DeSmog

Conservative Party Received 40 Percent of its Donations from Fossil Fuel Interests in First Week of Campaign

Rishi Sunak’s Tories accepted hundreds of thousands from major donors with financial ties to the oil and gas industry.
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Prime Minister Rishi Sunak tours a Shell gas plant in Aberdeen in July 2023. Credit: Number 10 (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

The Conservative Party accepted £225,000 in donations from firms and individuals with financial interests in oil and gas during the first week of the general election campaign, DeSmog and Democracy for Sale can reveal. 

Rishi Sunak’s party was given £575,000 from 30 May, when Parliament was dissolved, to 5 June, official figures show. 

This included £75,000 from Alasdair Locke, an oil, gas and motor fuel executive, £50,000 from Lord Stanley Fink, who has shares in the oil and gas supermajor Shell, £50,000 from the gas turbines manufacturer Centrax, and £50,000 from Lord Michael Farmer, who has shares in the mining giant BHP. The Conservative Party has been approached for comment. 

Labour’s Alex Sobel, who is the party’s candidate for Leeds Central and Headingley, said: “Labour has committed to a just transition from oil and gas with no new licenses for oil and gas fields and restoring the 2030 date to ban sales of new petrol and diesel vehicles. However the Tories can’t commit to action on the climate as they are in hock to oil and gas producers.”

Reform UK also received £50,000 from Fitriani Hay – a former Conservative Party donor whose husband is an ex-BP executive. 

From the 2019 general election to the start of the 2024 election campaign, the Tories had accepted at least £8.4 million from fossil fuel interests, climate science deniers, and highly polluting industries. The equivalent figure for Reform was £2.3 million, representing 92 percent of its funding over the period. Reform has been approached for comment. 

Locke is the founder and former executive chairman of Abbot Group, a major oil and gas services company in the North Sea. He currently chairs the UK’s largest independent petrol station operator Motor Fuel Group, and serves as the non-executive chair of Well-Safe solutions, a firm that decommissions oil and gas wells. Locke has donated an additional £280,000 to the Conservatives since the 2019 general election. 

Lord Fink, a hedge fund manager and former Tory treasurer, is also a prolific Conservative donor, having given £4 million to the party since 2003, and £322,000 since December 2019. He holds shares worth at least £100,000 in Shell, Harbour Energy, and the oilfield services firm TechnipFMC, according to his register of interests.

Fellow Tory peer Lord Farmer has donated an additional £317,000 to the party since the last election, and £8.8 million since 2001. Until April 2024, Farmer held shares in the fossil fuel giants Shell and BP, each worth more than £100,000. Farmer still holds shares in BHP Group, which has mining and oil assets. In 2022, BHP’s petroleum business merged with the energy company Woodside, with the new firm being 48 percent owned by BHP shareholders, creating a “global top 10 independent energy company”.

On top of the £50,000 that Centrax donated during the first week of the election campaign, the gas turbine manufacturer has given £160,000 to the Tories since December 2019. 

The Conservative Party’s election manifesto commits to introducing annual North Sea oil and gas licensing rounds, underscoring its desire to “max out” the UK’s fossil fuel reserves. 

Reform has been campaigning on an overtly anti-net zero platform, and one of its newest donors has family ties back to the oil and gas industry. 

Fitriani Hay’s husband James Hay is a former BP executive who worked for the oil firm for 27 years. Fitriani Hay had previously donated £660,000 to the Conservatives, including £50,000 to Boris Johnson in 2016, and £100,000 to Liz Truss during her 2022 Tory leadership campaign. 

At the time of the Truss donation, Hay said: “I want to see us use more of our energy supply, including more oil and gas from the North Sea and nuclear power.”

Labour’s Clive Lewis, who is the party’s candidate for Norwich South, said: “These financial ties reveal the truth: Reform is the party of the status quo, the voice of the elites, albeit one in disguise… Simply follow the money. It always points to the truth.”

All the donors named in the article have been approached for comment. 

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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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