Election 2024: Hundreds of donors turn their backs on the Tories during election campaign

Of the 248 individuals and organisations which donated to the Tory party in the 2019 General Election, only six have donated so far in this election.

And the overall number of donors has dropped significantly. There were 156 Tory donors during the first three weeks of the 2019 election period. Over the same period this year, there were just 30.

As part of the ongoing Westminster Accounts series, Sky News and Tortoise Media have collaborated to create a live tracker of all donations made during the election period.

The biggest absentee donors include businessman and Brexit supporter Peter Hargreaves, who donated £1m in 2019 - the biggest donation of that campaign.

Samuel Power, senior lecturer in politics at the University of Sussex and the author of Party Funding and Corruption, said there was a clear "desertion" by Tory donors.

"There's just a lot of donors that may be ideologically aligned with the Conservative Party, but are just seeing it as a pointless investment," Mr Power told Sky News.

"That's where the big black hole, in terms of Conservative financing, is just those people that don't see it as a good use of that time, don't see it as a wise investment, and are looking at the problems and just staying away - rather than actually moving to the Labor Party."

In contrast, Labour appears to have won back some of its long-time donors who "sat out" 2019, according to Mr Power.

"Donors that had somewhat deserted the Labour Party, probably since 2010, have been coming home to the Labour Party," he told Sky News.

The data shows that Labour attracted more donors during the first three weeks of this election than it did during the whole six weeks of the 2019 campaign.

And Labour is dominating fundraising during this election. It has so far raised £8.8m, compared to the Conservatives' £1.2m.

The Conservatives are only slightly ahead of the Liberal Democrats in third place, who have raised £983,900.

Reform is close behind them in fourth. In the second week of the pre-poll period, in which Nigel Farage announced he would be standing, Reform raised the second largest amount of money after Labour. But donations dropped off the next week to lower than the Liberal Democrats. And in fact, it has raised less at this stage of the election than in 2019, when it was called the Brexit Party.

Sky News compared donations data for all political parties defined as being in the pre-poll period by the Electoral Commission for 2019 and 2024. These figures do not include public funds.

The Conservative campaign fundraising is low in comparison to money before the election was announced. They raised £8,836,834 in the first quarter of 2024, according to the Electoral Commission, compared to Labour's £7,388,160.

And in 2023, the Conservatives raised significantly more money - £48m in total compared to Labour's £31m.

Duncan Hames, the director of policy at advocacy group Transparency International, told Sky News: "The extent to which a very small number of individuals are the principal funders of political campaign expenditure in this country has become more acute.

"The emergence of the mega donor is very much a contemporary phenomenon.

"We definitely think that there is a problem with democracy when political parties are reliant on a small number of wealthy backers... it's unrealistic to assume that these people never expect anything in return."

Donor numbers methodology

Sky News compared donations data for all political parties defined as being in the pre-poll period by the Electoral Commission for 2019 and 2024. These figures do not include public funds.

The figures for 2024 are likely to be an underestimate. This is because donation reporting thresholds have changed: previously, any political donation over £7,500 had to be reported and published by the Electoral Commission. Since January 2024 the reporting threshold has been raised to £11,180.

NOTE: This article will be updated when the Electoral Commission publishes the next round of political donations data.

The Data and Forensics team is a multi-skilled unit dedicated to providing transparent journalism from Sky News. We gather, analyse and visualise data to tell data-driven stories. We combine traditional reporting skills with advanced analysis of satellite images, social media and other open source information. Through multimedia storytelling we aim to better explain the world while also showing how our journalism is done.