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

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.

Can there be a green populist project on the Left?

Many on the Left want to return to a politics based on class, not populism. They point to Left populist parties not reaching their goals. But Chantal Mouffe argues that as the COVID-19 pandemic has put the need for protection from harm at the top of the agenda, a Left populist strategy is now more relevant than ever.

Is this an opportunity for a realignment around a green democratic transformation?

Join us for a free live discussion on Thursday 22 October, 5pm UK time/12pm EDT.

Hear from:

Paolo Gerbaudo Sociologist and political theorist, director of the Centre for Digital Culture at King’s College London and author of ‘The Mask and the Flag: Populism and Global Protest’ and ‘The Digital Party: Political Organisation and Online Democracy’, and of the forthcoming ‘The Great Recoil: Politics After Populism and Pandemic’.

Chantal Mouffe Emeritus Professor of Political Theory at the University of Westminster in London. Her most recent books are ‘Agonistics. Thinking the World Politically’, ‘Podemos. In the Name of the People’ and ‘For a Left Populism’.

Spyros A. Sofos Researcher and research coordinator at the Center for Middle Eastern Studies, Lund University and author of ‘Nation and Identity in Contemporary Europe’, ‘Tormented by History’ and ‘Islam in Europe: Public Spaces and Civic Networks'.

Chair: Walid el Houri Researcher, journalist and filmmaker based between Berlin and Beirut. He is partnerships editor at openDemocracy and lead editor of its North Africa, West Asia project.

Who is bankrolling Britain's democracy? Which groups shape the stories we see in the press; which voices are silenced, and why? Sign up here to find out.


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