With Theresa May's premiership on the ropes, there's an expectation of a Tory leadership contest later this year. It follows that Conservative heavyweights are currently working their hardest to lay the groundwork for a future campaign. In that vein, the latest register of interests shows that rivals Boris Johnson, Dominic Raab, Amber Rudd and Michael Gove are among the Tories to get recent donations which could prove helpful in the months to come.
However, there is one donation that Mr S suspects could come back to haunt its recipient. Boris Johnson has been given a donation of £16,000 by Johan Christofferson. Christofferson is a hedge fund manager with a history of fox hunting – as a one time master of a fox hunt in the Isle of Wight.
This not the first time the fox-hunting enthusiast has donated money to a Conservative politician. He helped pay for the 2010 election campaign of Tory MP Simon Hart, former chief executive of the Countryside Alliance, which supports the repeal of the fox hunting ban. Christofferson also made a personal donation of £10,000 to Tory MP Nick Herbert in 2009, shadow secretary of state for the environment, food and rural affairs at the time.
Only Mr S wonders if the donation could prove a hassle for Johnson in the long run. After all, while Johnson once called for fox hunting to be permitted in London to deal with the problem of urban foxes, of late he has been on a mission to brand himself as an environmental Conservative who campaigns for animal rights – writing columns of wildlife for the Telegraph.
That pitch ought to have the makings of a savvy electoral message given that animal rights was an issue that worked against the Tories in the 2017 snap election. Theresa May's pledge to support a free vote on the repeal of fox hunting during the 2017 election campaign (and her personal endorsement of the practise on the campaign trail) was widely considered to have lost her support amongst centrist swing voters.
Does Johnson's protection of animals stop at foxes?