Grant Shapps: That's a club not my association!

Conservative Party chairman Grant Shapps has his personal election campaigns bankrolled by a secretive club fined by regulators after failing to submit financial returns for more than four years. Funds transferred to his Welwyn Hatfield Conservative Association total some £140,000 since Shapps has been a candidate in the constituency.

Scrapbook reported earlier this month that Conservative Club (Hatfield) Ltd — a members’ social club based at the same address as Shapps’ local party — was fined £3,000 by the Financial Conduct Authority after refusing to reveal financial data or the names of its officers.

But challenged on Twitter over the breaches, Shapps attempted to deny his links with the organisation, claiming “that’s a club, not my association”:

As if ‘CONSERVATIVE ASSOCIATION’ emblazoned along a flank of the building and ‘Conservative Club’ above the entrance weren’t obvious enough, Scrapbook has since determined that Shapps’ party own the whole property and rent a portion of it to the club.

Welwyn Hatfield Conservative Association and Club

Perhaps Shapps would be on firmer ground if the links ended there. But papers filed with the Electoral Commission reveal that members of the club were automatically counted as members of the local party and paid membership dues — in addition to hefty four-figure donations from the club as a whole.

Grant Shapps' Hatfield membership

Local campaign chiefs are absolutely categoric that the money is used to fund Shapps’ campaigns, along with council candidates in the area. One report notes “increased leafleting and canvassing” on behalf of Shapps in the run up to the 2010 election before stating:

“Income generated from the Conservative Club continues to be a significant part of the unit’s income.”

Shapps even boasted during an online debate about his local party’s membership figures, emphasising the relationship with the secretive club:

“I think the change in apparent Welwyn Hatfield membership is down to a reporting quirk caused by Conservative Club members no longer being included in the returns. Our actual membership has been strongly rising.”

The club is also controlled by senior party figures. Their last accounts — which as a friendly society are regulated by the FCA rather than Companies House — were received way back in November 2009. They show that the then chairman was a sitting Conservative councillor.

In summary, the chairman of the Conservatives — the man ultimately responsible for their entire election operation and legal compliance — has his personal campaigns funded by an organisation that hasn’t submitted any accounts in over four years.

  1. Kevin Taylor says:

    @Laurence, correct, they’ve never filed any accounts ever!

    Perhaps Ed Miliband should call for a public inquiry?

  2. Kevin Taylor says:

    @David: So the new headline is:

    Labour exploit loophole to hide details of secretive club that bankrolls Labour in Bromley!

  3. Neil Godwin says:

    Kevin, does the Bromley Club refuse to disclose the names of its officers, as it is required to do by law? No? Well the Con Club has broken the law, so what’s your point? I am a former officer of two private members (social) clubs.

  4. Neil Godwin says:

    And they do not need to “file accounts”, most probably the turnover is under 250k, not allowing for “London weighting”. Most social clubs are barely keeping their heads above water, unless they have wealthy (i.e. Tory voting) clientele

  5. Kevin, Conservative Club (Hatfield) Ltd is registered as an industrial and provident society so is required under the Industrial and Provident Societies Act 1965 to submit annual accounts. It has failed to do so and thus has been rightly prosecuted. Have you checked the legal status of Bromley Labour Club? I guarantee you haven’t in your haste to make a cheap and petty political point.

  6. Kevin Taylor says:

    Mike, I would not disagree with you. Since you appear to understand the principle of separate legal personality for corporations perhaps you might explain to Laurence why his entire article is flawed and just a “cheap and petty political point”?

    BTW, FWIW the Bromley Labour Club has been sold for redevelopment with funds eing used to pay off Labour’s head office debt; but that’s by the by.

  7. This article isn’t about the Labour Party, its about Grant Shapps, alias Michael Green, alias Sebastian Fox, …alias??

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