Prominent backers are being asked to “double up” on past contributions as the Tories seek at least £26m to fund their campaign, according to one top donor.
It is the job of the party fundraisers “to make sure the petrol tanks of the party engine are full of high octane fuel”, a senior Tory figure said.
Lord Feldman, the party’s co-chairman and James Lupton, co-treasurer in charge of election fundraising have been tapping up some of the City’s wealthiest figures. Mr Lupton has has given the party £1.9m in this parliament.
The Tory duo would typically start raising funds 20 months before the election, aiming to raise £1m a month, rising to £2m a month in the final six months leading up to the May poll, according to one insider.
“Feldman told me they were not in too bad a shape — that’s code for on track,” a senior party figure said.
An analysis by the Financial Times of donations declared to the Electoral Commission during the last parliament and this one highlights a growing dependency on a small number of big donations from City and hedge fund figures, who typically oppose tighter regulation and want to keep taxes low.
The party has also attracted some new non-City big backers. John Griffin, founder of minicab firm Addison Lee, has joined the top 20 donors alongside mobile phone company Lycamobile, while Lord John Sainsbury of supermarket fame and Lord Anthony Bamford of JCB excavators also remain big supporters.
As a result, the Tories are set outspend Labour in the election, aiming to raise the maximum £19.5m to fund their national campaign, while Labour hopes for £12m. The Conservatives spent £16.7m in the 2010 national campaign, compared with Labour’s £8m. The national campaign has separate funding limits from constituency campaigns, which are capped at just over £40,000 per candidate.
Labour claimed on Wednesday that almost half of the richest hedge fund managers in Britain are Tory party donors. The opposition analysed The Sunday Times “Wealthiest Hedge Fund Managers” list and said 27 of the 59 managers mentioned have donated to the Conservative party.
Conservative insiders retaliated by saying that since Ed Miliband became Labour leader, the unions had given Labour £35m, with Unite alone donating £12.8m — more than the eight leading City backers had given to the Tories.
The Conservative party’s hedge fund supporters generally avoid commenting on donations or making public pronouncements on policy. But there is growing anxiety in London’s hedge fund district of Mayfair over the prospect of tighter regulation from a Labour government or from Brussels.
Labour leader Ed Miliband has pledged to end intermediaries relief — a tax device which allows hedge funds to avoid paying stamp duty on share purchases. The party says this will raise hundreds of millions of pounds.
Many in Mayfair are also worried about the EU, fearing that hostile Brussels politicians are intent on imposing stricter regulation on their industry.
This hardening euroscepticsm has prompted some City donors to flirt with the UK Independence party. The anti-EU party has received support from the outspoken hedge fund boss Crispin Odey and Schroders fund manager Andy Brough.
The FT analysis of donations shows the Conservative party has received less money from a smaller pool of rich donors so far this parliament compared with the same period in Mr Cameron’s opposition years.
The party received £93.7m from 2,353 donors, with the average donor giving £39,817, against a median figure of £5,700 between May 5 2005 and January 28 2010.
In this parliament, the party has pulled in £76.1m from 1,448 donors, with the mean and the median at £52,545 and £10,000 respectively, based on donations received after May 6 2010 and reported before January 28 2015.
The Conservative party said: “All our donations are fully and transparently declared,” but declined to discuss its finances in detail.
A number of Labour and Liberal Democrat MPs and candidates said the Tories were outspending them on the ground. Tessa Munt, Liberal Democrat MP for Wells, estimated that the Conservatives spent about £240,000 in her constituency before the spending limits kicked in.
Labour candidate Catherine Atkinson, who is trying to wrest the marginal constituency of Erewash back from the Tories, said her opponents carried out two mail drops just before the December 19 deadline for recording campaign spending. “Royal Mail did a postal drop and then another set were hand delivered just before the spending limits kicked in. We can’t pay for things to be posted, it’s very expensive. But what I do have is a great team of volunteers.”
Lord Oakeshott, the former Lib Dem peer, has tried to match some of that firepower. He has funnelled £600,000 of his own money into 46 Labour and Lib Dem marginal seats, after becoming concerned about the uneven playing field.
The FT analysis was based on records kept by the Electoral Commission since the 2005 general election. The commission allows donors to give money through businesses, and also under different versions of their names meaning that no list can claim to be completely definitive.
Michael Hintze, CQS
For a London-based Tory party donor, revolution has played a big part in the life of Sir Michael Hintze. His grandparents fled Russia to escape the Bolshevik revolution of 1917 but made the mistake of settling in China. Shortly after he was born in 1953 his family were uprooted again to escape the aftermath of China’s revolution. The founder of the CQS hedge fund grew up in Australia, serving in its army for three years before moving to London to work in finance. Sir Michael, a Roman Catholic, was appointed by Pope Francis to serve on the board of the Vatican Bank. He has been a significant party donor for more than a decade.
Lord Farmer, Red Kite commodities
The veteran metals trader once known as “Mr Copper” earned an upgrade to “Lord Copper” last year after he was named a Tory peer. He is a senior treasurer of the Tory party and built his fortune as the co-founder of Red Kite commodities trading group, one of the largest of its kind. The evangelical Christian is a staunch believer in the traditional nuclear family and has in the past spent two years on a Bible study programme.
Lord Fink, Isam
Lord Fink is a veteran hedge fund figure who has had a long association with the Tories, serving as party treasurer until 2013 and donating money for many years. After leading Man Group, one of the largest listed hedge funds, for seven years he went on to become chairman of the London-based hedge fund Isam. It ended 2014 as one of the best performing hedge funds in the world that year.
Christopher Rokos, planning a new fund
The Old Etonian resigned from British hedge fund Brevan Howard, where he was a star trader, in 2012. He earned about $900m in the 10 years he was there. Since then, he has spent much of his time managing his own wealth via his family office. This year he announced he would launch a new fund after reaching an agreement with his former employers.