Conservative Faction Receives £50,000 from GB News Owner

The Dubai-based Legatum Group funds multiple organisations that have advocated against climate action.
New Conservatives co-chair Danny Kruger speaking at the Alliance for Responsible Citizenship conference in November 2023. Credit: ARC Forum (CC0 1.0)

The ‘New Conservatives’ group of Tory MPs received a £50,000 donation in December from the investment fund behind GB News, DeSmog can reveal.

New Electoral Commission records show that the Legatum Institute Foundation gave the sum in December last year, the joint-largest recorded donation to the Conservative faction.

The Legatum Institute Foundation’s principal financial backer is the Legatum Group, a Dubai-based investment fund that bankrolls the right-wing broadcaster GB News, a leading opponent of climate action. A DeSmog investigation in May revealed that one in three GB News hosts spread climate science denial on air in 2022, while half attacked climate policies. 

GB News presenters have claimed that net zero will cause “death by poverty and starvation”, that the policy “poses an existential threat to the free world”, and have called for the UK to “drill, baby, drill” for more fossil fuels. 

Legatum partner Alan McCormick is the chair of GB News, while the investment firm has given tens of millions of pounds to the broadcaster. 

The New Conservatives group of roughly 25 Tory MPs, founded last July, advocates for more socially conservative, right-wing ideas within the Tory party, and has publicly campaigned against “woke” culture, and immigration. 

New Conservative MPs frequently appear on GB News. In July, the group’s co-chairs Miriam Cates and Danny Kruger appeared on the channel to launch their “plan” to cut immigration. 

The group is also hostile to climate action and has ties to fossil fuel interests. Its MPs have welcomed the government’s push for new oil and gas licences, opposed London’s expanded ultra low emissions zone (ULEZ), and attacked climate campaigners.

During a speech at the National Conservatism Conference in London in May, Cates suggested that “epidemic levels of anxiety and confusion” are being caused by teaching children that “humanity is killing the Earth”.  

In August, Kruger used his role on Parliament’s Treasury Select Committee to urge the Bank of England to investigate the “influence Greenpeace and other extreme climate activist groups may have over employees of the Bank”. Kruger worked as a senior adviser to the Legatum Institute from 2017 to 2018.

New Conservatives president John Hayes is an adviser to the oil firm BB Energy, earning £50,000 a year in this position. Hayes has in the past supported the controversial practice of fracking for shale gas.

Both Cates and Kruger are advisers to the Alliance for Responsible Citizenship (ARC) – a right-wing pressure group run by Legatum alongside fellow GB News investor Paul Marshall. ARC’s 44-member advisory board includes a number of climate science deniers and leading critics of climate action.  

Jolyon Maugham, executive director of the Good Law Project, told DeSmog: “A Dubai investment fund owning a British broadcaster, funding a wing of the government and with a track record of backing reactionary causes, isn’t exactly what our politics needs at the moment. But, I’m afraid, that’s what the right wing big money ecosystem looks like.”

The Legatum Group, the Legatum Institute, the New Conservatives, Kruger, Cates, and Hayes have been approached for comment. 

Legatum and GB News

The Legatum Group funds the Legatum Institute, a London-based think tank that “exists to promote the prosperity of individuals, families, communities and nations”. 

Once called the “intellectual heart of hard Brexit” by the Financial Times, the Legatum Institute breached the Charity Commission’s rules on political activity in 2017 over a report about Brexit.

In 2018, the Legatum Institute received $77,000 from the Charles Koch Foundation, founded by the CEO of the US-based Koch Industries fossil fuel dynasty.

Though the Legatum Institute Foundation was wound up in 2023, its £770,941 in surplus funds is held and used by the Legatum Institute Limited, a company owned by the partners of the Legatum Group. 

“Until they are banned, we need far greater transparency over large party political donations,” Tom Brake, director of the campaign group Unlock Democracy, told DeSmog. “Knowing precisely who the donation came from, and therefore whether it might come with strings attached or with a particular agenda, is the least the public are entitled to.”

The Legatum Group was also one of the founding investors in GB News, the right-wing broadcaster that employs several Conservative MPs. 

GB News continues to be a prominent mouthpiece for individuals who support more fossil fuel extraction and oppose the UK’s target to reduce emissions to net zero by 2050.

On 5 November 2022, GB News host Neil Oliver used his show to attack “net zero [and] the green agenda”, which he claimed was part of “a hellish potpourri of policies guaranteed to condemn hundreds of millions to death by poverty, death by starvation”. 

The UK’s Climate Change Committee, which advises the government on measures to achieve net zero emissions by 2050, estimates that the combined policies will cost less than 1 percent of GDP.

GB News host Nigel Farage – who has a long record of opposing climate action – used the channel to launch a campaign in 2022 for a Brexit-style referendum on net zero. Farage is the president of Reform UK, a party which is campaigning to “scrap all of net zero”. All of Reform’s donations in 2023 were made by fossil fuel interests and climate science deniers. 

GB News host and Conservative MP Philip Davies was one of five MPs to vote against the Climate Change Act in 2008. Fellow presenters and Tory MPs Jacob Rees Mogg, Lee Anderson and Esther McVey are all supporters of the anti-climate action Net Zero Scrutiny Group of backbench Conservative MPs, while Anderson is also a supporter of the New Conservatives.

GB News is backed by the Legatum Group and hedge fund manager Paul Marshall. The latter reportedly invested £10 million in GB News when it first launched two years ago, and joined the Legatum Group in a £60 million capital injection and buyout of GB News’s other major investor, Discovery, in August 2022. 

Marshall is the chairman and chief investment officer of Marshall Wace, a London-based hedge fund that he co-founded in 1997. DeSmog revealed that, as of June 2023, Marshall Wace owned shares worth $2.2 billion (£1.8 billion) in fossil fuel firms. This included a $213 million (£175.6 million) shareholding in the oil and gas supermajor Chevron, as well as stakes in Shell, Equinor, and 109 other fossil fuel companies. 

The Legatum Group said that it invested in GB News “because we hope it will bring something new and fresh to the public conversation. Enabling debates to happen openly and honestly can provide an antidote to division and tribalism and allow the nation to have the conversations it needs to have, to move forward, together.”

GB News lost more than £30 million during its first year on air and has been hit by multiple scandals over its use of Conservative MPs as presenters, its alleged lack of impartiality, and its habit of platforming of conspiracy theories

The broadcast regulator Ofcom ruled in March 2023 that Mark Steyn had broken its rules on harmful content by claiming on GB News that the third Covid vaccine was causing higher infection, hospitalisation and deaths. Steyn’s claims were “potentially harmful and materially misleading,” Ofcom ruled. Steyn, who has also questioned the existence of climate change, resigned from the channel in February after GB News reportedly demanded he personally pay the fines issued if found in breach of the broadcasting code.

GB News has been approached for comment.

The Alliance for Responsible Citizenship

The Legatum Group and Paul Marshall are also behind ARC, a pressure group founded in March 2023 that has extensive ties to UK politicians and media figures.

According to Companies House, the same five individuals who own GB News’s parent company are also the people with significant control of the Alliance for Responsible Citizenship Limited: Paul Marshall, Alan McCormick, Richard Douglas, Mark Stoleson, and Christopher Chandler.

McCormick, Chandler, and Stoleson are all executives at the Legatum Group, while Richard Douglas also appears to be involved in the investment fund.

ARC’s CEO, Tory peer Baroness Stroud, formerly served as the CEO of the Legatum Institute, while the Legatum Institute Foundation’s final accounts show that the charity funded ARC’s work to the tune of more than £150,000 during the 18 month period ending June 2023.

The ARC advisory board includes media figures and politicians from across the world, many of whom have attacked climate protestors and called climate science into question. 

The group is fronted by psychologist Jordan Peterson, who has regularly posted about “climate apocalypse insanity” and “eco fascists” to his millions of online followers, while claiming in a Telegraph article last October that “eco-extremists are leading the world towards despair, poverty, and starvation”.

Peterson has played a key role in amplifying fringe climate crisis deniers to millions of people via his YouTube channel, according to a DeSmog analysis.

He is joined on ARC’s advisory board by former Australian prime minister Tony Abbott, a trustee at the Global Warming Policy Foundation, a leading climate science denial group. Abbott has previously said that “climate change is probably doing good” and is a long-standing advocate for coal power, the most carbon-intensive fossil fuel.

Fellow ex-Australian prime minister John Howard, who sits on the ARC board, told Sky News in March 2023 that he was “increasingly sceptic [sic]” about climate policies, adding that Australia should “continue to benefit” from coal and gas.  

Another member of the ARC board is former Republican presidential hopeful Vivek Ramaswamy, who used a debate on 23 August to claim that “the climate change agenda is a hoax”.

ARC hosted a major event at the O2 Arena in London in November, headlined by Peterson, which it claims played host to “more than a thousand high level leaders from politics, culture, business and academia”.

The conference was attended by UK Cabinet ministers Michael Gove and Kemi Badenoch, while a number of speakers dismissed the scale of the climate crisis and questioned the need for government policies to cut greenhouse gas emissions.  

ARC has been approached for comment. 

Sam is DeSmog’s UK Deputy Editor. He was previously the Investigations Editor of Byline Times and an investigative journalist at the BBC. He is the author of two books: Fortress London, and Bullingdon Club Britain.

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