Receive free Liberal Democrats UK updates
We’ll send you a myFT Daily Digest email rounding up the latest Liberal Democrats UK news every morning.
The Liberal Democrats have received a £1mn boost to their coffers, their biggest single donation since 2019, as the party dropped a key pledge to increase income tax in an effort to appeal to Conservative voters.
Two party officials told the Financial Times the £1mn donation was a legacy donation from a deceased lawyer. One said the money would be “transformational” in the run-up to next year’s expected general election.
The party, which is gathered for its annual conference in Bournemouth, has made targeting Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s Conservatives in a swath of deep blue seats in the UK’s south-east a central plank of its election strategy.
The Lib Dems have been wary of taking bold stances on divisive topics such as rejoining the EU or setting clear national housebuilding targets to avoid alienating voters in rural Conservative areas.
Lib Dem leader Sir Ed Davey confirmed on Monday that the party had dropped a longstanding policy of adding an extra penny to the pound on income tax to fund increased spending on public services.
“There’s a cost of living crisis . . . and I don’t think it would be right to increase taxes,” he told the BBC’s Today programme. He pointed to other ways he believed the government could raise money, including a windfall tax on energy companies and reversing tax cuts on banks.
UK electoral donations are starting to ramp up as momentum builds towards a general election. The Lib Dems received £2.8mn in the first two quarters of 2023 but were dwarfed by donations to the Conservatives and Labour.
The Conservatives received £22mn in the same period, including £5mn from Egyptian billionaire Mohamed Mansour. Labour received £12mn in the same six-month period, including £2mn from Lord David Sainsbury, former chair of the Sainsbury’s supermarket chain.
Sainsbury had given the Lib Dems its biggest-ever donation of £8mn in 2019 when the party was fighting the general election on a fiercely anti-Brexit ticket.
Lib Dem party officials said they were launching a fundraising drive to attract donors who oppose Sunak’s decision to dilute key UK net zero targets.
They said two other recent donors, who the officials declined to name, had pledged £650,000 stating they were dissatisfied with the Conservatives’ environmental policies.
“We have been getting interest from more and more senior business leaders, including former Conservative donors, who are appalled by the actions of this government,” one said.
The £1mn donation came in over the weekend, the Lib Dems said, and was a legacy donation following the death of a wealthy solicitor and property owner named John Faulkner.
The Lib Dems usually commit about £150,000 to bankroll a fully fledged campaign in one seat for a year, meaning the £1mn could fund about six local campaigns ahead of the general election.
Davey came under fire over the weekend for failing to set out a clear position on whether the Lib Dems would support rejoining the EU’s single market, and ultimately rejoining the union altogether.
Asked on Monday about his position, Davey said rejoining the single market was not at present “on the table”. However, he confirmed the party’s position was still to pursue a “four-stage” EU policy, as set out in a pre-manifesto document that says the fourth stage is rejoining the single market. The document says “EU membership . . . remains our longer-term objective”.
Credit: Source link