Dining Clubs, Donations and Distribution of Funds – an unfair basis for a fair election

The Brighton Argus has published details of who is financing the campaigns in Brighton Pavilion, Brighton Kemptown and Hove, with details of donations going back to 1995.  And it makes quite interesting reading, and requires some questions to be asked.  Who, are what, is the United & Cecil Club?  Or The Winston Churchill Dining Club? Or the Intensive School of English and Business Communication?

The United & Cecil Club makes very generous donations to the campaigns of Conservative candidates Charlotte Vere (£12,000), Simon Kirby (£12,000) and Mike Weatherley (£3,000).  Ms Vere is the poor relation amongst the Tory trio, having raised just £12,000 (although she was only selected late last year).  Simon Kirby  has put over £21,000 of his own money into his campaign but has still enjoyed further support of £17,000 from the Winston Churchill Dining Club.

Mike Weatherley in Hove has received just £2,000 from the Winston Churchill Dining Club, but he has rich friends such as local ‘entrepeneur’ Mike Holland (£5,000), former Tory MP Sir Timothy Sainsbury (you may wish to consider where you do your shopping in future) who has given £7,500, and property developer John D Regan (£5,500).  The biggest personal donation to the Mr Weatherley came from Stewart W Newton (£12,000).

The Lib Dems have received just £6,016 for all three seats, a reflection of their prospects in Brighton and Hove.

Labour’s Simon Burgess has received £33,324, primarily from the Co-operative Party and the GMB Trade Union. Similarly, the majority of Celia Barlow’s £12,495 has come from these two sources and a small donation from the Communication Workers Union.  But what is most significant as far as Labour is concerned is the mere £11,080 donated to Nancy Platts, again from The Co-operative Party, the GMB and £4,500 from Unite. If there was a Pound for Pound comparison for the energy and effectiveness of campaigning, Nancy Platts would win hands down between the three Labour candidates. She deserves to have had the resources channelled to Simon Burgess directed into her campaign.

As for the Greens, they have received £92,914 for their three campaigns.  It is not clear how much has gone into Caroline Lucas’ campaign, but it can be assumed that the majority has gone into Brighton Pavilion.  All the Green’s donations have come from individuals, none from ‘Dining Clubs’.

The Tories have always been funded from shadowy figures, and there remains a lack of transparency.  How much, for example, is being channelled to seats in Brighton and Hove from Lord Ashcroft? Labour candidates have always received funding from trade unions.  Afterall, it was the unions that were largely behind the setting up of the Labour Party.  A little more clarity from the Greens would be welcomed, and a redistribution of campaign funds from Simon Burgess to Nancy Platts would ‘level the playing field’ in Brighton Pavilion.

Overall, this is an unfair situation.  The boys, Kirby, Weatherley and Burgess, have received almost £150,000 between them, while Vere, Platts and Barlow just a total of £37,000.  Lucas is the exception to the rule, but then Brighton Pavilion is that party’s number one (and only?) genuine target seat.

12 Responses

  1. Good article as ever BPB.

    Jonathon Porrit made quite a big donatin to Brighton and Hove Greens recently about £3,000 i think and there’s also been about £8,000 from the Marcus Brigstocke fundraiser. Hope that goes some way to some more info on Green Party funding – you can also see all the big donations on the electoral commission website.

    The other difference between the main parties and the Greens is that the rich can’t buy policies – never mind seets – in the Green Party. Its not possible because of how the party is run. Policy is decided by the members not the rich and powerful.

  2. The Greens aren’t the poor relations they claim to be.

    Even if we split the Green Brighton and Hove funds by a third over the three seats (and we can’t imagine for a moment that that’s the case), Labour is spending just about one third of that sum in Pavilion.

    As a Labour man, I’m thankful for a seriously good, tireless and enthusiastic candidate in Nancy Platts, a committed band of brilliant volunteers and, I think, a fair wind behind us.

    That’s so much more important than cash in my eyes.

  3. There you go again Dan, attacking the Greens and not the Tories.

  4. You’re right BPB, Pavilion is the Greens one and only genuine target seat. Whilst the Greens stand an outside chance in Norwich South, it remains a four-way marginal that is far more unpredictable than Pavilion.

    We can therefore assume that, given Pavilion is a Green target, they will spend the legal amount allowed to win the seat.

    Whilst I in no way wish to attack to bash the unions, we have to remember that Unite is using resources to campaign for Labour, which doesn’t have to be declared to the electoral commission because Unite is not a political party.

    Factoring in Labour’s unaccounted for, non-party campaign expenses from Unite, perhaps there is more of a level playing field in Brighton and Hove than The Argus suggests.

  5. Dear Baps,

    Dining clubs are not the shadowy and untoward organisations you make out.

    I went to the Churchill Dining Club dinner at the Hotel du Vin in Brighton a couple of weeks ago – you many have read that on Twitter. It consisted of about 150 local residents and owners and managers of local businesses who support the Conservatives and get together to have dinner. There is usually a speaker. They pay a small amount to be a member of the club and the surplus is sometimes distributed to candidates.

    Dining clubs are a bit like unions in that they aggregate donations. Dining clubs are unlike unions as they have absolutely no power at all!

    I hope that helps.

    BTW, did the Argus forget to add in central Green funding too? – there is quite a lot there and it is pretty obvious where it will be spent. A large amount of money will be focused on a single seat.

    Best wishes,


  6. BPB: I think you will find that ‘Bearwood Corporate Services’ listed as donors to Hove Tories is the vehicle for the ‘Cashcroft’ donations.

  7. Yup, Neil is quite right. Bearwood belongs to Ashcroft.

    Here is the Observer piece on the battle in Hove: http://bit.ly/cGYlki

  8. What needs further elucidation is the amount that poliitcal parties can spend on an Election and, crucially, when.

    A bizarre aspect of the recent legislation is that parties can only spend so much in the various periods before an Election – even though that Election has not been called. So what would have happened had the parties spent lavishly a year ago, thinking it would be this year, and Gordon Brown had come to and called a snap Election last May?

    I have not seen this discussed in the national press.

    • In response to Christopher, my understanding of political spending is that it is generally a free for all until the election is called, at which points limits of about 10,000 per constituency come in.

      So a party not in power can gamble when the election will be, and spend as much as they want before it is called, if they are correct then well done, but if they are wrong then they’ve buggered up and wasted money (although obviously it will have had some impact).

      The difference this time is that because we are at the end of the electoral cycle, all partys KNOW there must be an election by June 3rd. If there were no limits on what could now be spent then everyone would be spending as much as possible, knowing that it would have an effect on the imminent election. In an effort to prevent this, the last five/six months before the end of the electoral cycle have spending limits (per constituency).

      So the spending limits pre-election-call are an effort to prevent anybody simply buying seats when the election is obviously going to happen.

      I hope this makes sense. I’m not so sure on what limits there are on central spending, but I guess they would follow a similar set up.

  9. Election expense limits laws were changed recently. The first restricted period started on 1st January. There are central spending limits that run into millions but far more restrictive local spending limits.

  10. […] Brighton Politics Blogger has reported on the shortfall in Nancy Platts election funds compared to those of Simon Burgess, the Labour candidate for Kemptown. Given that Simon has a higher profile in the Labour Party than Nancy (just take a peak at Simon’s record), it is no surprise that he has managed to wrestle more money for his campaign away from Nancy’s and Celia Barlow’s (the Labour MP for Hove). […]

  11. Have Tory millionaires Zac and Ben Goldsmith, given anything to the Green Party?

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