Election returns reveal ‘obscene’ £82,000 donation gap between candidates

Labour candidate Mike Smith-Clare (left) was running against sitting Conservative MP Brandon Lewis.

Labour candidate Mike Smith-Clare (left) was running against sitting Conservative MP Brandon Lewis. Picture: submitted/Denise Bradley - Credit: submitted/Denise Bradley

Returns for the 2019 General Election have revealed the huge divide in donations for candidates in one Norfolk constituency - with one candidate receiving £81,757 more than the second highest.

Increasing his vote share from 54.1pc to 65.8pc, Brandon Lewis retained his seat in the Great Yarmouth constituency with a majority of 18,000 in the December 12 election.

The Conservative candidate and security minister received £83,505.53 in donations.

Adrian Myers, town councillor and independent candidate, received the second highest amount at £1,747.90, followed by Labour candidate Michael Smith-Clare with a £1,000 gift from the Co-operative Party.

Lib Dem candidate James Joyce, Green candidate Anne Marie Killett, Veteran and People's Party candidate Dave Harding and independent Margaret McMahon-Morris, however, received just £560 between them.

Many donors to Mr Lewis were Conservative peers, private property developers and investment managers. The majority were not from local sources.

Donors included Dominic Johnson, the business partner of Jacob Rees-Mogg, property tycoon Bruce Ritchie and JCB Director Mark Bamford. Together, they offered up £41,000.

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In contrast to donations, constituency spending limits are capped. Candidates are awarded a fixed amount of £8,700 for a short campaign, plus 6p per registered elector in a borough and 9p per registered elector in a county.

The spending limit for this election in Yarmouth was £15,176.

Brandon Lewis spent £11,127 on his campaign, Michael Smith-Clare £4,542.11, Adrian Myers just over £1,000 and the other candidates less than £500 each.

Mr Lewis said the money received "will allow me to continue my work, all year round, of communicating with residents, not just about my work for them in Westminster but about the policies of the Conservative Party as a whole."

He also added that "election law puts candidates on a level playing field at a General Election as no candidate can spend more than the permitted legal maximum for each constituency, irrespective of how much they raise in donations.

"These must be declared on the return of election expenses and to the House of Commons authorities."

But Mr Myers said the amount Mr Lewis had received was "appalling".

"The spending limit was only £15,000, so what's he going to do with the remaining £74,000?" he said. "It's ridiculous that candidates get so much money to spend to begin with. I certainly didn't need that much."

Leader of Yarmouth Labour, Trevor Wainwright, said: "£85,000 is just obscene. It's impossible for Labour to compete with sums like that. This kind of money means that Brandon will have funds at his disposal all year round, essentially enabling him to run a continuous campaign."

Labour candidate Michael Smith-Clare said: "It seems disgusting that at a time when so many people in Great Yarmouth are living in dire poverty that such large sums of money can still be found and donated so readily", adding that "it makes you wonder what the motivation is behind these actions."