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Lib Dems fundraise more than Labour for first time

Liberal Democrats raised more money through donations than Labour in the last three months of last year, thanks to a £1 million gift from a green philanthropist, new figures have revealed.

Party sources said that it was the first time the Lib Dems had outstripped Labour in fundraising over a quarter, taking in donations totalling £1,972,904 compared to £1,970,055 for Jeremy Corbyn's party.

The million-pound gift came from Gregory Nasmyth, a former journalist who has devoted himself to charitable giving after making a fortune from last year's £950 million sale of his family's Argus Media oil data company.

According to Electoral Commission records it is the first time that Mr Nasmyth has made a donation as an individual to a political party.

According to his website, Mr Nasmyth and wife Samantha have set up a foundation to support causes ranging from the environment to women and children, refugees and the arts.

It is understood that his donation to the Lib Dems - received in the run-up to the Richmond Park by-election when the party unseated former Tory Zac Goldsmith - was motivated by the party's position on the EU as well as green issues.

Figures for the fourth quarter of 2016 - the first full quarter of Theresa May's premiership - showed the Conservatives taking the lion's share of donations, with a total of £3,610,983.

The Electoral Commission confirmed that it was the first time that Liberal Democrat donations had topped Labour's for any quarter since records began in 2001.

Liberal Democrat president Baroness Brinton said: "Millions of people want a clear voice saying Britain must stay in the heart of Europe.

"That voice is the Liberal Democrats. Labour do not offer that any more, they are Theresa May's cheerleaders for a hard Brexit.

"Money is not the full picture here: We have had a famous by-election victory in Richmond Park, made 30 council gains up and down the country, and have our highest membership this century.

"Whatever is going on in Jeremy Corbyn's divided and extreme Labour Party, it is clear the Liberal Democrat fightback is on, providing the real opposition to the Conservative Brexit government."

Figures showed that in the period, the Greens took in £46,228, the Co-operative Party £39,750, Ukip £33,228, and the Women's Equality Party £30,000.

In all, £7.7 million was donated to 11 political parties, a rise of £1.2 million over the third quarter of 2016 - but £1.5 million down on the same period in the previous year.

A Labour spokesman said: "Labour is a mass membership party, proud to be funded by members and working people.

"It is this broad funding base that makes us the party of ordinary working people, while our main rivals increasingly rely on a small pool of donors."

Labour's largest donors during the quarter were the unions Unite (£440,622), Usdaw (£368,693) and the GMB (£332,808) - while the Conservatives' biggest gifts came from mining millionaire Michael Davis (£266,000) and property developer David Rowland (£233,000).

Labour campaigns co-ordinator Andrew Gwynne said that almost half of Conservative donations - £1,678,863 - came from wealthy members of the party's Leaders Group donor club.

"Theresa May talks of building a country that works for everyone, but her party continues to rely on dinners with rich donors and big business to get half of its funding," said Mr Gwynne.

"These figures show that the Tory Party has not changed one bit under her leadership."

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