An elderly German woman left more than half a million pounds to the Tories in her will – despite being virtually unknown to the party or her local Conservative MP.
Gerda Winder, 86, who died in a care home in Essex on April 5 last year, donated £582,358 to the Tories as a dying gift.
Yet despite being such a keen supporter of the party, her local Colchester MP, Will Quince, and other local activists knew her by name only – and had no idea she was preparing to make such a large donation.
Speaking to HuffPost UK, Quince, first elected to the Commons in 2015, described the payout as “incredible”, adding: “A lot of people knew of her, but not much about her.
“I don’t know much about her. Clearly she must have been a keen supporter of the party.”
The money was handed over by estate in February 2018 – making it the largest single political donation in the first three months of this year.
The huge sum helped the Tories pull in £4.7m in donations between January and March – more than three times the money brought in by Labour, which banked £1.5m.
Winder came to England from Germany when she was in her 20s, and married a man called Ray. The couple had no children.
She spoke to her brother, who still lives in Germany, on the phone every week, and was described as a “private person” by a source at a care home in Colchester.
“She was very up-to-date with the news, and read a newspaper every day.
“I’m surprised she didn’t leave money to Costa Coffee to be honest, as she loved going down there,” the source said.
Despite her generous donation to the Tories, the source could not remember her talking about politics in a manner which suggested she was going to bequeath such a large sum.
“I don’t recall her saying anything about Brexit. Her political beliefs were all very private.”
Another large donation to the Tories came from Ehud Sheleg, an Israeli-born art gallery owner who is set to become the party’s treasurer.
Sheleg handed over £500,000, bringing his total donations to the Tories in the past year to £1.05m.
The bulk of Labour’s donations came from trade unions, with Unite handing over £450,000, the GMB giving £319,000 and Unison £312,000.
The Lib Dems pulled in £564,000 in the first three months of the year, while new anti-Brexit party Renew raised £112,000.
Bob Posner, director of political finance and regulation, and the legal counsel at the Electoral Commission, said: “This data is hugely important in ensuring that our political finance system is as transparent as possible across the whole of the UK.
“It’s always disappointing when parties fail to deliver their return on time. Where there is no reasonable explanation for such a failure we will take a robust approach in dealing with this in line with our Enforcement Policy.”