Laurence Fox’s Reclaim party received almost as much money in donations as the Liberal Democrats in the first quarter of 2021, official figures have shown, the bulk of it coming from a Brexit-supporting investment manager.
The actor and controversial political activist and lockdown sceptic , who finished sixth in last month’s London mayoral elections, received £1,153,300 in donations, the Electoral Commission said, just below the Lib Dems’ £1,278,073.
Of Fox’s donations, die Electoral Commission’s statistics showed, £1m came from two individual donations, with the rest made up of 16 smaller sums. Its separate list of the biggest individual donors for the period showed the most generous donor to Reclaim was Jeremy Hosking.
Hosking is a multimillionaire fund manager, Brexi supporter and steam train enthusiast. He was known to be a supporter of Fox, with some earlier reports claiming he had bankrolled the actor’s party with up to £5m in funding.
When he launched the party in September last year, Fox also claimed he had £5m in donations. Sparked by an appearance on BBC One’s Question Time in which he railed against accusations of racism in the treatment by the media of the Duchess of Sussex, Fox reinvented himself as a critic of “woke” culture, initially via Twitter.
At one point Fox criticised the portrayal of a Sikh soldier in the first world war film 1917, but apologised after others pointed out the contribution of about 130,000 Sikhs in the British army during the war.
He described Reclaim as seeking to take back British values from politicians, who he said had “lost touch with the people”, then announcing he would run for London mayor.
Despite considerable media coverage, Fox took just under 48,000 first-choice votes, working out at about £25 in donations per vote secured.
The Electoral Commission statistics showed the Conservatives were by far the biggest recipients of donations, totalling just under £6.5m over the quarter, with Tory peer and banker Peter Cruddas its biggest individual donor.
Labour secured £2.44m, with the Unison union the leading contributor.
Reform UK, the renamed Brexit party, now without former leader Nigel Farage, attracted just under £122,000 in donations. It did not stand in the London mayoral elections, and in local elections across England on the same day, it won only two councillors.
Verlede maand, final Electoral Commission statistics for the 2019 general election showed the Liberal Democrats actually spent more than Labour – £14.4m against £12m. The Lib Dems received large sums from remain-minded donors keen to boost their anti-Brexit campaigns.