David Cameron’s fundraising takes place in secretive opulence amongst the world’s super rich. This week we saw the extent of his reliance of those who operate in a different world to hardworking families concerned with paying their bills.
The Conservative Party has taken a reported £1 million from Russian backers since David Cameron has been leader. In 2008 David Cameron said, ‘Russian armies can’t march into other countries while Russian shoppers carry on marching into Selfridges’, and yet as Russian army marches in to Ukraine he is content to base his re-election campaign on Russian funding.
When David Cameron steps out to play tennis with his wealthy Russian backer his priorities will be clear: he stands up for those who serve his interests.
This has been a defining trend of David Cameron’s leadership.
In the most recent quarter alone hedge fund donors gave £3.27 million to the Tories, either in their own names or through their companies. This takes the total given by major Conservative donors associated with the hedge fund industry to over £43.3 million. In return the top one% of earners have been given a £3 billion tax break, worth an average of £100,000 for those earning over £1 million. George Osborne’s 2013 Budget abolished stamp duty reserve tax on funds, a £145 million giveaway to hedge funds.
David Cameron wants to buy the next election and, without a grassroots movement behind him, has to rely on and reward the privileged few.
Tory membership has halved under David Cameron’s leadership and is plummeting in target and marginal seats. In 2012 the total income of £747,000 from membership fees equated to just 3% of the Conservative Party’s overall income, compared to the Labour Party which received 40% of its income from membership fees and affiliated membership.
The average annual Tory donation from just four Russian individual donors since 2009 has been £34,000, the average from companies with Russian connections has been £76,000, and yet annual Tory membership is £25. Is it any wonder David Cameron is resisting calls to give back his Russian cash? Just one hour playing tennis with President Putin’s former deputy finance minister is worth 6,400 annual membership fees.
David Cameron and his Ministers dine behind closed doors with exclusive and elite donors. In the last quarter this raised £3.19 million. In the preceding three quarters this raised £1.008 million, £1.23 million, and £1.032 million respectively. The Prime Minister should always be above any perception of conflicts of interests and yet David Cameron routinely hosts vested interest at his top table to line the pockets of his party’s campaign fund.
This tells us not just about the state of the Tory war chest but the character of the modern Tory party. They stand up for a privileged few because they depend on them to operate. They are hollowing out on the ground in Britain’s local communities but thriving in the upper echelons of the world’s financial elite. The Tories’ re-election strategy is to spend their way to victory, but while you can buy thousands of glossy leaflets you cannot buy a policy programme that will raise living stands for all.
David Cameron cannot find the long-term solutions to the cost-of-living crisis because neither he nor his backers understand it.
This week Tory money was thrown in to the spotlight. The real revelation is the limitations of an out of touch Tory election strategy.
Jon Trickett is Deputy Chair of Labour Party and Shadow Minister without Portfolio