Tom Tugendhat calls for more caution in political donations

  • The chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee called for greater caution when receiving money from donors.
  • MP Tom Tugendhat told Insider “just because you could ‘accept donations’ doesn’t mean you should”.
  • Tugendhat said he turned down donations from people his colleagues had accepted.

The chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee called on MPs and political parties to exercise greater caution in accepting donations.

Tom Tugendhat, the Tory MP, told Insider he had turned down donations from British citizens who had previously or would continue to donate money to other politicians.

His comments came after renewed pressure from the opposition Labor Party, which says the Tories have accepted £1.93million from donors with business links to Russia since Johnson became Prime Minister and leader of the left in July 2019.

Conservatives say all donations are legitimate and properly reported. For individuals to donate to political parties, they must be registered to vote, which requires British, Irish or Commonwealth citizenship.

But Tugendhat told Insider that checks on accepting financial support should go beyond the legal legality of the donation to include political judgment.

“Just because you could doesn’t mean you had to,” he said. “I am absolutely sure that the Conservative Party took the money legally. I have no doubt that Mr or Mrs Jones had every right to give the money. But there are many people who have the right to give money. You don’t have to accept it from all of them.”

“Of course it’s not illegal to accept money from a UK citizen. But there are UK citizens I wouldn’t take money from. So I think you have to be careful” , he added.

Tugendhat, who has gone public with his ambition to run for Tory leader, said he had ‘turned down’ donations ‘from some people’ who would continue or had already donated money to other politicians.

“It depends on the individual,” he explained. “Sometimes it’s just, ‘I don’t know enough about you, so I’m not going.’ And sometimes it’s, ‘I know enough about you and I’m not going! ‘”

Tugendhat’s remarks echo those of senior Conservative MP Bernard Jenkin for there to be greater scrutiny of donors, first reported by Insider on Thursday.

Penny Mordaunt, another possible leadership candidate, recently criticized her fellow Tory MPs for continuing to meet with a major party donor, Alexander Temerko, who called her a security threat.

A less debated aspect of political donations are those from companies registered in the UK. Registering a company in the UK requires fewer checks than to register on the electoral lists.

Tugendhat noted that shell companies present particular challenges and urged his colleagues to exercise discretion rather than simply fall back on what is legal.

“It’s quite difficult to write laws for what is basically a political judgment,” he added. “It’s perfectly legitimate for people to criticize political groups, parties, whatever, that take money from organizations that aren’t clear…you don’t know who they are, you don’t know what they are. ‘they are. That’s where the political judgment falls.’