Lib Dems tap City in push for record donations

The article below appeared in Financial News on Monday 19th October 2019…

The Liberal Democrats are on track to raise their largest-ever amount of political donations, with City grandees including Sir Mike Rake, the former deputy chair of Barclays, throwing their weight behind the anti-Brexit party.

According to figures given exclusively to Financial News, the Lib Dems have raised £5m in just two months ahead of a possible snap election, and as fears mount of the UK leaving the European Union without an exit deal.

The money was raised from 15 members of the Liberal Business Alliance, a newly launched campaign run by the Lib Dems to support UK businesses. Each member donated a minimum of £300,000 to the centrist party, according to Andrew Dixon, an angel investor leading the initiative and a former executive at Goldman Sachs, the US bank.

This compares with £7.9m raised from 975 donations over 12 months in 2017 when the last general election took place.

Rake, who has donated to the Lib Dems and is gathering support for the party, told Financial News: “Many of my business contacts think the country has dangerously polarised between right and left. There is no one in the middle and both parties have elements of their policies that are seriously damaging potentially for businesses, and therefore employment and wealth.”

“A no-deal Brexit could be extremely damaging,” said Rake, the former chair of KPMG Europe, the auditor.

This has created “fertile ground” for the Lib Dems, according to Rake. He said the party can offer individuals the opportunity to be a “force for good and a force for balance” in UK politics.

The Liberal Business Alliance, which includes representatives from investment managers, hedge funds and insurance companies among others, has been reaching out to the City, offering an alternative to Brexit or a Labour government led by Jeremy Corbyn.

Dixon said a third of the leaders he had spoken to were from the financial sector, including executives from Goldman Sachs, Credit Suisse, Deutsche Bank, KKR, Citibank and Phoenix Equity Partners.

“I’ve been speaking with around 120 different business leaders,” said Dixon. “Everyone is saying the same: is there another solution to Brexit and Corbyn?”

Earlier this month, Nicola Horlick, a high-profile fund manager once dubbed “City superwoman”, announced she will stand as the Lib Dem candidate in London’s Chelsea and Fulham constituency. The former chief executive of SG Asset Management and Bramdean Asset Management said she wants to “fight against Brexit and restore order to government”.

The popularity of the Liberal Democrats has grown in London. The party won 16 of the 32 London boroughs in the European elections in May — its best result ever in the capital. In the 2015 general election, however, the Lib Dems lost 49 seats, leaving them with just eight MPs in Parliament.

If the Lib Dems win a majority in the potential snap election, which could take place in November, the party said it would cancel Brexit.

Concern over the threat of a no-deal Brexit has been rising in the Square Mile, ever since prime minister Boris Johnson said that if an agreement is not reached by October 31, the UK would leave the bloc regardless.

In a recent survey by FN, 91% of 247 City workers said they wanted Johnson to secure a deal with Brussels, while almost 40% still think Brexit will not go ahead.

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