During the 2019 General Election period parties received a total of £30.7 million in registered donations. Just under two-thirds (63%) of this was donated to the Conservative Party.

This Insight looks at registered donations to political parties that were received during the six weeks prior to the 2019 and 2017 general elections.

Which donations must be registered?

All donations to political parties in excess of £7,500 must be registered with the Electoral Commission. These donation are published on the Electoral Commission’s searchable database. Outside election periods, donations are reported on a quarterly basis, but this frequency increases to weekly during election campaigns.

What was the distribution of donations for the 2019 General Election?

During the six weeks prior to the 2019 General Election period, parties received a total of £30.7 million of registered donations. This was 32% less than the £44.9 million received in the six weeks prior to the 2017 General Election.

In 2019, the Conservative Party accounted for just under two-thirds of all donations (19.4m, 35% less than in 2017), followed by the Labour Party (£5.4m, 47% less) and the Liberal Democrats (£1.3m, 64% less).

Donations to the Green Parties (registered separately in England and Scotland) increased by 65% from £147,000 in 2017 to £245,000 in 2019. The SNP received two donations with a total value of just under £25,000 during the 2019 General Election campaign. This was around £11,000 less than in 2017. The majority of donations to the Conservative Party were from individuals. For Labour they mostly came from trade unions.

Two charts showing the registered donations to political parties by donor types during the general election campaign and the change in donations by type and party from 2017 to 2019.

Who donated to political parties prior to the 2019 General Election?

Donations may be in cash or in kind, and can come from individuals registered to vote in the UK, corporations registered in the country, or UK-based trade unions. Prior to the 2019 General Election, donations from individuals accounted for the highest share of all donations – £19.0 million or 62%. Companies donated £6.6 million (21%), followed by trade unions £5.0 million (16%).

The total number of registered donations to parties, and the total amount registered by donor type, are shown in the table below.

How were donations from individuals different in 2017 and 2019?

The total number of donations from individuals was almost four times lower during the 2019 General Election campaign compared to 2017 (down from 1,016 in 2017 to 266 in 2019). However, the average value per donation increased almost three times from around £24,000 in 2017 to just over £71,000 in 2019.  

The chart below shows the number and average value of donations from individuals for all parties combined and a breakdown for parties which received donations from at least five different individuals in 2019.

A chart showing the number and average value of registered donations from individuals to parties during the 2017 and 2019 general election campaigns. It shows a break down by party and between the two elections.

Of parties that received donations from more than five individual donors, the Conservative Party had the highest average value per donation both during the 2019 and 2017 General Elections campaigns (£68,026 and £32,536 respectively). The Labour Party had the lowest average value per individual donation (£12,265 in 2019 and £6,641 in 2017).

Donations from individuals accounted for 71% of the total Conservative Party’s income from donations, compared with just 6% of the total donations to the Labour Party.

The Brexit party had the highest average value per donation (£461,111) but received only nine donations from two individuals in 2019.

Further reading

Political Party Funding, Sources and Regulations, House of Commons Library.

General Election 2019: Voting patterns in student seats, House of Commons Library.

General Election 2019: How does the result compare to other elections in 2019? House of Commons Library.

About the author: Lukas Audickas is a statistician at the House of Commons Library, specialising in social and general statistics.