The Welsh Liberal Democrats lost their only Westminster seat in Wales despite their leader receiving more in donations than any other candidate in the country, Electoral Commission data reveals.
Jane Dodds received £50,229 in donations for her unsuccessful bid to hold the Brecon and Radnorshire constituency – more than double the amount received by Wales Secretary Simon Hart, who registered the second-highest amount of donations in Wales at £20,750.
Just two other candidates across the UK received more in donations than Dodds, Liberal Democrat Sam Gyimah (£70,000), a former Tory minister who defected over Brexit, and UK Conservative party chairman Brandon Lewis (£83,505).
|Jane Dodds – Liberal Democrat, Brecon and Radnorshire||£50,229|
|Simon Hart – Conservatives, Carmarthen West and South Pembrokeshire||£20,750|
|Kishan Devani – Liberal Democrat, Montgomeryshire||£17,886|
|Alun Cairns – Conservative, Vale of Glamorgan||£15,179|
|Mark Williams – Liberal Democrat, Ceredigion||£14,586|
Dodds is likely to have attracted such a high level of financial support because Brecon and Radnorshire was one of the marginal seats targeted by cross-party anti-Brexit campaigners.
Despite that, the Welsh Liberal Democrat leader was nowhere near Wales’ highest-spending candidate.
Dodds spent £12,066 on her campaign, less than 17 other candidates including her local Conservative rival Fay Jones, who won the seat after spending £12,461.
Nation.Cymru reported earlier this month that Conservative Alun Cairns’ was Wales’ highest spending candidate at the election with an outlay of £15,179.
With £38,000 of Dodds’ Westminster war chest left unspent, it raises the prospect of a well-funded Liberal Democrat campaign to hold the Senedd seat being vacated by Kirsty Williams.
The Education Minister fired the starting gun on the campaign by announcing on Tuesday that she will stand down from frontline politics at next May’s election after representing Brecon and Radnorshire since the first Senedd elections in 1999.
“I remain committed to my role in Brecon and Radnorshire and look forward to continuing to campaign with my successor to ensure Brecon and Radnorshire returns a Welsh Liberal Democrat voice,” said Williams.
That party has not yet officially chosen a successor. But as political consultant Ioan Phillips wrote for Nation.Cymru this week: “It would be surprising if it were anyone other than Jane Dodds, the current leader of the Welsh Liberal Democrats.
“Dodds failed to hold the Brecon and Radnorshire Westminster seat at last year’s general election – but she has been in near-permanent campaign mode ever since.”
Any funds left over from the Westminster campaign will help the Liberal Democrats level the playing field against a local Conservative party with significantly more resources at its disposal.
The latest accounts of the Brecon and Radnoreshire Conservatives show they have reserves of £106,000 compared to just £12,387 in the bank account of the local Liberal Democrats.
Donations to and spending by candidates are registered separately to that of political parties at a local or national level.
Not included in the £50,229 received by Dodds was £22,257 received by the Brecon and Radnoreshire Liberal Democrats during the general election year.
That included £5,000 from Matthew Oakeshott, the life peer and businessman who spent over £100,000 on supporting anti-Brexit candidates of different parties at the general election.
The Brecon and Radnorshire Conservatives meanwhile received £25,372 in 2019, including £5,000 in so-called “dark money” from the Stalbury Trustees – part of a network of groups which fund Conservative candidates without revealing the original source of the money.
Candidates also benefit from party spending on items like leaflets sent to voters homes and advertising. Nation.Cymru has revealed that the Conservative spent almost £1 million in Wales at the general election – five times more than Plaid Cymru.
Details of party spending in Wales by Labour and the Liberal Democrats has not yet been published.