Tory donors spend £7m for dinner with PM

Advertised as a way to "defeat the rise of socialism",  the Conservatives this week released the details of their "The Leader's Group", an exclusive group of rich benefactors who have funded the Tories to the tune of £7.4m since last year's general election.

Tory pollster, Lord Ashcroft, American Hedge-fund manager Yan Huo, and Lubov Chernukhin, wife of former Russian finance minister Vladimir Chernukhin, are amongst those who forked out for a private audience with the PM and cabinet.

Although the events are sold as costing a "mere" £50,000 a year per head, it is thought that many of those taking party often spend far more, with Mrs. Chernukhin have donated some £626,500 to the Conservatives since 2012.

Those that take part are told that "Unlike Labour, the Conservative Party is not funded by the Trade Unions. Instead, we rely on the generosity of our committed supporters to maintain a highly effective campaign operation at Campaign HQ."

The Conservatives have become increasingly reliant upon large donors to bankroll their operations as their membership numbers have collapsed from nearly 3 million in the 1950s to just shy of 124,000 today.

In last year's election campaign the Tories outspent Labour by over £7m, despite losing their majority and seeing many previously safe seats lost to the opposition.

It is thought the latest round of fundraising will pay for the Tories to hire 100 new local organisers ahead of a possible snap election, with CCHQ looking to increase their budget by an additional 40 percent. 

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