“Government policy is in no way influenced by donations the party receives – they are entirely separate.”

Amanda Milling, letter to Anneliese Dodds [Letter]

August 2, 2021

Facts

In July, 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.”

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.

Just a month before, members of the tory party Advisory Board were among those present for an exclusive gathering on June 28 at the Kensington home of Rishi Khosla, a Tory-supporting banker. Ben Elliot, co-chair of the party, hosted a drinks party at Khosla’s home at which Johnson mingled with leading donors. Mohamed Amersi, a businessman and Tory donor, told the Financial Times that in order to be part of the club, “one needs to cough up £250,000 per annum or be a friend of Ben”. A person with knowledge of the Advisory Board said that although giving £250,000 did not guarantee membership it was essentially “a donors group”.

A study for Open Democracy published in November 2021 found “that  Since the Conservatives came to power in 2010, successive Prime Ministers have elevated nine of the party’s former treasurers to the Lords. Each of those appointed since 2014 has donated at least £3m.In total, 22 of the party’s biggest donors have been made lords in the past 11 years. Together they have donated some £54m to the Tories.”

Verdict 

This assertion that government policy “is in no way influenced by donations”  is a very big statement from then Conservative Party co-chair Amanda Milling. It seems intrinsically unlikely that the very rich donate to the Conservative from disinterested motives, but perhaps they do. No one has ever produced hard, incontrovertible evidence to prove that government policy is influenced by massive donations from very rich men and until someone does, we must take Milling’s claim at face value, while continuing to treat it with scepticism.

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