Three donors paid up to £250 a month into the Liberal Democrat leader’s bank account in 2006, when he was the party’s home affairs spokesman. The arrangement came to an end after he was elected leader in 2007.
Clegg received the donations – which were used to fund staff salaries – from Ian Wright, an executive at drinks firm Diageo; Neil Sherlock, the head of public affairs at accountants KPMG; and Michael Young, a former gold-mining executive.
The donations were properly registered with the Electoral Commission and with the Parliamentary Register of Members Interests. Although party donations are normally paid directly into the party’s bank account rather than an individual’s, it is not clear that Clegg has broken any rules.
Last night a party spokesman said that any allegation of impropriety was “unacceptable”.
The revelations come at a crucial time in Clegg’s leadership, with opinion polls suggesting he is set to play kingmaker in a hung parliament. Today’s YouGov poll for the Sun has the Tories on 33 per cent, the Lib Dems in second place on 31 per cent and Labour on 27 per cent. If repeated at the general election, Labour would be the biggest party but would be 68 seats short of a majority, and reliant on the support of Clegg’s party.
Yesterday, shadow business secretary Ken Clarke warned the UK could be forced to go cap-in-hand to the IMF if the election results in a hung parliament.