Boris Johnson accepted free accommodation worth £10,000 from the wife of the leading Tory donor who hosted his wedding party this summer, it has emerged.
Alexandra Topping www.theguardian.com
The updated register of MPs’ interests shows that the former prime minister accepted a £10,000 gift from Lady Carole Bamford, for “concessionary use of accommodation for me and my family in September”.
Lord Anthony Bamford, a pro-Brexit Conservative peer who is chairman of construction equipment manufacturer JCB, has been a major Tory donor for decades. The billionaire entrepreneur, who supported Johnson’s successful leadership bid in 2019, has given more than £10m in donations and gifts to the party since 2001.
The latest register of MPs’ interests data published this week shows Liz Truss also accepted an £8,000 donation from Bamford, to cover “transport” during her leadership campaign.
It comes after the register showed that the prime minister was given more than £500,000 for her leadership campaign. Around half of that came from donors linked to hedge fund bosses, venture capitalists and other City financiers.
In July, Bamford hosted Boris and Carrie Johnson as they celebrated their wedding, which took place during lockdown in the grounds of his 18th-century mansion Daylesford House in the Cotswolds. Johnson had abandoned plans to hold the celebration at the prime minister’s official country residence, Chequers in Buckinghamshire. The “festival-esque” celebration is said to have included a steel band, rum punch, Abba songs and a conga.
A previous register of MPs’ financial interests showed that JCB paid Johnson £10,000 three days before he gave a speech at its headquarters in January 2019 in which he repeatedly praised the company’s business acumen and innovation. The speech in Staffordshire was primarily about Brexit, but mentioned JCB a number of times, noting at the start how the company had sold nearly 750,000 units of one model of digger.
He crashed a digger displaying the slogan “Get Brexit Done” through a wall of fake bricks marked “Gridlock” during a visit to a JCB factory in a stunt during the 2019 general election campaign.
In 2022 Johnson faced a backlash after using a visit to India visit to once again hail the success of JCB, over the use of its machinery in the mass demolition of homes.
Amid a fierce row about the demolition of mainly Muslim settlements in an area of Delhi hit by communal violence, TV footage showed JCB bulldozers being used to flatten properties.
I think it may have been Ian Hislop who asked an obvious question in relation to MPs and second jobs, namely why would a company want to employ such an individual? The same must be true of these donors, why plough vast sums into the party coffers? The answer to both can only be for the rich to buy influence to line their pockets even further.
It brings to mind the chance we missed at the last election when Jupp’s opponent, CW, pledged not to take financial support from businesses and declined a £5000 donation from one (who was straight and just supported CW’s struggle against the system). On the other side, Jupp, and Parish, were soon shown to have accepted donations, personal or via offices, from a local business which has long supported Tory MPs financially.
The influence of a very small number of very rich people, funding election and other expenses is one of the reasons why I refrain from regarding our system as truly democratic. The deck is well and truly stacked but fortunately, in East Devon, persistent challenging the dealers’ hands has born some fruit. Long may it continue to do so.
For the Tories, at least the JCB revelations takes the eyes off Russian donations for a while.