EXCLUSIVE: North East MP receives large donation amid party leadership campaign rumours

Written by on 12th December 2023

A North East MP who is rumoured to be a potential challenger to PM Rishi Sunak has received a large campaign donation, Spark can reveal.

According to the Register of MPs’ interests, Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland MP Sir Simon Clarke, who has not previously declared interest in leadership of the Conservative Party, received a £40,000 donation from manufacturing company JCB in the last month “for the appointment of a campaign manager”.

An anonymous Labour source told Spark: “He doesn’t need that to defend his seat – it reeks of a leadership bid”.


Mr Clarke received a £40,000 donation from JCB for campaigning in the last month.


It comes as Mr Sunak weathered the storm of a significant rebellion on his immigration legislation this week while speculation over letters of no confidence in his leadership picks up pace.

Right-wing members of the Conservative Party are unhappy that the Bill, which would disapply sections of the Human Rights Act to send illegal immigrants to Rwanda, which they say is not strong enough.

It was reported by Bloomberg that Sir Simon is thought to be the rebels’ choice of candidate if a vote of no confidence was called. He also reportedly canvassed support from Tory rebels to vote down the legislation.

Sir Simon said there are “clear and specific challenges to the government on whether this legislation works” and abstained on the second reading of the Bill which passed with a majority of 44, a smaller number than the government’s working majority.

The Tory MP for Middlesbrough South and East Cleveland won a majority of 11,626 at the last general election.

Britain Elects’ pollster Ben Walker told Spark it would be a “tough ask” for Clarke to win re-election, let alone become Prime Minister, with polls suggesting a “dramatic reversal” of 2019’s result.

Britain Elects suggests that Mr Clarke will lose his seat to Labour at the next election on current polling.

“There’s still work for Labour to do locally,” said Mr Walker.

“Nevertheless, the probability of a Clarke hold is rather slim. Not impossible. But very, very improbable.”

Both JCB and Sir Simon Clarke did not respond when asked to provide comment.

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