The men who bankrolled the Liberal Democrat Leadership campaigns

So, I went looking for the Register of MPs’ Interests earlier today. My intent was not particularly noble. My heart was bleeding to such an extent over Tobias Ellwood’s penury that I just wanted to check if there was anything in there that might help help him out. Bless him, he only had the £3.5k for being in the Territorial Army to help supplement his £90k ministerial salary. His wife is only a corporate lawyer, too. I really don’t know how they manage. And, of course, Tobias is so full of empathy for his fellow poor people that he’s more than happy to walk through a voting lobby and freeze their benefits for four years while he picks up a £7000 pay rise.  Can you hear those violins? But at least he will get more of his money taxed at the lower rate this year, as George Osborne has taken pity on him and made sure that he’s increased the amount he can earn before he pays higher rate tax.

It turns out there’s a brand new Register out, released on Wednesday, so I thought I’d look our lot up. Nothing terribly exciting, except that at least some of the donations to the leadership campaigns have now been registered.

We saw from Norman’s backers that they were heavily party establishment and it’s the same pattern with his donors. Party grandee and treasurer Ian Wrigglesworth’s company gave £5000, Neil Sherlock, former Special Adviser to Nick Clegg was another donor, along with former treasurer Richard Duncalf. Each put in £2k. Norfolk businessman Ardeshir Naghshineh gave £5k.

So, Norman had £14k, but Tim had amassed £25k from a number of sources. The most surprising was Derek Laud. He was the Tory staffer who went on Big Brother a few years ago. He’s since left the Tory party because he said they were racist. His Twitter feed mentions Farron several times. He gave £2000. Liberal Democrat Peer Paul Strasburger, who was so opposed to secret courts which Tim voted against, gave £2,500. Care home chief exec Bhanu Choudrie and his father gave £5,000 each. Laurence Brass, who is a former Treasurer of the Board of Deputies of British Jews who criticised Israel over the plight of the Palestinian people gave £1000. Laurence has been a member of this party for pretty much half a century, was a councillor on Hertsmere Council for a decade and has stood for Europe once and Westminster five times. Long term Liberal Democrat donor Marcus Evans gave £5000. In 2007, I understand that he gave to both the Clegg and Huhne campaigns.

Not one woman is among these donors, which is not particularly surprising given that most of the party’s major donors seem to be men. It does trouble me slightly, though. We need to have more women in every part of the party.

Each campaign also had its own micro-fundraising effort too to help them on the way to the £50,000 expenses limit. The Farron campaign concentrated heavily on materials to members. Their 12 page magazine went to every household and, I have to say, they organised their mail merge data more sensibly than the Lamb campaign, for our household anyway.

This may not be the whole story. There may be other donations which come in the next edition of the register, but it’s interesting so far.

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

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  • I think you should cut out the cheap shots about MP salaries. As far as I’m concerned the gesture politics surrounding this issue is what grates, because the main reason MPs are falling over themselves to say that they will forego the £7000pa pay rise is that they CAN AFFORD THIS SACRIFICE. That is, they are already wealthy enough that they do not need it. It is like the US city Mayors who routinely decline their hefty salaries because they are independently wealthy so for them politics is basically a hobby and they don’t need the money. I actually prefer politicians who admit that they need the money as it shows that they are in the same boat as the rest of us and are not trustafarians like my local MP.

    We have lost sight of why the Chartists demanded MPs be paid. It was so that ordinary professionals could go into Parliament and not lose out financially, considering the loss of career progression as well as earnings. I do not begrudge MPs being paid on a par with senior professionals, because if we didn’t pay them at that level, the only people who would be able to afford to go into politics would be the independently wealthy, in whose interests laws would therefore be made.

    MPs queuing up to say they will forego the salary rise are serious cause for concern, as by doing to they help establish a consensus that any MP or candidate who does not pledge to refuse part of maybe even all of their salary is considered greedy. The consequence of this is we would be back to where we were before MPs started getting paid, as the only people who would be able to afford to make the pledge to forego their salary, as would be required to be seriously considered, would be the super-rich.

    This Dutch auction needs to stop. MPs should let IPSA do their job, and we need to stop making cheap shots at MPs who don’t go along with it.

  • The 2014 SE Euro campaign raised about £240,000 and I can tell you our second and third biggest individual donors were both women.

  • Caron you seem to have a broad definition of “pleading poverty”. Does it include, for instance, someone saying that on his salary he can’t afford to jet off to New York on a whim?

    I didn’t see that as pleading poverty, just as stating the truth, just as I’m saying now I’m not going on holiday this summer because I don’t feel I can afford it (on a similar salary to that person). Are you gong to tell me I’m pleading poverty?

    I don’t actually see anything in what Tobias Ellison wrote as “pleading poverty”. Rather he was saying that (i) his MP’s salary is still less than it would have been had he stayed in his original profession, and (ii) he incurs signific ant unclaimable expenses in his work that further reduce his actual income. An MP’s and even minister’s salary IS much less than what people CAN earn in many professions. Why can’t he say that? And would you turn down an extra £7,000pa? Answer that honestly. I think that anyone who is not extremely wealthy would welcome the extra income. That doesn’t mean they are pleading poverty.
    I do not agree with how he voted on freezing benefits. But it’s a completely separate issue from MP salaries. And what sticks in my throat is MPs saying loudly that they’ll forego the pay rise and pretending that this absolves them from responsibility for low pay rises in other public sector jobs. No it does not, it’s totally irrelevant. It’s gesture politics, and I have more resspect for those who choose to have nothing to do with it.

  • Alex,

    I am a public sector worker, like MP’s. My salary has fallen in real terms by about 14% since 2008, and my pension has just been seriously downgraded. If I had made my decision a little earlier in life I could probably be earning 3 or 4 times as much in industry by now.. I don’t plead poverty though – I am not experiencing poverty, although I would wonder whether I have the spare money to go to Lib Dem conference vs some other activity!

    How I wish I had some pay body to decide I should get 7% more, instead of a bunch of MP’s deciding I need to do my bit for the deficit indefinitely! And how I wish my pension deficit could just be made up by the taxpayer like MP’s!

    There is no shortage of people wishing to be MP’s and so at a time when pay for almost all other public sector workers has been cut for years, they should not have allowed theirs to be raised. Full-stop!

  • John Tilley 19th Jul '15 - 2:24pm

    This is a really interesting article, Caron.

    The bit about funders in the Liberal Democrat Leadership election tells a number of stories and perhaps there is more to come. You have done a real service to Freedom of Information within the party.

    Tim Farron has already drawn attention to the absurdity of appointing Jack (don’t publish Chilcot) Straw to the Cameron Conservative committee to “look at FoI” so it is good that we can point to open information in our own party.

    Derek Laud is indeed a surprising donor.

    The absence of women donors is fascinating. It has always struck me that the party is not short of rich or relatively rich women. Indeed quite a few of them were listed as supporters on the leaflet from Norman Lamb.

    Why were they holding back when it comes to funding the leadership election? Perhaps there is a subject for a PhD study there?

  • Jim Alexander 19th Jul '15 - 2:28pm

    Im struggling to make sense of this – first you have a go at a Tory MP regards MPs wage increases yet our own Lib dem MPs are getting the same wage rise – so exactly why are you making out this is a Conservative Party issue -plus the MP mentioned serves in the Army Reserve – he gets paid – exactly why is that relevant ?

    As for who financed who in the Leadership contest – its implied that Tim is “the man of the ordinary Member” at that the boring Party Machine backers funded Norman and I quote “We saw from Norman’s backers that they were heavily party establishment and it’s the same pattern with his donors”. – seriously exactly what are you trying to achieve with this sort of yah boo nonsense- that the person you and most of the Scottish Exec backed won – hers a News Flash -43% of the Party ordinary members backed Norman – that’s right ordinary Members – Tim won and we get behind him – but articles about who financed who help no one

    Im certainly not “Party Establishment” And I like 43% of the Members backed Norman – so can we stop this nonsense .

  • Richard Underhill 19th Jul '15 - 5:50pm

    “The Farron campaign concentrated heavily on materials to members. Their 12 page magazine went to every household and, I have to say, they organised their mail merge data more sensibly than the Lamb campaign,”

    What 12 page magazine was that?
    We got one page from Tim Farron.
    My wife got a letter from Shirley Williams, supporting Norman Lamb, that I did not.
    If that was sent only to women it may have been a mistake.

  • suzanne fletcher 19th Jul '15 - 10:17pm

    interesting information, thanks.
    it shows how funds can be raised by lots of smaller donations. which is an important lesson.
    not that I would have voted on the basis of who the backers were on the info given here, mind.

  • I didn’t get any leaflets, only a ballot paper!

  • Elaine Woodard 20th Jul '15 - 8:49am

    I totally agree with Alex Macfie. And good on IPSA for pushing these changes through.

  • “he’s more than happy to walk through a voting lobby and freeze their benefits for four years while he picks up a £7000 pay rise”

    I agree about the broad principle but the sneering tone in the first paragraph is not good. This chap is in the Tory Party and they are expected to vote with the Party whether they agree or not. After all, Lib Dem ministers and backbencher also walked through a voting lobby and voted for things which were hard on the poor and the vulnerable and they were defended by people saying ” we had to support the government ” .

  • Anders Hanson 20th Jul '15 - 12:34pm

    When I commented on Facebook that I’d not had any information from either campaign I got the impression that both candidates targeted their mailings rather than sending universal mailings. I did get a postcard from Norman’s campaign in the last week but that was hand addressed and so may have been sent just because I said I’d not had anything. To be fair whilst I was officially neutral there were people in both campaigns who knew who I was supporting so they may have felt there wasn’t much point trying to persuade me.

  • Ed Shepherd 20th Jul '15 - 5:44pm

    If a person cannot balance their books on £90k pa (or £32k pa for that matter) then I am not sure that they should be in any position of responsibilty.

  • Rebecca Tidy 20th Jul '15 - 7:17pm

    Thank you for an interesting blog post Caron!

  • I also agree with Alex. If, lets say, you have dependents, lets say, parents who need care and a couple of children, maybe one with a medical condition where the NHS doesnt provide coverage for a medical device or drugs, or perhaps you have a partner who is disabled, then you could quite easily burn through 70K p.a. Especially if you have a job that forces you to travel a lot and be away from home overnight.
    I dont really care if MPs get paid 100K. What I hate is their being corrupted by second jobs, directorships, post cabinet consultancies where they profit from their own earlier decisions. Even union sponsorship is affecting MPs. We pay judges a lot partly to make them less corruptible, we have to be careful that with MPs we strike the correct balance between making sure they are paid enough to be independent and trying not to pay MPs so much that they lose touch. We do many other things that set MPs apart from the electorate, perhaps some of.them should be rethought. Personally Id have to take a 50% paycut to become an MP. Id still absolutely love to do it because its one of the ultimate ways to serve the country. Given that many MPs are now coming through the volunteer, intern, SPAD route we need to make sure all folk working at Westminster are paid a living wage or we will end up with UK politics almost totally dominated by Londoners.

  • Phil Beesley 20th Jul '15 - 10:38pm

    I don’t have my ballot paper for obvious reasons. Otherwise I have:
    * accompanying letter for ballot paper. It doesn’t clearly say when the ballot closes but asks for money.
    * Shirley Williams’ letter supporting Norman + Norm’s CV (A4 sheet in colour) .
    * Tim Farron’s booklet manifesto (colour A5).
    * An A4 flier for each candidate in colour on nice paper.

    Other people seem to have received different campaign material. But who wouldn’t have imagined targeted campaigns.

  • Alistair,

    Are you saying that £70k per year is not a “living wage”?? Are all those policemen, teachers, lecturers, nurses etc etc etc, who we absolutely rely on in various ways unreliable because they might feel inclined to take second jobs??

    MP’s do still get generous allowances to help them if they live outside London as well.

    Well, tbh I don’t particularly begrudge MP’s their salary. The best MP’s work very hard for it… But if they want that increase they should be prepared to give the same to all the other deserving groups of public sector workers. If that is too expensive they should leave their own pay rises until the money is there for all…

  • And we should have STV so the electorate can easily chuck them out if they start moonlighting or just don’t earn their salary…

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