Dark Money Investigations: News

Oil and gas firms have given £1m to Boris Johnson’s Conservatives

Exclusive: Tories accused of being ‘worryingly close to fossil fuel’ industry as oil and gas companies line up for Conservative Party conference

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Seth Thévoz Martin Williams
1 October 2021, 11.44am
Addressing the UN last month, Boris Johnson said ‘it’s right to be green’
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Eduardo Munoz/Reuters/Alamy

The Conservative Party has accepted more than a million pounds in donations from the energy sector since the last election, openDemocracy can reveal.

Donors include businesses with interests in North Sea oil and an electric cable company run by a Russian tycoon who is close to Boris Johnson.

The findings come ahead of the party’s annual conference, which starts on Sunday, where a host of oil and energy firms have paid for slots to advertise their businesses.

Greenpeace today accused Johnson of being “worryingly cosy with the fossil fuel sector”, despite the prime minister’s claim that “it’s right to be green”.

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Companies vying for delegates’ attention at the Tory conference include oil giant BP, which has been accused of spending millions of pounds to lobby against climate change policies around the world.

Energy firms EDF and E-ON will also have a stand in the conference exhibition hall, along with petrochemical company INEOS.

Boris Johnson is set to host the COP26 UN climate conference in Glasgow in November, which he said should be a “turning point for humanity”.

But his own party has associated itself with major energy firms and the millionaire tycoons who run them.

The government is poised to sign off on a new oil drilling

Under Johnson’s leadership, the Conservative Party has received a series of huge donations from the energy sector, totalling more than a million pounds since the 2019 general election.

It includes £25,000 from Amjad Bseisu, the chief executive of North Sea oil firm EnQuest. And Alasdair Locke, who chairs a company that decommissions oil wells, has also given £180,000 to the party.

Donations have also come directly from businesses, including a £200,000 payment from Balmoral Group Holdings, a conglomerate that offers oil and gas technology and services.

Aquind, an underground electric cable company, has given £102,000 since the last election.

Its boss, Ukrainian-born Alexander Temerko, has also given a further £12,000 in recent months, and has been a long-standing member of the elite ‘Leader’s Group’ of Tory donors. He and Boris Johnson are reportedly close, with Johnson encouraging him to call him ‘Alex’, the prime minister’s legal first name.

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Tratos, another industrial-grade cable infrastructure firm, has given £56,000. More than £32,000 came directly from the company, and a further £24,000 was donated by its CEO, Maurizio Bragagni, who is an active Conservative.

Meanwhile, Scottish Power has given £8,400 to the Conservatives. It has simultaneously given the same sum to the Scottish Labour Party, and has a history of donating identical amounts of cash to both Labour and the Conservatives.

The Tories took a further £58,000 from Bayford and Co, a firm that says: “energy has always been our core business”.

The chief investment officer at the Motor Fuel Group, Thomas Biggart, has given £30,000, while the chair of Murex Energy, Michael Samuel, has also given £25,000.

And £50,000 was donated by Access Industries (UK) Ltd, a conglomerate owned by Russian oil tycoon Len Blavatnik, which covers energy, finance and entertainment. Blavatnik was named as Britain’s richest man in this year’s Sunday Times Rich List.

The risk to our climate, to UK energy customers and to workers caught in a boom and bust cycle, is clear

Mel Evans, head of oil and gas transition at Greenpeace UK, said: “The UK government looks worryingly cosy with the fossil fuel sector, which is bad news for the climate and bill-payers.

“The Tory party is getting lucrative donations from the oil and gas sector, and the government is poised to sign off on a new oil drilling.”

She said that Johnson must “reject all new fossil fuel projects” and offer a transition for workers and communities affected. “The UK stands to gain very little from dealing with these oil giants, but the risk to our climate, to UK energy customers and to workers caught in a boom and bust cycle, is clear.”

Alex Runswick, senior advocacy manager at Transparency International UK, said: “An unhealthy reliance by a political party on money from those with vested interests in one sector puts their ministers under pressure to provide exclusive access which in turn creates a real risk that decisions are then skewed in their favour.

“Breaking this dependence is key to removing the risk of undue influence in British politics and ensuring that our democracy genuinely works for everyone.”

According to the Conservative Party’s conference brochure, the energy companies attending will try to boast about their green credentials. BP says it will use its stand to showcase “how our UK projects will help the country meet the prime minister’s 10-point plan for a ‘Green Industrial Revolution’”.

E-ON says it is committed to “making energy cleaner”, while EDF Energy says it will be discussing its plans for “the UK’s next new nuclear power station”. INEOS says it produces “clean hydrogen” and has a “unique perspective on the transition to net zero”.

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