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Steerpike

Big beasts build their war chests

Big beasts build their war chests
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Authority forgets a dying king. And with all of Boris Johnson's current woes, it's no surprise to read reports of would-be successors already on maneuvers. While few Tories think a leadership challenge is imminent, it's no surprise that members of the Cabinet have been building up war chests that could come in handy were one to arise. For Mr Steerpike has been combing the Commons anti-sleaze registers to see which 'big beasts' of Johnson's government have drummed up the biggest sums from wealthy donors since the beginning of the year.

Top of the pile is the great survivor Michael Gove, who heads the list with an impressive £167,000 worth of donations since January. Much of this came in the form of two separate £50,000 donations from Zachariasz 'Zak' Gertle, one of London’s top property moguls, with a further £10,000 in funds provided by David Cameron's friend Lord Harris of Peckham. Rishi Sunak, often touted as the Tory heir apparent, came second with a single £50,000 sum received just three and a half weeks ago, as Boris Johnson wrestled with the post-Paterson fall out. The donor was Teesside millionaire Dean Benson, founder of Stockton e-commerce firm Visualsoft – the kind of 'Northern powerhouse' which ministers hope to replicate via 'levelling up.'

Gove and Sunak are not the only two ministers who have raised much more money than the average Tory MP. Sajid Javid has raised £15,000 this year from three firms, including Sun Mark Ltd whose boss Lord Ranger, was given a peerage in Theresa May's resignation honours. Being on the backbenches hasn't stopped the 2019 runner-up Jeremy Hunt from registering £15,000 so far in 2021 while Penny Mordaunt received £10,000 at the beginning of the year from Terence Mordaunt's First Corporate Consultants. It's a better result than other potential candidates – both Priti Patel and Liz Truss are lagging behind in the fundraising stakes, having failed to raise a penny in donations this year.

Outside of the Cabinet, rising star Tom Tugendhat meanwhile raised £45,000 to pay for an additional adviser in his capacity as chairman of the powerful Commons Foreign Affairs Committee. And, undaunted by past humiliation, the ultimate long-shot candidate Matt Hancock has reportedly been telling others that he could still run for leader again. If he does so he'll no doubt be helped by the £30,000 in sums he raised prior to his public defenestration in June. Unsurprisingly donations have been a bit harder to come by since then, with precisely, er, no funds declared since.

It was of course the infamous 'donor strike' by Tory millionaires refusing to donate further funds which eventually helped force Theresa May's resignation in 2019. No. 10 will be hoping that dissatisfaction with the current regime doesn't reach the point again.

Written bySteerpike

Steerpike is The Spectator's gossip columnist, serving up the latest tittle tattle from Westminster and beyond. Email tips to steerpike@spectator.co.uk or message @MrSteerpike

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