In July 2021, the Financial Times revealed the existence of the Tory party’s “Advisory Board”, a secretive club for major donors that holds regular meetings with Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Rishi Sunak, the chancellor. The club, some of whose members have given at least £250,000 to the party, was developed as a means of connecting major Conservative backers with its top figures. The group does not feature in any party records or official paperwork.
Anneliese Dodds, chair of the Labour party, wrote to Amanda Milling, calling on the party to publish membership of the Advisory Board and to explain its purpose and how it interacts with government.
Amanda Milling, co-chair of the Tory party, responded that “all political parties raise money and accept donations in order to pay their staff and campaigns in elections”. In a letter to Dodds, she did not address the Advisory Board, its members or purpose, but insisted the party’s financial backers did not influence policy.
She said: “Government policy is in no way influenced by donations the party receives — they are entirely separate. Any donation made to the Conservative party is properly and transparently declared to the Electoral Commission and published by them.”
When Tory Party co-chair Amana Milling made this remark the Electoral Commission was investigating whether the Conservative Party had properly declared a donation made in connection with the refurbishment of the Downing Street flat. The following December it concluded it had not. The Electoral Commission stated: “Our investigation looked at whether any transactions relating to works at 11 Downing Street fell within the party finance regime regulated by the Commission and whether any such transactions were recorded and reported as required.
“The evidence showed that the Conservative Party received a donation of £67,801.72 from Huntswood Associates Limited in October 2020 – £52,801.72 of which was to cover the cost of three invoices relating to the refurbishment of Downing Street. £15,000 was reported as a donation in the party’s Q4 2020 donation report; the remaining £52,801.72 was not.
“Our investigation concluded that the full amount of the £67,801.72 was a donation and should have been reported to the Commission. We also concluded that the reference to the payment made by the party for the refurbishment in the party’s financial records was not accurately recorded.”
Amanda Milling, co-chair of the Conservative Party, misled Labour’s Annaliese Dodds when she told her that “Any donation made to the Conservative party is properly and transparently declared to the Electoral Commission and published by them.” The Electoral Commission later concluded that the funding of the refurbishment of Boris Johnson’s Downing Street flat had not been properly and transparently declared by the Conservative Party. We approached Ms Milling to discuss this verdict, but her office did not reply.