Jeremy Hunt donates £32,000 of own money to local party amid 'neck and neck' fight to keep seat

Jeremy Hunt has donated a further £32,000 of his own money to his constituency party as he tries to avoid becoming the first sitting chancellor in modern British history to lose his seat.

Figures from the Electoral Commission show in the first quarter of this year, Mr Hunt made three donations to the Godalming and Ash Conservatives.

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The chancellor gave £7,794 across two separate donations on 2 January then another £24,451.30 on 8 February.

The 8 February donation is the largest single donation he has made to the local association, which has received £166,457 from him in total since 2014.

The vast majority of that has been cash donations, official records show, though £8,918 of it was non-cash.

Under electoral rules, MPs and candidates can donate to their local constituency accounting unit if they wish.

The Lib Dems said Mr Hunt is "throwing the kitchen sink at keeping his seat", amid warnings he could be ousted come polling day on 4 July.

The Surrey constituency has been a key target seat for Sir Ed Davey's party as they aim to demolish the Conservative "Blue Wall" in southern England.

A Liberal Democrat source told Sky News. "The Liberal Democrats are on the up in Godalming and Ash and this marginal seat is neck and neck.

"There's no doubt that Jeremy Hunt needs all the help he can get - that's why he is throwing the kitchen sink at keeping his seat."

Mr Hunt amassed a vast personal fortune in his pre-political career as an entrepreneur.

He has previously defended the large donations by arguing "it's a free country" and that it demonstrated his "commitment" to the area he has represented since 2005.

Speaking about the issue in March, 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."

However, he admitted he has a "tough fight" against the Lib Dems and added "I've never taken that for granted".

Mr Hunt is defending a notional majority of just over 10,000 in Godalming and Ash, which was previously South West Surrey before boundary changes.

Polls suggest he is one of several Tory big beasts at risk of losing their seat in an election that could fundamentally redraw Britain's political landscape.

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With Labour projected to win a majority as high as 200, Mr Hunt - along with cabinet colleagues like Grant Shapps and Penny Mordaunt - could all face the electoral chopping board - or a "Portillo Moment" as it is sometimes called.

This is a reference to Michael Portillo, the Tory minister who was famously unseated as Tony Blair swept to power in 1997.

It is relatively rare for cabinet ministers to lose their seats and if this happens to Mr Hunt it would be particularly embarrassing, as it would make him the first sitting chancellor in modern British history to be ousted at a general election.

He has made relatively few national media appearances during the election campaign compared to other senior Tories, telling broadcasters last week that he has been "knocking on doors for six hours every day" and "meeting lots of people, making the arguments".

He said: "I'm fighting for every vote. I think that I can win the seat. But I don't take anything for granted."

The full list of candidates in Godalming and Ash is:

• Graham Drage, Reform UK
• Paul Follows, Liberal Democrat
• Jeremy Hunt, Conservative and Unionist Party
• Ruby Tucker, Green Party
• James Walsh, Labour Party
• Harriet Williams, Women's Equality Party.