll distort very much what’s published here.

  • Caron Lindsay Caron Lindsay 26th Feb '12 - 9:15am

    This is all fascinating stuff – must have taken you ages to go through all this stuff. Thank you for doing it so I don’t have to:-).

    Shows that we really are dependent on individual donations unlike the Labour Party particularly which continues to be heavily funded by the Unions, who then have a huge say in choosing the leader and other Conference decisions.

    What we have achieved over the last 10 years has been quite extraordinary given that we’re doing it on a fifth or sixth of the funds of the others. It just shows the challenge ahead, though.

  • @Steven Tall

    I’m curious as to how you came up with £33 million? if I do a simple sum of col C I get £49 Million, initially I thought you may have been talking about cash donations, but again I get a different figure if I try that (29 million).

  • @Stephen
    I mean of course Col O – sorry

  • @ Stephen Tall

    Sorry, I’ve worked it out now. It is interesting stuff, but it does throw up some questions of how serious the LDP are about reforming donations, e.g.:

    The Rowntree foundation donated 5.6 mil over that period (approx 560k per year), if a Company cap were set at 50k that would cause a massive dent in your funding (a 5 mil shortfall over the same period). Also, The Ministry of Sound Ltd donated 317k over 3 years, that would be halved with a cap.

    You also seem to be reliant on internal donations, if your membership declines badly will that not also cause problems? (again as an e.g. 752 councilors donated over 1 mil in total). What happens if they are voted out?

    On a lighter note, it’s nice to see that the LDP hatred of Tesco and Rupert didn’t deter you from accepting donations from them in the past 😉

  • Chris_sh: The Rowntree money can of course be read as indicating, “Crikey! It shows how committed the Lib Dems are to party funding reform that they’re still pushing a policy which would hit their own finances” 🙂

  • @Mark Pack
    Or of course, why Lib Dems seem to have been pushing the hardest for state funding 😉

  • ‘Richard Dean’ not sure if your mathS is correct or not, but by my mathS that makes us the best value for money, not the cheapest.. it’s important how you tell it..
    and there must be a Telegraph story in item 10, if only they would tell it.

  • @peter “and there must be a Telegraph story in item 10, if only they would tell it.”

    Exactly: just the kind of stat that would be front page news if it were LDs or Labour receiving the 44 million figure.
    How we get exposure for this and many other positive stats past the Tory gatekeepers in the press is crucial. The media team should be vigorously questioned on these matters at next month’s Conference.

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