UK law requires MPs to declare any “donations and loans they receive in connection with their political activities,” according to the Electoral Commission. Now, extensive new research has compiled all the sparsely published figures into one database – laying bare the true scale of the financial interests in British politics, as members of both the Labour and Conservative parties were found to have received vast amounts of money. So who funds your local representative in Parliament?
A collaboration between Tortoise Media and Sky News has produced a tool allowing users to find out exactly how much their MP has received in donations and from whom.
Despite world-class transparency laws, the thousands of public records reportedly took almost a year for the organisations to make sense of.
Aside from showing a total of over £183million flowing to MPs that have sat in the House of Commons since the beginning of this Parliament in December 2019, the result also casts light on obscure donation practices.
Rose Whiffen, senior research officer at Transparency International UK told Express.co.uk: “This tool is an excellent example of public service journalism stepping in to provide genuine transparency over the role of private money in public life. While much of this information was already in the public domain, it was published in different places and often in formats that made it difficult to analyse. Now voters have this data at their fingertips, we hope it’ll start a serious conversation about how our politics really works.”
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According to Sky News, the third-largest donor to individual politicians since the last general election – a company called MPM Connect Ltd – was found to have no staff, no website, and was unknown to the person contacted at the registered office in Hertfordshire.
The £345,217 in donations made by the firm were traced to three Labour politicians – Shadow Home Secretary Yvette Cooper, Shadow Heath Secretary Wes Streeting and former mayor of South Yorkshire Dan Jarvis.
A spokesperson for Yvette Cooper said: “MPM Connect is an investment company in the employment sector owned by Peter Hearn, a UK businessman and long standing Labour supporter, and as has been reported many times, Mr Hearn kindly donates money to fund Yvette’s office staff and has done so for many years.
“It has all been fully declared and compliant with all the rules. Like lots of companies MPM Connect is registered to their accountant’s office, as is made very clear in its Companies House entry.”
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Unite – the biggest trade union in the UK representing over a million workers across a variety of public and private jobs – handing over more in political donations than any other organisation, to the tune of £636,313.
The union gave the largest portion of its donations (£249,382) to Rebecca Long-Bailey during her Labour leadership campaign against Sir Keir Starmer in 2020. Another union, GMB union follows in second overall with £397,738.
Other notable donors high on the list include the Qatari Ministry of Foreign Affairs (£249,932), the Refugee, Asylum and Migration Policy Project (£239,715) and Lord Waheed Alli (£218,600) – media entrepreneur and Member of the House of Lords.
While unions are clearly the biggest backers of the Opposition – over a third of GMB’s total donation going to Labour Deputy Leader Angela Rayner and Shadow Levelling-Up Secretary Lisa Nandy – Conservative politicians were found to have benefitted greatly from hospitality gifts.
The Carlton Club, gave £156,570 worth of hospitality to 35 Tory MPs in the form of waived membership fees, while Heathrow Airport provided £183,660 worth of free stays in the Windsor Suite to former prime ministers Theresa May and Boris Johnson.
How much has your MP declared in the past few years? Who are their donors? Use the linked tool here to find out…
The database shows Prime Minister Rishi Sunak to have declared 37 financial interests since 2019, worth around £546,000 in total. The PM’s largest single donation was worth £50,000 and came from Yoginvest – a firm controlled by the multimillionaire property investor Nick Leslau, who owns significant stakes in the likes of Alton Towers and Thorpe Park.
Former Prime Minister Liz Truss has reported 30 gifts, payments and other benefits since the last general election, totalling some £538,600 – the biggest of which being £100,000 towards her leadership campaign from Fitriani Hay, the wife of BP ex-senior executive James Hay.
Sir Keir Starmer’s 104 financial interests amounted to £799,900 in all. Lord Waheed Alli gave the Labour leader £100,000, as did human rights barrister Robert Latham.
JBC Defence – the seventh-largest political donor organisation overall – gave the entirety of its £191,100 in donations to former Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn for legal fees.
Speaking to Sky News on Monday, Mr Sunak said: “I think transparency is really important for the healthy functioning of democracy. It’s absolutely right that there’s disclosures around donations and outside interests.”
Prior to publication, Express.co.uk went for comment to the MPs named. The comments of those who replied have been included.