Yesterday unless you were living under a rock, readers of this blog from the UK will have noticed that campaigning for the General Election has begun. Speaking at the launch of his campaign, David Cameron spoke of “the great ignored” who his party was seeking to represent – a list which initially included gay as well as straight people, but this ended up too controversial for him to say. Of course there is some speculation who these people are, yet considering this list encompasses seemingly everyone, we are in familiar territory, a classic right wing appeal to ‘common sense’ and ‘the moral majority’. But there is one section that is certainly not ignored by the Conservative Party – the mega rich, members of the ‘Leader’s Club’.
A donation of £50,000 a year buys you access to the Leader’s Club, though cheaper options are avaliable at £25,000 (The Treasurer’s Group or £15,000 (the Renaissance Forum) if you have this money hanging around to make in a political donation. These clubs all give access senior members of the Conservatives, but in particular The Leader’s Club offers you direct access to David Cameron and the shadow cabinet in the form of lunches, drinks receptions and general hobnobbing with the potential future government. It had approximately fifty members in 2006, though full membership is undisclosed. As the Private Eye reveals, the sort of individual who is a member is exemplified by Jitesh Gadhia, the head of advisory at Barclays Capital, the investment bank wing of Barclays bank. Barclays Capital had £2.6 billion of exposure in the US sub-prime market (one of the major causes of the credit crunch) after it had been written down. The full list, could probably be established by consulting the list of party donors and working out who gave exactly the right amount of cash, or more. Other members of the club likely include David Rowland, a property magnet, and chucked a million or so into the party’s coffers. Just paying the door fee with 50k are David Harding, hedge fund manager, Hüseyin Gün, direct investment manager, Ryan Robson, head of private equity fund Sovereign Capital, Anna Hobhouse director of Wittington Investments, Stephen Morant of Morant Wright investment managers, Christopher Rokas of Brevan Howard hedge fund, Ramez Sousou of Towerbrook and David Royds of Matrix Group, two of the largest private investment companies in the UK. The group itself is organised by Andrew Feldman, who like Peter Mandelson and George Osbourne enjoys hanging out with Russian billionaires on boats attempting to get them to donate to the Tories, Cameron’s friend since they were at Oxford together. This shouldn’t surprise anyone or why it is particularly easy for the Conservatives to feel part of these circles. The Tories co-treasurer is a hedge fund manager Stanley Fink, its treasurer Michael Spencer, who is a city inter-dealer broker. Indeed, sorting donors from the city is a major element in their plan to “blow Labour out of the water”, and the two openly admit that they are “dependent a lot upon entrepreneurs and business people, financial people or property people”.
One voice that is not the great ignored in funding and shaping Tory policy is The City and investment bankers, the very same city that brought this country to its knees in the Credit Crunch.