​Party of the rich? Almost 50% of Tory donors are hedge fund managers – research

Britain's Prime Minister David Cameron (Reuters / Toby Melville)
The ruling Conservative Party is unlikely to shake off its image of being the ‘party of the rich’ as recent data shows nearly half of its donors come from wealthy hedge funds.

The analysis, which was put together by the opposition Labour Party, showed how nearly 50 percent of donations to the Conservatives were linked to big business in the City of London, effectively acting as an unofficial lobby group.

According to the data, 27 of the party’s major donors featured in the Sunday Times “rich list,” and have donated more than £19 million during this election cycle. The news comes in spite of warnings from Tory leaders that the Conservatives are still too close to Britain’s elite.

The research will provide Labour leader Ed Miliband with ammunition to use against Prime Minister David Cameron in the months leading up to the general election, particularly following a week of criticism in which Labour was accused of being “anti-business” and not fit for government.

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The criticism came after Boots boss Stefano Pessina, who is worth an estimated £7.5 billion, said the Labour leader’s policies would have a “catastrophic impact” on commercial activity in the UK.

“David Cameron is debasing political debate by refusing to answer questions over his hedge fund backers,” Labour’s vice-chair of its election campaign, Lucy Powell, told the Guardian. “This research shows just how reliant the Tories’ campaign is on those in the hedge fund industry.”

“While Labour would clamp down on tax avoidance by hedge funds in order to deliver investment to the NHS frontline, the Tories have given hedge funds a tax cut worth £145 million. The Tories are standing up for those at the top rather than hardworking families, and David Cameron doesn’t want to admit it.”

The report has a strong correlation with analysis conducted by the Financial Times last year, which found the City’s support for the Conservatives had doubled compared to the period between 2005 and 2010.

FT analysis additionally found that 35 percent of Conservative Party funding came from eight elite business people in the City, who have, to date, donated £12.2 million to the party.

Earlier this week, Miliband attacked the prime minister for failing to tackle tax avoidance by hedge funds, which the party believes costs the UK more than £100 million a year.

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“Everyone pays stamp duty on stock market transactions except hedge funds, who are allowed to avoid it, costing hundreds of millions of pounds. You have been funded to the tune of £47 million by the hedge funds,” Miliband said during this week’s Prime Minister’s Questions.

While the Conservatives are likely to continue courting wealthy donors and businesses, the party is also resorting to social media to shore up its voter base.

On Thursday, the BBC revealed the Conservatives were spending £100,000 a month on Facebook to promote election-driven social content aiming to re-elect David Cameron.