How big were Lord Ashcroft's donations?
“The position of Lord Ashcroft is that he is not the major donor to the Conservative party. He’s given less that 1 per cent I think this year…”
Michael Gove MP, Channel 4 News, 1 March 2010
Lord Ashcroft, the deputy Conservative party chairman and confirmed non-dom peer, has attracted attention for his donations, particulary those used to fund campaigns in Tory target seats.
So how big have Ashcroft’s donations really been?
Gove is right to say Lord Ashcroft was responsible for a small fraction of the Tory total in the last year. A company in which the peer has an interest, Bearwood Corporate Services, donated £329,858 to the Conservative party in 2009.
That’s about 1 per cent of the total fund, including some public money, that the party received. In 2009 the property tycoon David Rowland made a single donation bigger than Bearwood’s total contribution for the year.
What about the funding picture since the party became David Cameron’s Conservatives?
FactCheck analysis of donations made to the Tory party since the start of 2006 suggests Ashcroft’s company has been the most generous single benefactor over this longer period.
We totted up the total payments from every donor who gave a single payment of at least £100,000 to the Conservative party between 2006 and the end of 2009, according to the Electoral Commission’s register.
Ashcroft’s company, Bearwood Corporate Services, donated £4,131,995 over the four-year period, in 27 separate chunks of cash or services in kind, such as focus groups or printing costs.
Although there were generous contributions from other donors, none came within a million pounds of the total received via Bearwood.
The Conservative party would not comment on the amounts given by individual donors, but pointed out that less than 5 per cent of its cash and in-kind donations since Cameron became leader came via Ashcroft.
Ashcroft money does make up a small slice of the total Conservative pie. But our analysis of party funds found his company to be the biggest single donor since David Cameron became leader.