Buying elections: Party donations skyrocket 100% in 10 years, figures reveal

Reuters / Leonhard Foeger
Almost £100 million was collectively declared by UK political parties in the run up to the new parliament, Electoral Commission figures show, making the 2015 general election the most expensive in history.

May’s election battle sparked a huge swell in political donations to the two main parties, with the Tories raking in close to £38 million and Labour pocketing £32 million.

The rise in donations to British political parties over the last decade is double the rate of inflation.

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Prime Minister David Cameron was attacked by former Labour chief Ed Miliband earlier this year after it emerged he’d accepted large donations from hedge funds. Much of the £15 million donated to the Tories before March came from financial giants.

Labour’s coffers were mostly filled by trade unions, which contributed a large chunk of the £9.3 million the party received over the same period.

The SNP and UKIP took around £1 million each.

Over £100 million of donations were reported to the Electoral Commission by political parties across the board, contrasting from a collective £72 million during the 2010 election showdown.

A relatively meager £44 million was declared during Tony Blair’s conquest against Michael Howard in 2005.

Chief Executive of the Electoral Reform Society Katie Ghose told RT the rise “shows the need for urgent political reform of the party funding system,” adding that it’s “a clear sign that we need to clean up our act.”

“This is a 39 percent increase in donations on 2010, and more than double the donations in the year up to 2005, even with inflation taken into account. This is simply unsustainable – and it’s time we cleaned up this party funding mess before yet another scandal comes along.”

Ghose also warned of the possibility that “2020 will see an even more unscrupulous dash for cash that will drive even more voters away from politics.”

As parties only have to declare donations over £7,500, spending is likely to be much higher than Commission figures indicate.

Concerns may rise over the influence of big business in politics and could spark further debate. Signs suggest, with a Conservative majority government in power, Cameron intends to squeeze potential funding away from Labour.

New legislation could mean trade union members must actively opt-in to paying a political duty.

The owner of Trailfinders travel agents and the founder of Addison Lee taxi firm were among the big spenders for the Tories, while the trade union Unite was Labour’s biggest sponsor.

UKIP took much of its cash from Express Newspapers owner Richard Desmond and businessman Arron Banks, a former Tory donor.

The donation figures show an uncanny rise, despite Cameron’s calls in the past for an end to big money in politics.