Labour’s mystery £600,000 donor named Martin Taylor has been revealed as a Mayfair hedge fund manager after pressure was brought on him and Ed Miliband following publication of a Bureau investigation earlier this week.
He confirmed his identity tonight, three days after the Bureau published an article highlighting concerns over potential hypocrisy on the part of Labour which had been unable or unwilling to give any details about his background.
The Bureau can reveal that Labour’s third largest individual cash donor since the last election helps run Nevsky Capital, a hedge fund based near Bond Street in Mayfair, west London.
It has previously held significant stakes in controversial Russian energy companies Gazprom and Lukoil. And according to its latest filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission in the US, it held $15m of shares in United Health at the end of last year.
United Health, a huge US health insurance firm worth £76bn, is one of several companies currently bidding for a £1.2bn NHS contract for end of life care.
The stakes are under the control of Nevsky Capital and not Martin Taylor himself. There is no suggestion of any inappropriate action by either Mr Taylor or Nevsky Capital.
Martin Taylor also met Ed Miliband on July 3 2013. Just one week later the Labour leader attacked David Cameron at Prime Minister’s Questions by saying the Tory party relied heavily on hedge funds for donations.
– Martin Taylor
In a letter to the Independent newspaper published tonight, Taylor says that his father was a Labour councillor while his mother rose to become the headteacher of a comprehensive school. He said the concept of a Labour-supporting hedge funder “may seem a bit odd to many people”, adding: “It is commonly believed that everyone in the financial sector supports the Conservative party, in a quest to pay ever lower levels of tax.”
However, he said he supports Labour because he believes “very strongly that everyone should contribute to society and that those who are lucky enough to earn a lot should contribute more than others”. He said he was a supporter of Labour’s proposed so-called ‘Mansion Tax’ on high value homes and that it is “only fair that these lucky households (myself included) now pay a little bit more to help the NHS in its hour of need”.
He added: “That is why, as someone who is lucky enough to be paid very well for doing a job I love – and who has always been UK domiciled and fully pay UK tax on all of my income, whatever its source – it is natural for me to support the political party and the party leader, in Ed Miliband, who are patently committed to this principle.”
According to the Electoral Commission database, Taylor has given Labour £591,800 since his first donation in October 2012. Six donations have been made to the central party’s funds, while two donations worth £4,800 were given to the Greenwich and Woolwich Labour party in southeast London.
The Bureau can now reveal he lives in that constituency.
Letter to the Independent
In his letter tonight, he referred to the Bureau’s article on Tuesday in which we described the lack of details around his identity as a “mystery”. He says: “There is no mystery. This ‘Martin Taylor’ is me.”
However, the Bureau for more than a month made several attempts to contact him to establish whether he was the man listed as having given the money to Labour.
The Bureau believed it was in the public interest to know what sector he worked in to establish any areas of potential influence. Under Electoral Commission rules any donor making a gift of more than £7,500 must record their name against the donation so party political funding is transparent. But because Martin Taylor has a common name, it was not possible to precisely identify him.
The Bureau had contacted several ‘Martin Taylors’.
Related story: Labour’s mystery donor: Who is Martin Taylor?
We left messages at his Nevsky Capital workplace and sent a formal letter to Martin Taylor’s home address. He did not respond.
We also contacted Ed Miliband’s office and Labour’s central press operations several times since early February, but they were only able to say that donations had been “declared and published in line with Electoral Commission rules”.
We also Tweeted the Labour leader yesterday but he did not respond.
Now Budget is over @Ed_Miliband, are you able to tell voters who is yr £600k donor Martin Taylor? http://t.co/WsZxldhRI7 #whoismartintaylor
— The Bureau (@TBIJ) March 19, 2015
The only detail about Martin Taylor on the Electoral Commission database was his name. But because the name is so common, it made tracing the actual individual more difficult. Labour may have been prevented from disclosing Taylor’s full identity due to privacy and data protection rules.
But his first donation of £100,000 was accepted by Labour in October 2012, less than seven months after Ed Miliband claimed to have “delivered” on the issue of donor transparency. If Taylor, as it is now understood, wanted his full identity kept private, Labour was under no obligation to accept his money.
In possibly accepting his donations on those terms, Labour risked a charge of hypocrisy, a point raised by Sir Alistair Graham, the former chair of the Committee on Standards in Public Life, who told the Bureau on Tuesday that Miliband should match his “rhetoric on transparency” with actions.
Sir Alistair also said the issue highlighted a more systemic failing in the rules governing the transparency of donors, saying: “Recent events surrounding donations to political parties suggest a review of the current legislation is long overdue. There is a need to tighten the rules to ensure the fullest transparency about donors who are making donations over a given sum (say £5,000 compared with the current £7,500), so the public can know where exactly the money is coming from and what it is intended to achieve.”
The Bureau approached Nevsky Capital for comment but did not receive a reply.