Pity the poor Conservatives. Well poorer anyway, since corporate donations for political purposes seem to be drying up. Why should this be? Is it a corporate reflection of popular dissatisfaction with the Government's performance, or are there more deep-seated reasons? And why, for that matter, do some businesses continue to give financial support to the Conservatives?
The last question is easy. David Miller, group secretary of Sun Alliance, spells it out: 'Donations to the Conservative Party are made by the board, reflecting directors' considered view of the potential benefit to the company and its shareholders of the economic environment associated with the objectives of the Conservative Party.' Other big supporters of the Tories, such as Hanson, P&O, Forte and Hambros, would doubtless agree.
But the old justification that the Tories are protectors of the free-enterprise system carries less weight than it once did. Many business leaders now accept that the battle to preserve free enterprise has been won. Besides, not everyone these days is keen to be identified too clearly as a Conservative provider. In the words of one leading industrialist, it doesn't help that 'honours have a horrid habit of being linked to political contributions'. It may not help either that such controversial tycoons as Polly Peck's Asil Nadir, Harrods' Mohamed al-Fayed and Robert Montague of Tiphook were significant donors.