Invisible Tory People’s Vote Campaign Raised £205,000 From Just Four Donors

Guido readers may struggle to remember Right to Vote – the hapless Tory ‘People’s Vote’ campaign – despite reportedly burning through £40,000 of ‘dark money’ in their first few weeks they’ve had almost no impact – anywhere. Now Guido’s calls for transparency have paid off and the money is ‘dark’ no longer. Right to Vote have been forced to register with the Electoral Commission and declare exactly where their cash came from…

The figures submitted to the Electoral Commission show that Right to Vote is even more flush with cash than first thought. In their short existence they’ve actually received four donations totalling a juicy £205,000, most of which has come from one company and its Director:

  • £150,000 from M7 Real Estate Limited – a company which describes itself as “one of the leading specialists in the pan-European, regional, multi-let real estate market.” Vested interests getting involved…
  • £10,000 from Richard Croft-Sharland, a Director of M7 Real Estate
  • £25,000 from Bar and Kitchen Limited
  • £20,000 from lawyer Constatine Partasides QC

Despite having six figures to splash, Right to Vote have barely 1,000 likes on Facebook and 1,500 followers on Twitter, while Guido had to scroll down to the eighth page of Google Search to find their website. That’s almost £130 raised per Twitter follower gained – what have they been spending all that money on? Looks like Phillip Lee’s leadership bid hasn’t quite managed to capture the public’s imagination yet…

Tory People’s Vote Campaign Using Undeclared Lobbyists

The Tory People’s Vote campaign, ‘Right to Vote’, has not exactly been a roaring success since it launched in January, despite being awash with undeclared dark money. Under electoral law, Right to Vote qualify as a members association, like Momentum, and are therefore required to declare any donations over £7,500, even outside election periods. Guido understands that the Electoral Commission will be meeting Right to Vote to remind them of their reporting obligations under electoral law…

Now Guido has learned that Right to Vote have also been engaging the services of lobbyists without declaring them to Parliament. Guido understands that lobbyists Interel Group have been engaged by Right to Vote, with Interel’s Katherine Morgan – a former Treasury civil servant who also worked for the European Commission – working on their behalf. Right to Vote are also engaging the services of Howard Bowden, who is listed as the media contact on their site. Bowden is a freelance PR and former Head of News for now disgraced PR firm Bell Pottinger…

Under Parliamentary rules, MPs receiving support from a lobbying company need to declare this as a donation to the relevant Register of Interests, and check that the donor is a permissible donation with the Electoral Commission. Neither Right to Vote Chairman Phillip Lee nor any of his fellow Right to Vote MPs have declared their use of lobbyists…

What Phillip Lee has declared are two donations in kind from The Common Sense Collective Ltd in the form of “services to assist with media and communications”, to the tune of £7,860. However, these donations appear to be impermissible as their most recent records at Companies House show that Common Sense Collective is a dormant company.

Under electoral law a dormant company cannot make a political donation – it must be registered at Companies House and carrying on business in the UK. Unless Common Sense Collective have resumed trading without yet informing Companies House, Lee will have accepted impermissible donations and will need to forfeit their value to the Electoral Commission…

Right to Vote are certainly not short of cash, just last month they sent a first-class mailshot to every Tory Association Chairman in the country asking them pressure their MPs into support a Brexit “timeout”. Each letter was personalised for every individual constituency, including specific constituency-level voodoo polling from dark money-hungry anti-Brexit campaign Best for Britain. The vast array of second referendum campaigns are all flush with buckets of cash from anonymous donors and corporations, yet Guido cannot remember the last time a single broadcaster challenged a Remainer over the source of their funding…

UPDATE: A spokesman for Interel Group tells Guido: “Some colleagues worked with the Right to Vote campaign for two weeks earlier this year. We took the decision to end this. We did not receive any payment and we have declared this in the Public Affairs Board Register as pro bono activity”. Even if it’s pro bono work Lee should still have declared it himself as a donation in kind…

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No Confidence Bid Launched Against Sam Gyimah

Guido has learned a significant group of senior East Surrey Conservatives have launched a no confidence bid against MP Sam Gyimah tonight. Following a Special Executive Meeting in Limpsfield tonight where Gyimah was summoned to account for recent actions, members were left dissatisfied with his explanation and have decided to give formal notice to the Association Chairman that a motion of no confidence will be brought against Gyimah. It will be voted on at the East Surrey AGM at the end of March…

Local members have been unhappy with Gyimah for some time, they say he is seldom seen at events in the constituency. One local member said Gyimah “treats us a vote source, not a community he wants to play a part in.” He is so rarely spotted that activists have taken to nicknaming him “Where’s Sam?”…

Local members are particularly aggrieved as they feel Gyimah was not honest with them about his resignation to support a second referendum. Gyimah first emailed his local party on 1st December to explain his resignation, with the email making no mention at all of his shift to Remain, despite him having endorsed a second referendum the same day. It was so ambiguously worded that many local members initially thought he had resigned to join the ERG…

After multiple complaints to the local Chair that Gyimah was telling members one thing while doing another in Westminster, Gyimah was asked to email members again on 14th January and the 28th, where he still failed to come clean about his support for a second referendum and even claimed that he had still not made his mind up about which Brexit option he was supporting:

“With so much in flux and events changing on a daily basis, I am yet to make a final decision on the different approaches being discussed in the media. My criteria for evaluating the options as we go forward are: I will support a deal that takes us out of the EU, that does not damage our interests, protects business (on which so many livelihoods in East Surrey depend), and is potentially negotiable with the EU…

“…I have said that if parliament were unable to resolve the deadlock, then as a last resort, I will support giving the people a final say in a Second Referendum.”

This was the final straw for many members, anyone who reads the news was well aware that Gyimah was already a fully signed-up member of the second referendum brigade – he even launched the hapless ‘Right to Vote’ campaign alongside Phillip Lee on 17th January. Even this week he has still been telling local activists entirely contradictory things about his position. That frustration has now bubbled up to the surface, now it looks like Gyimah will have to face a ‘People’s Vote’ of his own…

UPDATE: Senior sources in the East Surrey Association have played down the significance of the no confidence bid, while there is unhappiness at his support for a second referendum they say that the Association as a whole is still generally supportive of Gyimah. The extent of that support will be revealed later this month…

Tory People’s Vote Campaign Loses Most of its MPs Despite Burning Through £40,000 of Dark Money

The Tory awkward squad launched their own “distinctive” People’s Vote campaign last month under the excruciatingly bad name-pun of ‘Right to Vote’. At the time of their launch Right to Vote widely claimed to have 10 Tory MPs on board, although Phillip Lee only counted eight at the launch event – Sam Gyimah, Heidi Allen, Dominic Grieve, Justine Greening, Guto Bebb, Anna Soubry, Sarah Wollaston and himself.

That number appears to have shrunk even further by the time of their latest ‘intervention’ this week, with just four MPs putting their name to their letter calling for Brexit to be delayed – Gyimah, Lee, Grieve and Bebb along with two hardline Remainer Lords. They seemed so desperate for MP support that the letter even originally listed “Baroness Altmann MP” as a signatory before the amusing mishap was corrected…

Incredibly, Right to Vote have reportedly spent a whopping £40,000 so far, despite not even having a website or a Twitter account at the time they launched, and their woeful lack of impact generally. As a campaigning organisation specifically made up of members from only one party they also clearly satisfy the Electoral Commission’s definition of a ‘members association’, which means they have should have registered with the Electoral Commission and declared every donation they have received over £7,500 by now – they haven’t. By law, the public have a right to know exactly whose dark money they’ve been fruitlessly burning through…

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