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”:
— Grant Shapps MP (@grantshapps) July 12, 2014
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.
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.
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.