Hamlet and Ghost. George Cruikshank c.1825.
Courtesy of Bing Images  Creative Commons.

“What may this mean, that thou, dead corse, again in complete steel, revisits thus the glimpses of the moon, making night hideous, and we fools of nature so horridly to shake our disposition with thoughts beyond the reaches of our soul?”

So speaks Hamlet when confronted by the Ghost of his father on the desolate battlements of Elsinore.

Today the vengeful spectre of another former ruler haunts the ramparts of another desolate Wall, closer to home. It is a ghost arrayed not in steel but in iron, and a wall the colour of blood. It is the ghost of Margaret Thatcher, and it is the Red Wall upon which her sulphurous spirit stalks.

As part of an upcoming investigation into Conservative and Unionist funding in Scotland, we uncovered an organisation called Stalbury Trustees. As we shall demonstrate, this company forms a direct link between Margaret Thatcher, the Red Wall, Scottish Independence, and a family of the landed gentry that has influenced British politics for centuries.

As Marcellus intuits on the walls of Elsinore, “Something is rotten in the State….”


Cartoon published August 8th 1891 in Punch.
Courtesy of Bing Images Creative Commons.
1891 Cartoon satirising Lord Salisbury, Prime Minister. His direct descendants are Directors of Stalbury Trustees.

Stalbury Trustees have registered £917,838 in donations to the Conservatives since 2001. They have been incorporated since 1979 so the actual amount of money they have used to influence British politics will unquestionably be in the millions (that’s a Conservative estimate!)

In a Special Resolution of Memorandum of Association registered on 20/11/2007 and shown below, the objectives of the company are stated as:

“The promotion of the Conservative Party, the Conservative cause, and Conservative Principles and policies (“Together Conservative Principles”) in such a manner as the Company thinks fit, and in  particular to support any association, club, society, institution or other body…in the United Kingdom or throughout the world, the purposes of which include:

The election of Conservative Members of Parliament and the formation of a Conservative Government.

The fostering of fellowship, solidarity and cooperation between members of the Part and interested persons.

The promotion of, and support of research into, or leading to the formation and development of, Conservative Principles by individuals, institutes or any other body or group.”

As reported in The Mirror, Stalbury Trustees were one of several influential donors that together funnelled £200,000 into Tory campaigns in marginal Red Wall seats during the 2019 general election:

“Documents reveal a group called Stalbury Trustees donated £116,000 to 26 Tory candidates – including £60,000 fighting 15 marginal seats in the north and midlands”.

They have also been included on the Register of Interests of the current Leader of the Scottish Conservatives, Douglas Ross, and Alister Jack, the current Secretary of State for Scotland. They donated to Jack’s predecessor David Mundell and a whopping £50,000 to the anti-independence No Borders campaign.

So who are the men behind this organisation, and what “Conservative principles, opinions and policies” are they promoting?


Stalbury Director Ulric David Barnett is registered as personally donating £26,000 to the Conservative Party. His stated occupation on the Companies House register is “Gentleman”.

Ulric is the great-grandson of James Walter Grimston, 3rd Earl of Verulam. A Conservative MP and Lord, he is also the great-grandfather of the 7th Earl of Verulam, John Grimston, another Director of Stalbury mentioned below.

U. D. Barnett was a stockbroker before becoming a Senior Partner of the Cazenove investment bank. Referred to in The City as “The Queen’s Stockbroker”, Cazenove & Co were key economic policy confidants of Margaret Thatcher.

Another Cazenove Partner was Sir Michael Richardson, known as “Mr Privatisation” who “became Thatcher’s favourite banker thanks to his support for her vision”. He worked for both Cazenove and Rothschilds. He ended his career ignominiously after being declared “not fit and proper” to be involved in the financial market.

Below is a declassified letter from Richardson to Margaret Thatcher, taken from her private archives. He reiterates a point from an earlier conversation that “in principle it was exactly the budget that we, and the vast majority of the people in the city, were hoping for.” He signs the letter with “Please lean on us if there is anything we can do to help”.

This gives us direct evidence linking Cazenove to Thatcher and her government, and that those linked to Cazenove shared her ideology and were happy to support them. At the top of the letter we have highlighted U. D. Barnett.


Another Stalbury Director is Robert Michael Gascoyne-Cecil. As Marquess of Salisbury he owns 10,300 acres at Hatfield and Cranborne Manor in Dorset. His fortune is estimated to be £345 Million and is placed 378th on The Times Rich List 2020. Also worked as an investment banker before becoming a Conservative politician in Margaret Thatcher’s government. Educated at Eton and Oxford. He was the seventh consecutive member of his family to be elected to the House of Commons (brief family history available below). He has also served as Conservative Leader of The House of Lords.  He is a long-term “friend of unionism” and held secret talks at the Hatfield House estate between Unionist parties from Northern Ireland and Conservative officials. 

For an excellent analysis of the land that makes him landed gentry, and his dubious use of offshore financial sleight of hand, check out this article from

He was accused of being in breach of the MP’s Code Of Conduct for failing to resign from the Board of Stalbury Trustees whilst a sitting MP. He claimed that because his company was ‘in connection with private family estates’ there was no conflict of interest with his public duties. How a company set up to specifically fund Conservative campaigning for election has no bearing on a sitting MP’s actions is questionable!

As Robert Salisbury he writes for CAPX, the journal of Thatcher’s Centre for Policy Studies, and also contributes to the Spectator and Politea. He is affiliated with the Friends of the Union group, as was his father, and he is on the Steering Committee of The Constitutional Reform Group, which aims to reinvigorate the Act of Union and combat independence movements in the devolved nations. He is also a Chairman of a political commentary blog curated by Brexiteer Iain Martin.

Robert Salisbury is on the advisory board of both pro-Brexit organisation Prosperity UK and the Eurosceptic think-tank Open Europe. Prosperity UK claims to be a “a politically independent platform”. Its Chairmen are Paul Marshall and Lord Oareford, both of whom crop up in our article about the establishment network of Michael Gove.

Someone else who appeared in our Gove article, who is also a member of Prosperity’s Advisory Board, as well as the Chairman of Open Europe, is influential Conservative Lord Wolfson of Apsley Guise. We covered Open Europe here. Open Democracy said of Open Europe in their 2017 investigation of Stalbury:

“one Open Europe former staff member, Christopher Howarth, is now responsible for the European Research Group – the secretive pro-Brexit MP group which received funding from the Constitutional Research Council when it was chaired by the now Brexit minister, Steve Baker. Another former Open Europe staffer, Raoul Ruparel, now works as a Special Adviser in the Department for Exiting the EU alongside Steve Baker, the former ERG chair.”

Robert Salisbury’s son and heir is Ned Cecil (Viscount Cranborne). Also a director at his uncle’s Investment firm Samos. He is registered as donating £10,000 to Matt Hancock in 2019.

Robert Salisbury is also a member of the exclusive Carlton Club. This private members club was the original home of the Conservative Party and is still run like a clubhouse for party grandees. Margaret Thatcher was an honorary member. The Carlton Club is registered as donating £975,550 to the Conservatives since 2001.

(We look into the club in greater detail in our upcoming article on Douglas Ross and the Scottish Conservatives, many of whom have the Carlton Club noted in their register of interests.)


A former Stalbury Director was Robert Edward Gascoyne-Cecil, the now deceased father of Robert James and Charles Edward Gascoyne-Cecil. Despite apparently lacking “The gene of political manipulation that has marked out the Cecil’s for over four centuries“, Robert Edward was still deeply embedded in, and wielded influence over, the Conservative party. He was a Conservative MP and Lord. Educated at Eton.

Followed his father’s footsteps in becoming President of the Conservative Monday Club, a now largely marginalised pressure group that used to have numerous members from the Conservative Party and laterally the DUP and UUP. Affiliated with Thatcher, its views came to be regarded as “extremist”. Robert’s father was its first ever president. Other members included Enoch Powell.

Robert Edward was a patron of the Salisbury Review, which was named after his ancestor the 3rd Marquess of Salisbury by the Salisbury Group, who were

“dedicated to the political vision of the Third Marquess of Salisbury, who had famously declared that good government consisted in doing as little as possible.”

A right-wing publication, it was edited by Roger Scruton and past contributors include Enoch Powell and Margaret Thatcher. 

He was also President of the Anglo-Rhodesian Society and is described in his Guardian obituary (ouch!) as an “enthusiastic supporter of white supremacy in Rhodesia” (the Capital city of Rhodesia was Salisbury!). The elder Robert also founded the Friends of The Union Group of Tory MP’s and Lords with the purpose of protecting and reinforcing the Union. His son the 7th Marquess of Salisbury has also been a member.


Charles Edward Gascoyne-Cecil is the third son of Robert Edward Peter Gascoyne-Cecil 6th Marquess of Salisbury, and younger brother of current 7th Marquess of Salisbury Robert Michael James Gascoyne-Cecil. Charles is also a Director of Stalbury Trustees.

Educated at Eton and Oxford, he is an investment banker and founder of Samos Investment Advisory Ltd, which includes in its investment portfolio an advisory role to government and public bodies. His Linkedin page states that he has been a Trustee of “Substantial Family Groups” since 1978. Stalbury Trustees was incorporated in 1979. Curious as to why a businessman and investor would explicitly state that he was an experienced Trustee/ Advisor yet fail to identify the trusts in question?

He has served as High Sheriff of Hertfordshire, appointed by the Queen and The Privy Council.

For some context on just how long this family has been at the forefront of British politics, and the principles they seem to have genetically passed between generations, here is a quick Family Review of the contemporary Gascoyne-Cecil’s lineage:

5th Marquess Robert Gascoyne-Cecil:

Eton and Oxford.

Conservative MP and Lord.

Advocate of Apartheid and the White Rhodesian government.

Carlton Club member.

4TH Marquess James Gascoyne-Cecil:

Eton and Oxford.

Conservative MP and Lord.

Prominent Opponent of Indian Home Rule Bill.

Carlton Club member.

3rd Marquess Robert Gascoyne-Cecil:

Eton and Oxford.

Conservative politician and former Prime Minister.

Arthur Balfour of Balfour Declaration fame was his nephew. (Also a Carlton Club member).

Opposed Irish Home Rule.

Leader during both Boer Wars.

Proponent of the “Splendid Isolation” foreign policy strategy of avoiding permamnent alliances. Sound familiar?

Carlton Club member.

The United and Cecil Club, a private dining club accused of funnelling undeclared donations into the Conservative party, is named in honour of the 3rd Marquess of Salisbury.

2nd Marquess James Gascoyne-Cecil:

Conservative MP and Lord.

Grandfather of Arthur Balfour.

1st Marquess James Cecil:

Tory MP and Lord.

And so it goes, back to Robert Cecil, 1st Earl of Salisbury. An accomplished Statesman, Robert uncovered the Gunpowder plot of Guy Fawkes and was instrumental in the Union of The Crowns between Scotland and England.


The final Director of Stalbury Trustees is John Duncan Grimston, the millionaire son of a Conservative MP and Lord, the 6th Earl of Verulam. Oxford educated. His father was also a tobacco farmer with significant real estate in Rhodesia. John Grimston is a British Peer and former investment banker. Former Director of Finance at Barings Bank.

Nine of his ancestors have been Conservatives elected to office in the constituency of St Albans in which the family has resided for generations. (Stalbury Trustees have £20,000 registered donations in St Albans constituency). His ancestor, the 3rd Earl of Verulam, was a Victorian MP and Peer and is a common ancestor to Ulric David Barnett.


Cartoon published November 6th 1889 in Puck.
Courtesy of Bing Images Creative Commons.
The politics of privilege are the same in 2019 as they were in 1889.

Like Hamlet, the story of the Stalbury trustees and their ancestors is one of court intrigue in ancient centres of power. We vassals are the supporting characters, the gravediggers and the servants that provide little more than incidental background for these protagonists with the power to control the narrative.

For centuries the Salisbury blood line has influenced not just the direction of British politics, but the direction of global history. They have used their accumulated power and wealth to manipulate the system to further their own interests. The Stalbury Trustees continue to reinforce the atavistic divisions their forebears profited from, to maintain the dichotomy between subject and lord, between those who wield power and those who have it wielded against them.

With their support for Brexit we see the mutated offspring of their grandfather’s “splendid isolationism”. With their subversion of Scottish Independence and Irish unity we see the imperial instincts of their forebears, the aftershocks still felt in Zimbabwe, India, Ireland. These men do not want democracy because they do not want to share their power, so they use their wealth and privilege to subvert democracy and ensure power remains in the hands of the few and not the many.

Always remember these men have had successful careers as corporate bankers. They do not invest money unless they think they are going to profit from the returns.

Will we continue to suffer the slings and arrows of these men with outrageous fortunes? Or will we take up arms against the sea of troubles they impose upon us, and by opposing, end them?

This article is part of an upcoming series digging into who funds the Scottish Conservatives and the campaign groups opposing independence. This work is a microcosm of a much bigger picture, and should be of interest to anyone concerned with how the Tories in the UK as a whole are funded, and how the money of a few corrodes a system designed for the many.

All our work is ultimately about exposing power, who has it, and how they use it to keep it from the rest of us.

Follow Sean Rankin on Twitter: @ClydesiderRed


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