NEW Tory chairman Brandon Lewis has, according to the Financial Times, “a remit to revitalise the party’s grassroots organisation and sharpen attacks on Labour.”
He’s been chosen because he “is regarded as a strong media performer with a common touch, to whom Mrs May turned to handle the sensitive immigration portfolio.”
If you look at who puts cash behind Lewis, the touch looks much less common. According to the register of MPs’ interests, big corporations and “high net worth individuals” paid to support Lewis in 2017.
These are donations which he can use to support his re-election, rather than for personal use.
Alexander Temerko put £12,210 into Lewis’s funds. Temerko is a Ukrainian oligarch who made his money with Russian oil giant Yukos before he fell out with Putin and settled in Britain. Temerko now runs British-based oil services company the OGN Group and is a big money donor for the Tories.
CH2M, an engineering consultancy, ran a 2017 fundraising dinner for Lewis, worth £3,000. CH2M is always looking for big public contracts in Britain but hasn’t always found it easy.
Last year, it had to pull out of a £170 million contract on the HS2 railway. It had had plenty of other work on the government’s new London-Midlands railway, but its competitors called foul on this latest contract award.
CH2M competitors were angry that senior staff at HS2 came from CH2M , so the contract award looked like cronyism. CH2M has every reason to want to have good relations with the government.
JC Bamford Excavators, the digger firm run by Anthony Bamford, a very big money Tory donor, gave £3,000.
Two property developers also put money into Lewis’s political funds.
Gallagher Developments, a firm owned by property developer Tony Gallagher, gave a big £20,000 donation in April 2017. Shadi Ritchie gave £10,000 in June 2017. She and her husband Bruce Ritchie run property firm Residential Land.
Gallagher was making big money until 2017 from both housing and commercial property. In early 2017, he sold all his housing development plots for £505m. He now concentrates on shopping centres and the like.
Shadi Ritchie’s Residential Land is a very big, very upmarket London landlord. A typical Residential Land property would be a one-bedroom flat in SW1 for £2,100 a month.
So both Gallagher and Ritchie have made a very large amount of cash from high property prices. On his appointment, Lewis said the Tories needed to “deliver the housing that young people want” in order to do well politically.
He is expressing the May formula — quite right wing on immigration but promising to do something about housing. The problem is, for all the talk, the housing promises come to nothing.
Those who profited from the high rental and purchase prices that weigh heavily on the young also fund the Tory Party in general and Lewis in particular.
This is surely one reason why these promises turn out so empty.
Follow Solomon Hughes on Twitter @SolHughesWriter.
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