Ynys Môn MP Virginia Crosbie has received a substantial donation from one of Britain’s richest families as part of a campaign to keep former ‘red wall’ seats Conservative.
The updated register of MPs’ interests published today reveals Crosbie accepted a £7,500 donation from the Cayzer Trust, a Westminster-based company which manages the vast wealth of the Cayzer family.
It comes on top of £3,500 she received at the beginning of last year from the United and Cecil Club, part of over £30,000 given to six newly elected Welsh Conservatives by ‘dark money’ donors.
Such funding from opaque Tory fundraising organisations is legal but Transparency International says “it shows the rules aren’t achieving their aim: providing transparency and probity over the origins of money in politics.”
The Cayzers, which made their fortune in shipping before moving into financial investments, were ranked in the most recent Sunday Times Rich List as the 172nd richest people in Britain.
They were reported to be sitting on a fortune of more than billion pounds in 2019, but are now worth £819 million.
“The Cayzers have a 48.5% stake in conservatively run City investment trust Caledonia Investments, which traces its roots back to the 19th-century maritime empire behind the Union Castle and Clan shipping lines,” the Times explains.
The family has consistently used its wealth to support the Conservative party.
Electoral Commission records show the Cayzer Trust has directly donated £371,540 to the party and its candidates since 2005.
They also helped the Conservatives come to power through donations worth £178,000 from their finance firm, Caledonia Investments, ahead of the 2010 election.
Most recently, the family’s wealth has been targeted at financing Conservative efforts to win and hold traditional Labour seats.
Crosbie is one of five sitting Conservative MPs in former ‘red wall’ seats to have benefited from £52,000 in donations from the Cayzer Trust in 2020, the register of MPs’ interests shows.
The donations from one of Britain’s richest families don’t sit easily with the image of a ‘blue collar’ Conservative presented by Crosbie.
“I was the first person in my family to stay at school beyond the age of 16. My grandfather was a miner for 47 years and my mother worked in a jam factory,” says the biography on her website.
But Private Eye journalist Solomon Hughes wrote that previous Cayzer Trust donations to Conservatives MPs are “another demonstration that the Tory aim to be the voice of ‘traditional’ Northern blue-collar workers is funded by some very privileged, very rich people”.
Nation.Cymru has previously reported how the exclusive Carlton Club, where the membership fee is £1,542-a-year for membership and has a strict dress code, has also poured £14,500 into helping Wrexham MP Sarah Atherton and Vale of Clwyd MP James Davies.
It was part of £32,500 in ‘dark money’ donations given to Welsh Conservative candidates and MPs by groups which allow rich supporters to support the party without revealing their identity.