Socialist Worker

Who’s behind the Tory leadership hopefuls?

As Boris Johnson and Jeremy Hunt get ready to slog it out Simon Basketter looks at the politics of the Tory members—and who's funding their party

Issue No. 2660

Boris Johnson - funded by bla bla

Backed by CEO's and hedge fund managers (Pic: EU2017EE Estonian Presidency/Flickr)


The least sophisticated electorate available—Tory MPs—has selected Boris Johnson and Jeremy Hunt to stand to be the next leader of the Tory party and prime minister.

The winner will be chosen by the second least sophisticated electorate available—the 100,000-odd Tory party members.

As you would expect for an institution that’s been central to the British establishment for hundreds of years, its election rules were finalised three weeks ago and are to be used for the first time.

In one piece of good news the Tories are a declining bunch. In 1959 there were 2,805,032 party members. Sixty years on that figure is now claimed to stand at 160,000. The true figure is lower but won’t be known till the ballot papers go out.

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The harsh reality is that 0.25 percent of the population will decide who the next prime minister is going to be.

And bizarrely, according to one recent survey, this won’t please them as quite a lot of them—just over 50 percent in fact—want Nigel Farage to be leader.

Partially this is because numbers swelled from 124,000 in August of last year to around 160,000 today—to encourage the election of a “real Brexit Leader” as Nigel Farage put it.

There has been a return of lost Brexit supporters to the Tory party. Though their votes, if not their party subs, are clearly available to Farage’s Brexit Party.

Some 59 percent of Tory members, according to YouGov, would consider losing Northern Ireland as an acceptable trade-off for Brexit.

And 54 percent said the Tory party’s complete destruction would be a price worth paying to leave the European Union.

Significant

Some 61 percent of members believe that “significant damage” to the economy would be worth it if Brexit goes ahead. And some 39 percent would rather Brexit took place even if it led to Jeremy Corbyn becoming prime minister.

More than half of Tory members are at least 55 years old, and 83 percent fit into the top-tier ABC1 social category for earnings.

The ESRC party members’ project offers an insight into the darkness of the Tory party electorate. 

So for instance,Tory members are far more likely to agree strongly with austerity. Just over half approve of capital punishment and just under half think censorship is necessary to uphold moral standards.

Well over two thirds of Tory members would like to see stiffer sentences, compared to just over a third of SNP members and only a fifth of Labour and Lib Dem members.

Only two out of ten members of the other parties think young people don’t have enough respect for traditional “British values”. But eight out of ten Tories think that’s the case.

But then three quarters of this electorate think Boris Johnson would make a good leader.


Follow the money

Jeremy Hunt and Boris Johnson are pretty neck and neck when it comes to recent donations.

At the last publication of the register, Hunt was ahead with £103,944.84 while Johnson had received £102,000 within the last three months.

But Johnson’s total within this parliament is much higher—£234,000 plus another £37,302 when the cost of visits and gifts are included.

RTC Education, an apprenticeship provider, has donated £10,000 to both Tory rivals.


Boris Johnson- backed by CEOs and hedge fund managers 

Johnson’s supporters include the hedge fund managers David Lilley and Jonathan Wood, and Anthony Bamford, the chairman of JCB.

He is also to receive a donation from Peter Cruddas, the founder and chief executive of spread betting firm CMC Markets and a former treasurer of the party.

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Cruddas told of his donation after unveiling an 89 percent collapse in CMC profits to £6.3 million due to a crackdown on City betting.

“I’ll probably be sending Boris some money to help with the campaign,” he said. “I had breakfast with him the other day.”

Johnson’s biggest donation comes courtesy of Wood, a hedge fund manager who has been a regular donor to the party.

His previous political donations have included £500,000 to the Leave campaign in 2016, and then £50,000 to Johnson in October for “office and staffing costs”.

More recently, he has followed that up with an additional £25,000 for Johnson’s campaign.

One of Johnson’s other donors is former Master of the Hunt for the Isle of Wight, Johan Christofferson. Christofferson is very excited by killing foxes and has been investigated for breaking laws around hunting.

Johnson said fox hunting should be made legal in London to deal with urban foxes.

Speaking

Johnson has most frequently been paid for his oratory skills — as much as £94,000 for one speaking engagement.

That was with the New York-based asset management company Golden Tree Asset Management, which specialises in sovereign wealth funds – that is gambling with the assets and money owned by the state.

The Pictet Group, a Swiss-based private bank, paid Johnson just under £30,000 for a speaking engagement in mid-April. It immediately started selling Sterling on the currency markets.

Fund manager Andrew Cole told Bloomberg, “May’s departure is priced in, but I’m not sure the market is ready for Johnson.”


Jeremy Hunt - not exactly 'whiter than white'

Jeremy Hunt is the multi-millionaire whose position on racism in the Tory party is “we have to be whiter than white ourselves”.

Foreign secretary Hunt has received donations from Sir David Ord, the businessman, Andrew Law, a hedge fund manager and Remain backer, and Nadey Hakim, a transplant surgeon.

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Ken Costa, who has donated through his business K J Costa Advisory Ltd and is regularly cited as one of the Tory party’s most powerful backers, has given £10,000 to Hunt’s campaign.

Costa has previously worked on the Songbird board, appointed by Qatar in its attempt to take control of Canary Wharf. He was also key in brokering the deal to sell Harrods to the Qataris.

That success saw Costa appointed as the government’s special representative for Saudi Arabia’s “Vision 2030″ programme. Nice to have the foreign sectary as a friend.

First Corporate Shipping Ltd has also given the foreign secretary a substantial donation.

The company’s directors include Sir David Ord and Terence Mordaunt, both long term Tory donors.

Knighthood

Ord has donated around £1 million to the party and was given a knighthood in 2016 for his “political service and service to the South West”. Another business of his, Bristol Port Company, donated £100,000 to Vote Leave.

His fellow director Mordaunt also donated £50,000 to the Leave campaign. It’s also interesting that Mordaunt is a director of the climate change sceptic group, the Global Warming Policy Forum.

That pro-Brexit money has left Hunt in a strange position with other donors such as hedge fund manager Andrew Law, a staunch Remainer. During the contest so far, he has already been accused of flip-flopping on his stance on leaving Europe without a deal.

Previously he had said Britain could “flourish” without an agreement but now claims leaving without a deal would be “political suicide” for the Conservatives. Too many cheques perhaps.

 


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