openDemocracyUK

How a Tory 'cash crunch' in this election will push them further into the arms of hardliners

The Tories are facing a cash-crunch over the election, making it more likely hardliners will fund it. And that should worry all of us

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Sunny Hundal
2 May 2017
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The Conservative party is facing such a crunch in its election funding that it may be forced to fundraise from hardliner Brexiters, according to a new report.

In 650 constituency seats across the UK, each political party is legally allowed to spend a maximum of £30,000 for their candidate. This means Labour and Conservatives can spend up to £19.5m during the election period.

Labour’s finances are in rude health, thanks to a huge influx of new members. The party paid off its debts in 2015.

But the Conservatives are facing a big cash crunch, mostly because many of its top donors were fervent supporters of staying in the EU.

Late last week the Guardian reported Theresa May was having trouble persuading regular Tory donors to help the Conservatives. One told the newspaper: “These are tough negotiations. They really are. You need someone of Churchillian status, and Theresa May might not even be that.” He went on to say: “Is she [May] the best person in the world to negotiate this? Well, of course she’s not.”

Another donor said he refused to donate to the party, but would donate to individual (Remain leaning) Tory MPs instead.

But this raises two worrying prospects for Britons. The first, that the Tories will turn even further right to hardline Brexiters to fund their election campaign. And they will be at the mercy of such donors, including those who want to privatise the NHS.

Secondly, it increases the chances of ‘dark money’ playing a big part in this election. In February openDemocracy UK reported on how secret donors bankrolled the Leave campaign. We now face risk of ‘dark money’ paying for a hardline Tory government in constituencies across the UK.

The Electoral Commission has guidelines on non-party campaigning during an election, but an organisation can quite easily overspend during an election, and declare it only after the results have been announced.

With the Tories facing scrutiny on election spending after a Channel 4 News investigation, it may be safer for them to outsource spending to third parties opposed to Brexit.

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