One Tory MP buttonholed me this morning to ask why the FT this morning carried a story about the donations from the Square Mile to his party. (Donations from financiers and City firms now account for more than half the £22.5m the Conservatives attracted last year.)
“You should hardly be surprised by now that your readers support our party,” he observed.
Up to a point, Lord Copper. Yes, the City has always backed the Tories (with a temporary swing away during the peak of New Labour) while the unions are the cornerstone of Labour.
Plus the proportion of City money going to the Tories has actually fallen from 52 per cent in 2009 to 51 per cent last year, if you look closely at the figures in the report by the Bureau of Investigative Journalism.
But the underlying trend is still worth reporting (it’s also the splash in the Guardian) as it shows a medium-term rise in the proportion of funding from city sources – up from just 25 per cent in 2005.
That means that Tory ministers need to tread carefully when dealing with any issue involving the City, financial regulation and so on. (The sensitivities are already acute; there was no champagne at a Tory City fundraiser on Monday night).
It’s worth pointing out that the majority of the big donors are hedge fund managers and brokers rather than bankers per se; thus they don’t necessarily have anything to gain or lose from Project Merlin, which will be announced after prime minister’s questions at noon. Yet George Osborne will be glad that his fiscal announcement yesterday was a rise in taxes on the City rather than the reverse.
UPDATE: There is also some debate as to whether David Rowland, who gave £4m over two years, is a “financier” or in fact a property developer. Rowland has over the decades invested in property, timber, oil, shipping and football – but more recently bought part of the failed Icelandic bank Kaupthing.