Big cash donations in politics are coming under scrutiny once again following the publishing of a database that put together all deposits made to MPs and political parties since the last election.
Donations, if declared properly, are entirely legal and MPs say they use them in part to cover the costs of running their offices and political campaigns.
However, the size of the donations, and the sources of where the cash, have raised fresh questions about transparency in politics.
MPs must declare any donations on the register of members’ interests, where they also make public any money they have earned from work outside of parliament, as well as other gifts and benefits.
Sky News and Tortoise Media have put together an easy-to-use database that has pulled all this information together, making it easier for members of the public to see how much money their MP has received from donors and earned from second jobs.
According to a Sky News analysis of the database, some 14 MPs have received more than £250,000 in donations since 2019 – when the current parliament began.
The Labour leader received the largest amount of donations of any MP in parliament, totalling £752,810 over the past four years.
Robert Latham, a barrister from north London, made the single largest payment to Mr Starmer in 2020, giving him £100,000 for his successful leadership campaign.
Mr Latham said at the time that he was donating the money to help Labour “back from the brink” following the leadership of Jeremy Corbyn, who in 2019 led the party to its worst election defeat since 1935.
According to Sky’s analysis, it costs around £250,000 to run a leadership campaign. Lord Waheed Alli, a Labour peer, also give Mr Starmer £100,000 for his 2020 leadership bid.
Lord Alli, a multimillionaire ally of former prime minister Tony Blair, will lead Labour’s fundraising efforts for the next election, it was announced in November.
The TV mogul was the brains behind shows such as the Big Breakfast and Survivor.
The prime minister comes in second on the list and received £546,043 for his unsuccessful leadership campaign during the summer when he lost to Liz Truss.
Mr Sunak eventually became PM just weeks later following his predecessor’s disastrous mini-Budget, which sparked chaos in the financial markets.
His biggest donor is Chris Rea, the Northern Ireland industrialist, who gave him £100,000. Mr Rea is the founder and managing director of AES engineering.
Explaining his decision to donate to Mr Sunak’s campaign, Mr Rea said he was “horrified” at the thought of Ms Truss implementing her policies.
High-profile MPs who hold senior office – and those who harbour ambitions of becoming leader of their party – tend to receive the most in donations. Of the top 10 highest donor recipients, seven ran for leader or deputy leader of their party.
But there are a number of MPs who have received more than £250,000, including Labour’s shadow chancellor Rachel Reeves, and senior Tories Michael Gove and Brandon Lewis.
Here are the top 10 donor recipients:
- Keir Starmer: £752,810
- Rishi Sunak: £546,043
- Liz Truss: £537,940
- Rachel Reeves: £441,101
- Rebecca Long-Bailey: £406,830
- Michael Gove: £336,983
- Angela Rayner: £298,631
- Lisa Nandy: £283,602
- Ed Davey: £281,923
- Brandon Lewis: £266,335
The Westminster Accounts database also tallies up the money MPs earned in second jobs.
Britain’s MPs have earned £17.1m from work outside parliament since the 2019 election, with the vast majority made by Conservative MPs.
A total of £15.2m was made by Tory MPs over and above their salaries during the parliament.
Speaking to broadcasters earlier this week about the figures both Mr Starmer and Mr Sunak said that more “transparency” in politics was a good thing.