Ms Joan LB Edwards: the mystery donor who bequeathed £99,423 to the Lib Dems – our 20% share as “the party of government of the day”

by Stephen Tall on August 13, 2013

Chris Harlow and James Waterson at City A.M. has the bizarre story:

Eyebrows were raised this morning when it was revealed that the top individual donor to political parties in the second quarter of the year was one “Ms Joan L B Edwards” who gave the Conservatives £420,576 and the Lib Dems £99,423.

Ms Edwards has not shown any particular interest in politics in the past so onlookers immediately wondered whether she was spurred into action by the coalition’s success.

But City A.M. can reveal that it is actually the result of a bizarre bequest. Ms Edwards recently died and a mole says the money was left “to whoever was the party of government of the day”.

The coalition complicated matters but it was agreed that the donation would be split between the Lib Dems and the Conservatives based on the number of MPs and cabinet ministers they both have.

So had she passed away while Labour were in power, they would have received the full £519,999.

Some £520k to whoever was in the right place at the right time: truly, a roulette bequest.

I wonder if this windfall for the Lib Dems is at all related to the “late receipt of a bequest” to which the party ascribed its £410k deficit last year? (See my report here for details.) If yes, then — generous as this £99k is — it wouldn’t have made much of a dent in it. And it’s not the kind of donation we’re likely to get two years running. [Update: David Allworthy, in a comment below, says it’s not.] As I noted then: “legacies are by their very nature unpredictable: it’s not something we can rely on this year. Ideally the party needs to break even on its regular incomings/outgoings and then be able to use windfalls for investment.”

* Stephen Tall is Co-Editor of Liberal Democrat Voice, a Research Associate for the liberal think-tank CentreForum, and edited the 2013 publication, The Coalition and Beyond: Liberal Reforms for the Decade Ahead. He also writes at his own site, The Collected Stephen Tall.