Hunt says £100k personal donation to local Tory party shows ‘commitment’ to area

Jeremy Hunt has admitted giving £100,000 of his own money to his constituency Conservative party, arguing “it’s a free country” and that it demonstrated his “commitment” to the area.

The Chancellor is seeking to boost his chances of re-election in his Godalming and Ash seat, amid warnings he is set to be ousted at the general election later this year.

The Surrey constituency is a key target seat for the Liberal Democrats as they aim to demolish the Conservative “Blue Wall” in southern England.

Mr Hunt on Wednesday stressed he wanted to “carry on serving” his voters when challenged over his personal donations to his local Tory association.

Asked whether he handed over the cash in fear of losing to the Lib Dems, the Cabinet minister admitted he faces a “tough fight” against Sir Ed Davey’s party.

He told Sky News: “I put that money in mainly because during the pandemic it was not possible to do fundraising in the normal way.

“I’ve got a brilliant team in my constituency and we do some fantastic local campaigning and I wanted that to continue despite the fact that we couldn’t fundraise.

“But have I (got) a tough fight against the Lib Dems? Absolutely. And I’ve never taken that for granted.”

Sir Ed Davey
Liberal Democrat leader Sir Ed Davey visited Jeremy Hunt’s Godalming and Ash constituency on Tuesday (Stefan Rousseau/PA)

Mr Hunt’s pre-politics career as an entrepreneur saw him amass a vast personal fortune.

When it was put to him that it could be seen as unfair for a wealthy MP to bankroll their own association, while others cannot afford to do so, he told the broadcaster: “Well, look, this shows that I’m committed to the local area.

“It’s a free country. All these donations are disclosed.”

The reason for his contribution was “because I want to carry on serving the people of Godalming and Ash”, Mr Hunt added.

Electoral Commission records, first reported by the Guardian, show he has handed more than £105,200 to the Surrey Conservative association over the last five years.

Polling by Savanta suggests the Lib Dems could be on course to take the constituency, which would make Mr Hunt the first chancellor of modern times to lose his seat in the Commons.

Reacting to Mr Hunt’s Budget, Sir Ed accused the minister of “running scared” of being voted out of Parliament.

The Lib Dem leader said: “This will go down as the bottler’s Budget. After all the hype, Jeremy Hunt failed to deliver and instead is running scared of losing his own seat.

“The Conservative Party is desperate to cling to power and people right across the country are paying the price.

“From unfair tax hikes to an NHS on its knees, it’s clear we urgently need a General Election now so voters can kick this out-of–touch government out of office.”