Thursday, December 1 2022

RIshi Sunak’s Conservative Party leadership bid was funded to the tune of almost £500,000 by prominent figures in the city, including a multi-billionaire hedge fund manager, a spread betting magnate and, curiously, a close friend and political adviser who orchestrated his campaign.

Sunak, 42, who together with this heiress wife has a fortune of £730million, has received a total of £458,570 in donations as well as gifted office space and the use of a jet private for his failed – but ultimately successful – bid to lead the Conservative Party and become prime minister.

He received more money than any of the other contenders in the race, ahead of Liz Truss who raised £424,000, and above the £300,000 spending limit put in place by the Conservative Party.

Chris Rea, industrialist

Sunak’s biggest backer was Chris Rea, a little-known Northern Irish businessman. Rea, who runs manufacturing company Aesseal, donated £100,000 according to the Register of Members’ Interests. He gave £50,000 on July 28, followed by another £50,000 on August 9.

Rea, who has been mistaken by some for the Road to Hell rocker, is a long-time Tory donor, including £25,000 in 2008 and £100,000 during the 2010 election campaign.

Rea told the Guardian he chose to donate to Sunak because he was “horrified that Liz Truss would actually deliver on her promises because I am able to count and it was clear to me that it would be bad for the UK.”

He said Sunak didn’t ask for the donation, but he called and invited him to a “thank you dinner in London” after Sunak initially lost to Truss.

Rea insisted that there had not been and “there never will be conversations about policies that will personally benefit me or Aesseal”.

“Frankly, neither me nor the company needs any help, and me and we are more concerned with what we can give to society than what society can do for us,” he said. added.

Michael Farmer, hedge fund manager “Mr Copper”

Michael Farmer donated £38,470, including the use of an aircraft. Photography: Geoff Pugh/Rex Features

Michael Farmer, former Conservative Party treasurer, prominent Brexiter, hedge fund boss and metals trading multi-millionaire known as ‘Mr Copper’, donated £38,470 including, as Sunak described, “the use of an aircraft during my campaign for the leadership of the Conservative Party”, an in-kind donation worth £23,470.

Farmer, 77, who earned most of his £150m through his hedge fund group Red Kite, is one of the Tories’ biggest donors, giving at least £6m over the past 10 last years. He was co-treasurer of the Conservative Party from 2011 to 2015 and made a life peer in 2014.

Farmer, one of the world’s most influential commodities hedge fund traders, donated £300,000 to the Vote Leave campaign in 2017 and said Brexit would be a ‘brilliant new start’ for Britain. Brittany. He also donated £100,000 in 2011 to the No to AV campaign, which opposed the replacement of first-past-the-post voting with a transferable voting system.

He was an early public supporter of Sunak, declaring in July that the current prime minister was “a serious man” and said his plan to apply “fiscal discipline now and allow some generosity later is the right way to deal with the current economic difficulties”.

Farmer, who campaigns for ‘a culture that values ​​family life’ and became a Christian ‘literally overnight at the age of 35’, came to public attention in 2013 when it was revealed that he had paid for his son George to join Oxford University’s famous Bullingdon club, the men’s only dining club in which David Cameron, George Osborne and Boris Johnson attended.

George Farmer is now managing director of Parler, the right-wing social media app that Kayne West – who changed its name to Ye last year – said he was buying after being blocked by Twitter for posting messages anti-Semitic.

George is married to Candace Owens, America’s outspoken right-wing political pundit. They tied the knot at the Trump Winery in Virginia in 2019 with a string of celebrity American and British right-wing guests, including former leader of Britain’s independence party Nigel Farage. George ran unsuccessfully for Ukip in the 1999 European Parliament elections.

Nick Leslau, real estate developer

Real estate investor Nick Leslau
Property investor Nick Leslau’s Yoginvest Ltd has donated £50,000. Photography: Bowden Birch/REX/Shutterstock

The second biggest donation came from Yoginvest Ltd, a company controlled by multi-millionaire property investor Nick Leslau, who donated £50,000. Leslau, who is estimated by the Sunday Times rich list to be worth around £400million, has big stakes in Alton Towers, Warwick Castle and Thorpe Park.

Leslau, who donated £20,000 to Tories through Yoginvest in 2019, said in 2020 he would no longer donate money to Tories after the government banned commercial landlords from evicting shop tenants and struggling restaurants during closings. “I think the flippancy with which the real estate industry has been treated has been narrow-minded,” he told The Times.

Mick Davis, mining tycoon

Mick Davis, CEO of Xstrata.
Mick Davis, CEO of Xstrata. Photography: Bloomberg/Getty Images

Sir Mick Davis, also a former Conservative party treasurer and ex-boss of mining company Xstrata, gave Sunak £25,000 and said last week that any MP backing Johnson’s bid to return to No 10 was “delusional “. Davis has donated almost £6m to the Tories over the years. In 2011, he was revealed to be one of the people funding the jetset lifestyle of Adam Werritty, a friend of former minister Liam Fox who posed as an official adviser in a scandal that led upon Fox’s resignation.

Will Harris, Public Relations Manager

Office space in a Grade II listed building near Westminster, worth £3,195, for advisers running his campaign has been provided by Bridge Consulting Ltd, the headquarters of public relations firm Bridge F61. The company, which boasted on its website “We can make you rich, we can make you famous”, was co-founded by conservative marketing guru Will Harris, a member of the team that devised the slogan ” The future is bright, the Future’s Orange” for the mobile phone business.

Harris, who says he campaigned for Michael Howard in 2003, the year he became leader of the Conservative Party, boasts on his website that working for political clients is akin to a “frenzied T20 Blast”. “Despite a shared love for Jaffa cakes and cans of Coke Zero, trade activists rarely start their day at 5:45 a.m. with the morning media briefing, and I don’t see that changing any time soon.”

Eleanor Shawcross, Policy Advisor

Another £20,000 came from Eleanor Shawcross, a political adviser who helped run the campaign from Dean Trench Street headquarters. She should be rewarded with the position of head of political unit No. 10 or possibly chief of staff.

She was among the staff who lined up to welcome the new Prime Minister as he walked through the door to Downing Street on his first day in the role.

His donation was made in the name of Eleanor Wolfson. She is married to Simon Wolfson, the chief executive of the Next clothing chain, who gave hundreds of thousands of dollars to the Conservatives and was granted the peerage in 2010.

She is the daughter of William Shawcross, who wrote several books on the royal family and former chairman of the Charity Commission. She is a non-executive director of the Department for Work and Pensions and was Deputy Chief of Staff to George Osborne when he was Chancellor.

She met Lord Wolfson, who is 14 years her senior, while working for Osborne. The couple married in 2012 and have two children, one of whom was born prematurely and spent weeks in neonatal intensive care – she sits on the board of the Winncott Foundation, which works to improve care newborns.

Shawcross previously worked for the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and the University of Oxford’s Blavatnik School of Government.

Michael Spencer, financial entrepreneur

Michael Spencer, CEO of Icap.
Michael Spencer, CEO of Icap. Photography: Bloomberg/Getty Images

Michael Spencer, the billionaire founder of broker Icap, has donated £25,000. However, the long-time Tory backer who gave more than £5m to the party and as treasurer from 2006 to 2010 initially backed Penny Mordaunt with a £25,000 donation. The day after his elimination, he donated to Sunak, then later, when Truss appeared to win, he donated the same amount to his campaign.

During his first days in office, he hailed her as “one of the most business-friendly leaders” the country has ever had.


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