Welsh Conservative MPs have now received over £30,000 in so-called ‘dark money’ over the last 12 months after a London-based club gave cash to Wrexham Conservatives as part of a campaign to hold on to former ‘red wall’ seats.
Nation.Cymru revealed in February how over half of the funding for Wales’ newly elected Conservative MPs came from opaque Tory fundraising organisations.
Such funding 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.”
Now the register of MPs’ interests shows that Wrexham MP Sarah Atherton has taken a further £2,500 from one such source, Westminster’s exclusive Carlton Club.
It means six of the nine newly-elected Welsh Conservative MPs have received 11 donations worth £32,250 from organisations who don’t reveal their benefactors.
Ten of those donations came ahead of the general election as Tory fundraising groups poured half a million pounds into marginal seats across the UK.
The latest donation suggests Conservative donors are already turning their attention to helping MPs retain marginal seats won in December.
Atherton is one of six MPs in traditional Labour constituencies won narrowly by the Conservatives in December who registered new donations of £2,500 from the Carlton Club between August 1 and September 14.
Like Wrexham, two of the other constituencies – North West Durham and West Bromwich East – have never been held by the Conservatives. The other three – Wolverhampton North East, Gelding and Northfield – were won by the Conservatives for the first time since at least 1992.
|Name of MP||Amount of ‘dark money’ received||Sources of donations and number of donations|
|Sarah Atherton – Wrexham||£6,000||Calton Club (1)
United and Cecil Club (2)
|Virginia Crosbie – Ynys Môn||£3,500||United and Cecil Club (1)|
|James Davies – Vale of Clwyd||£8,500||Carlton Club (1)
United and Cecil Club (2)
Association of Conservative Clubs (1)
|Fay Jones – Brecon and Radnorshire||£5,000||Stalbury Trustees (1)|
|Rob Roberts – Delyn||£4,250||The Tanbridge Club (1)|
|Craig Williams – Montgomeryshire||£5,000||Association of Conservative Clubs (1)|
As well as attempting to consolidate Atherton’s position, the Conservatives will be hopeful of recreating their Westminster gain by unseating environment minister Lesley Griffiths to win the Senedd seat next year.
While Atherton was obliged to register the donation, the money was paid to the Wrexham Conservative Association who recently advertised for a new organiser.
The money received from the Carlton Club would cover more than half the wage cost of the part-time role.
While Wrexham contains Wales’ ninth most deprived area, the Carlton Club charges £1,542-a-year for membership and has a dress code which bans jeans, t-shirts, trainers and specifies men must wear a “tie (no cravats).”
Atherton has already received two donations worth £3,500 from the United and Cecil Club, which organises fundraising dinners for wealthy Conservative supporters who want to support the party while remaining anonymous.
Both clubs are unincorporated associations, which means they are not obliged to register gifts made to them with the Electoral Commission under the value of £7,500.
Vale of Clwyd MP James Davies has received the highest number of these “dark money” donations among Welsh MPs with £8,500.