Rishi Sunak has called on wealthy conservative donors to fund an “80:20” campaign in the upcoming election on Thursday night, with a Swarovski crystal-encrusted portrait of the prime minister sold at auction for £25,000.
In a speech to the guests, the prime minister thanked the room for all the “support for our fantastic party” at the event at the Savoy hotel in London.
One attendee said guests were given forms asking them to donate to an ’80:20′ campaign in the next election, with the party aiming to defend 80 seats and win another 20. There were a number of checkboxes for up to £10,000 , where donors could fill in how much they were willing to donate and their details, along with a message from Sunak.
Among those in attendance was Mohamed Mansour, a billionaire businessman and former minister in the Egyptian regime of Hosni Mubarak, who is now the party’s senior treasurer. Mansour’s company Unatrac donated over £600,000 to the party. Howard Leigh, a donor and former treasurer, reportedly participated in part of the evening.
Dominic Raab, Deputy Prime Minister and Secretary of Justice; Will Quince, a health minister; Mark Harper, the Secretary of Transportation; Steve Barclay, secretary of health, and Suella Braverman, secretary of the interior, were among the politicians at the event. Sunak attended with his wife, Akshata Murty, and they left at around 10:30 pm.
Donors sat at tables with ministers and other party officials and bought auction prizes, including a portrait of Sunak made of crystals, which sold for £25,000. The image was made by London artist San B.
Other prizes included a shooting party at Warter Priory in Yorkshire which cost £40,000, and a trip to watch the F1 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix which cost £50,000, first reported by Guido Fawkes.
Asked if they attended, a Conservative MP said they avoided the “unpleasant event”.
Conservatives have been struggling to fill their coffers ahead of the next election, with a string of party seats since Ben Elliot, businessman and friend of Boris Johnson, stepped down in September.
Jake Berry was chairman under Liz Truss, followed by Nadhim Zahawi, who resigned in the furor over his tax affairs, and the role now held by Greg Hands.
There have been reports from Bloomberg that the party is facing a deficit of around £25m ahead of the next election, although the Conservatives insist that more donations are coming in. Several major donors were reluctant to support the party after Johnson’s departure.
An 80-20 campaign in the next election is likely to be considered ambitious given the position of the Conservatives in opinion polls, with polls suggesting Labor has a 22-28 point lead over the ruling party. Sunak’s personal ratings are also struggling with Labor leader Keir Starmer.