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Find £24m to boost campaign machine

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Wealthy Tory donors have been urged to hand over an extra £‎6m annually to improve its “battle-readiness” following a review of this year’s disastrous General Election campaign.

Sky News has learnt that Sir Mick Davis, the recently appointed chief executive of the Conservative Party, told backers this week that the money was needed to employ scores of local campaign managers and improve its targeting of younger voters.

Sir Mick presented the findings of his review ‎of the Tories’ election campaign – which resulted in Theresa May needing the support of Northern Ireland’s Democratic Unionist Party to form a government – at an event in Central London on Thursday afternoon.

‎According to insiders, the party’s boss told donors that the Conservatives would need to raise an additional £6m annually throughout the parliamentary cycle in order to improve its performance at the next General Election.

The Tories already spend an average of about £18m each year, meaning that Sir Mick is targeting a 33% annual increase in the party’s budget, according to people briefed on his proposals.

He is understood to have told about 30 wealthy backers that the Tory campaign failed because the party machine was largely unprepared for the election called by Mrs May in April.

“One of the key messages was that a snap election is supposed to be a surprise ‎for the opposition, not for the party that’s in government,” said one of those present.

A full version of Sir Mick’s post-mortem is expected to be circulated next month, following the Tories’ annual conference.

Among those who attended Thursday’s event at the Institute for Mechanical Engineers in Westminster were: Henry Angest, the boss of Arbuthnot Banking Group; Peter Cruddas, chief executive of financial spread-betting company CMC Markets; and David Mayhew, former boss of JP Morgan Cazenove, the City brok‎ing powerhouse.

David Brownlow, a recruitment entrepreneur who is now the vice-chairman for campaigning; Andrew Law, who runs the hedge fund Caxton Associates; Tony Gallagher, a property tycoon; and Alexander Temerko, a Ukrainian-born businessman, also attended the presentation.

A source familiar with Sir Mick’s presentation said it had had a “warm reception‎” but that it largely consisted of “statements of the obvious”.

“There’s an obvious need to improve the party’s social media penetration‎ and ability to connect with younger voters,” they added.

Up to 100 additional local campaign managers would be hired to work in key target constituencies with the extra money, Sir Mick’s presentation is understood to have said.

Some donors are sceptical about the Tory chief’s plans, however, with one arguing: “We already have more than enough money; it’s not how much we have, but how effectively we spend it.”

The party is already by far the richest in Britain, raking in £24.8m in the quarter before June‎’s election, according to figures published by the Electoral Commission last month.

Sources said there was little appetite expressed at the meeting for a change of leadership, despite comments by Lord Harris of Peckham, last week that Mrs May is the “hopeless” leader of a “weak” Government.

The final spending figures for this year’s campaign are yet to be published by the watchdog, although the Tories’ biggest donors included Lord Bamford, the JCB tycoon, who gave more than £1m.

The Cabinet Office disclosed this week that the overall cost of the election was £141m.

The Conservatives failed to respond to a series of requests for comment on Sir Mick’s review.


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