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Latest 29 March 2023

Tory private members’ club pockets £50k from alleged far-right German donor

A company controlled by a wealthy donor, believed to be a major funder of the far right in Germany, has donated another £50,000 to the Carlton Club – which has in turn given £1.3m to the Conservative Party.

Strandrook Limited, which was co-run by Henning Conle, gave the donation to the Carlton Club in January 2023. Since 2020, Strandbrook has handed a total of £150,000 to the club, often described as the spiritual home of the Tories. 

Reports in Germany have claimed Conle was behind unlawful donations totalling £115,000 to Alternative für Deutschland (AfD). The far-right party received the funds in contravention of German law through several intermediaries with the billionaire property tycoon Conle considered to be the original source. The scandal led to the AfD paying over 500,000 Euros in fines to German authorities.

Last year, a German court ruled there were “indications of anti-constitutional goals within the AfD” and the party could be classified as a suspected threat to democracy.

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The Carlton Club and dark money

The Carlton Club has ramped up its donations to the Tory Party in recent months. In total they have given an eye-watering £1.3m to the Conservative party since 2001. In the first quarter of 2023 alone Tory MPs received over £100K in donations from the club, including £15,000 to the new vice-chair Lee Anderson.

The huge sums of money flooding into the Conservative Party via this route has raised concerns of dark money influencing politics. 

The Electoral Commision only requires the Carlton Club and other similar ‘unincorporated associations’ to declare the source of donations that exceed £7,500, therefore the ultimate origins of any donations below this figure remain secret. 

This legal loophole allows the identity of donors to remain anonymous. We simply do not know the source of the vast majority of the £1.3m that has found its way into the Conservative party coffers via the Carlton Club.

The Carlton Club was the original home of the Conservative Party before the creation of Conservative Central Office. The club was founded in 1832, by Tory peers and MPs, as a place to conduct Conservative Party activity. Past and current members of the Carlton Club include David Cameron, Theresa May and Boris Johnson. 

Infamously, the club was the place at which Chris Pincher, the former Tory deputy chief whip, was alleged to have groped two men in 2022. The scandal led to a major government crisis and the eventual resignation of the Prime Minister, Boris Johnson.

We approached the Carlton Club, Strandbrook Ltd and the Conservative party for comment.

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