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Private donations to Britain’s Labour party reached £6.5mn in the second quarter of 2023, exceeding total individual financial contributions for the whole of last year, according to the latest official figures.

The biggest single private donation to the country’s main opposition party during the quarter was £3mn from Lord David Sainsbury, according to the Electoral Commission. The gift takes the total given to Labour by the former chair of the eponymous supermarket chain to £5mn in the past 12 months.

Sainsbury was a big donor to Labour when it was last in power and served as a minister in Tony Blair’s government between 1998 and 2006. He subsequently distanced himself from the party after it lost the 2010 election and shifted to the left.

The rise in individual donations comes with the party leading the ruling Conservatives by 18 points in the opinion polls ahead of a general election that is expected next year.

Sir Keir Starmer, the Labour leader, has sought to shift the balance of donations away from the trade unions, the party’s traditional financial backers, who gifted a total of £896,000 in the second quarter. The party’s other main income is from the fees paid by its 400,000 members.

In total Labour raised £10.5mn in the second quarter, boosted by £2.9mn in opposition party taxpayer grants.

The Tories raised £10.9mn during the three months to June — all from private donations — including £5mn from Frank Hester, the founder and chief executive of The Phoenix Partnership (TPP), a healthcare software company.

Alan Howard, the billionaire hedge fund manager who founded Brevan Howard Asset Management, gave the Tories £1mn during the period.

Labour also received £2.2mn in the second quarter from Gary Lubner, the former boss of Autoglass, the car windscreen repair company, helping to lift its total income from individual donors in the three-month period above the £6mn it raised in 2022.

Lubner told the Financial Times earlier this year that he wanted to give the Labour enough financial help to ensure it returned to power “for a long time”. Party officials expect total donations from the South African-born tycoon to reach £5mn before the general election.

In total political parties received more than £24mn during the second quarter, according to the Electoral Commission, as they look to boost their war chests ahead of the impending election. 

Labour’s latest annual report showed it raised £47.2mn in 2022 and made a £2.7mn surplus compared to a loss of £5.2mn for the previous year. 

The Conservative party recorded a loss of £2.3mn in 2022 after what officials called a “turbulent year” during which Boris Johnson and Liz Truss were both forced out as prime minister and party leader.

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