Tories who won Welsh target seats received ‘dark money’ donations
More than half of donations received by new Conservative MPs in Wales came from secretive fundraising clubs based in the south-east of England.
Six of the nine new Conservative MPs elected in Wales received a combined 15 donations totalling £53,750, according to the new register of MPs’ interests.
The source for 55% of that sum (£29,750) was a network of clubs and funds used by the Conservative party to allow rich supporters to donate money anonymously which is usually targeted at candidates in marginal seats.
The funding is legal but transparency campaigners have called for a change to the rules so that the origins of political donations are revealed.
James Davies, who won the Vale of Clwyd from Labour’s Chris Ruane, received the highest number of such donations of any of the new Welsh Conservative MPs.
He received £2,500 from the political committee of the Carlton Club, a further £2,500 from the Association of Conservative Clubs and two donations worth £3,500 from the United and Cecil Club.
Both the Carlton Club and United and Cecil Clubs are unincorporated associations which don’t have to register gifts made to them with the Electoral Commission under the value of £7,500.
Virginie Crosbie (Ynys Môn) and Sarah Atherton (Wrexham) both won their seats and received a £3,500 contribution each from the United and Cecil Club, described by the Bureau of Investigative Journalism as “an organisation registered at a stables in the Home Counties” which “is playing an increasingly crucial role in funding election bids in the most tightly contested constituencies”.
They were among 36 successful candidates who shared a pot of £113,500 in anonymous donations from the United and Cecil club at this election, according to a new investigation by Open Democracy.
Craig Williams, who took the Montgomeryshire seat of retiring Glyn Jones, also received £5,000 from the Association of Conservative Clubs, which is a limited company that represents unincorporated associations across Britain.
Fay Jones, who won Brecon and Radnorshire, received £5,000 from the Stalbury Trustees via a Mayfair based law firm.
She was one of 26 successful candidates to receive £116,000 from the Stalbury Trustees, according to Open Democracy.
Companies House records show that Stalbury Trustees has four directors: the Seventh Marquis of Salisbury, the Seventh Earl of Verulam, Lord Charles Cecil and stockbroker David Barnett.
Rob Roberts, who won Delyn from Labour, received £4,250 from the Tandridge Club based in East Surrey. The club also donated to the successful Tory candidates in Colne Valley and Ashfield.
Simon Barnes (Clwyd South), Robin Millar (Aberconwy) and Jamie Wallis (Bridgend) were the three successful Conservative candidates in Wales who haven’t registered donations from such sources.
Steve Goodrich, head of research at Transparency International, told Open Democracy: “Unincorporated associations make it far too easy for those shy of publicity to withhold their names from public view.
“Whilst this may be within the current rules, it also shows the rules aren’t achieving their aim: providing transparency and probity over the origins of money in politics.”