Liz Truss now has the job of leading the Conservative Party and of running the country. So who gave her the money for her campaign?
MPs in Britain have to declare any money they receive, via donations or second jobs for example, and this is listed in the Register of Members’ Financial Interests.
The website explains that the Register exists to provide information about “any financial interest which a Member has, or any benefit which he or she receives” and the reason that this matters is that, according to the website, “others might reasonably consider” this money could influence the MP.
The Register is updated regularly but the data is laid out as text as a web page and only the line breaks serve to distinguish one field from another. This makes it very difficult to scrape the data or interrogate it for trends.
This is where we turn to Datasette, a lovely tool for “exploring and publishing data”, built and maintained by Simon Willison and which allows SQL queries. Happily, there is already an example in place for the Register of Members’ Interests.
There are four main tables in this instance of Datasette: categories, items, members, and people. A query of the members table (using “View and edit SQL”) returns two ids we can use to look up Liz Truss in the main items table: a member number (40560) in the “id” column and a person number (24941) in the “person_id” column.
SELECT * FROM members WHERE name = ‘Elizabeth Truss’
The table with the crucial information, items, has close to two million entries. But, as Simon Willison explains, its members field seems to stop around 2015, so the person field is a better choice. Querying Truss in items via her “person_id”:
SELECT * FROM items WHERE person_id = ‘uk.org.publicwhip/person/24941’ ORDER BY date DESC
returns just over 950 entries, from 2010 to 2022.
But if you just want the 2022 donations:
SELECT * FROM items WHERE person_id = ‘uk.org.publicwhip/person/24941’ AND date LIKE ‘2022%’ ORDER BY date DESC
or more precisely again, just the donation descriptions that mention the word “campaign”:
SELECT * FROM items WHERE person_id = ‘uk.org.publicwhip/person/24941’ AND item LIKE ‘%campaign%’
This last query returns 48 donations, which you can then download as a csv or json from Datasette. Here is that data as a csv, after some further cleaning.
Some initial observations on the donations are that:
£120,000 came from six companies: Big Bang Films, JC Bamford Excavators, Grolar Developments, SJJ Contracts, Smoked Salmon and Tungsten West. JC Bamford is the only one to have also donated to the wider Tory party in the last two years.
A little over £700,000 came from 13 people: Natasha Barnaba, Linda Edwards, Clara Freeman, Alison Frost, Fitriani Hay, Phillip Jeans, Gary Mond, Jon Moynihan, Sheila Noakes, Gordon Phillips, Howard Shore, Michael Spencer and Barbara Yerolemou.
A further £85,000 appeared to be help with transport, from Graham Edwards, Tony Gallagher, Greville Howard, Andrew Law and Nigel Vinson.
These initial observations however are just a starting point.