Donations to the Conservatives slumped by 40% over three months, according to figures from the Electoral Commission, which show the party being overtaken by Labour for the first time in more than a year.
The Conservatives collected just under £3m from July to September, a period that included the end of the Boris Johnson premiership and the subsequent leadership election. That compared with £5.4m in the previous quarter and is the lowest figure since mid-2020.
Donations to Labour jumped by nearly a quarter to £4.7m, boosted by spending from unions and individual donors.
A Labour spokesperson said: “Donors are coming back to Labour because they can see we are a changed party that is serious about getting into government and building a fairer, greener, more dynamic Britain.
“We are very grateful for all support, large or small, as we gear up to fight the next general election.”
A Conservative spokesperson said: “The Conservative party only accepts donations from permissible sources, namely individuals registered on the UK’s electoral roll or UK registered companies. Donations are properly and transparently declared to the Electoral Commission, openly published by them and comply fully with the law.”
A party source added that these figures were likely to be anomalous because of the leadership election during the period. At the time Liz Truss and Rishi Sunak raised more than £400,000 for their leadership bids – close to the maximum threshold of £500,000.
The Conservative party has endured a turbulent year, buffeted by the Partygate controversy that helped bring down Boris Johnson, and then Truss’s mini-budget, which sent interest rates soaring and eventually ended her short-lived premiership.
Sunak, her successor, faces difficult choices as he tries to repair economic trust in the government while weathering a cost of living crisis and predicted recession. Peter Cruddas, one of the Tories’ biggest donors, recently denounced Sunak’s package of tax rises, calling it “anti-Conservative” and refusing to commit to donating to the party for the rest of the year.
Others, however, have continued to donate, including Lubov Chernukhin, the wife of the former Russian oligarch Vladimir Chernukhin. She gave £37,000, having previously donated more than £2m to the party.
Meanwhile, the Conservatives also continued to benefit from an unusual donation by Heather Coffey, who died two years ago and left hundreds of thousands of pounds to the party in her will. So far her bequest has handed the Tories nearly £1m since 2020.
Labour’s figures were boosted by £1.6m in donations from unions and £1.5m in individual donations. Among the donors was Gareth Quarry, a former Conservative donor who announced in October he had defected to Labour, accusing the Tories of being “riven with arrogance and complacency”. He gave the party £50,000 during the period.
The figures also include more than £728,000 from Unite. The trade union was the party’s largest donor, despite threatening earlier this year to stop funding Labour altogether amid a row between unions and the Labour-led Coventry council over pay for bin lorry drivers.
The party also attracted donations from wealthy donors, many of whom stayed away during the years when Jeremy Corbyn was leader.
Fran Perrin, the daughter of David Sainsbury, gave £500,000 during the period. Her father had cut ties with Labour during the Corbyn era, but his successor, Keir Starmer, had made a concerted effort to solicit funds from Perrin.
Labour also collected £1.8m in public funds allocated to opposition parties.