Labour's Expensive Manifesto Club

PR Week have once again managed to get a scoop that members of various Tory donor clubs get access to senior figures for update briefings.  The “leaked email” seen by PR Week states:

“Throughout the year we organize small dinners with David in private homes, lunches with George Osborne at CCHQ, invite Leader’s Group members to lunches with David following PMQs, and both groups to a number of private presentations in CCHQ with the Heads of Strategy, Communications, Campaigning and Research.”

The Tories have clearly been taking lessons from the government on how this is done.  The “Labour Finance and Industry Group” is a grouping for players expected to give serious cash to the Labour Party. They proudly boast the high powered access provided for a cheeky donation here and there.  Guido has obtained an LFIG email to business donors:- “As part of an on-going series of meetings, the LFIG Manifesto Group was invited to Number 10 on September 11th 2009 to discuss a number of issues … The purpose of the meeting was to discuss the next Labour Party general election manifesto.”

Guido understands that Nick Butler, the Economic Adviser brought into Downing Street from BP with Gordon, handles the delicate relationship with these donors.  He helped to developed the close links between BP and New Labour* in the 1990s which led to the firm being nicknamed Blair Petroleum.  Butler is die-hard Labour loyalist who has been treasurer of the Fabian Society for more than 25 years. According to the Guardian, “Since the 1980s, Butler has maintained and extended his political and commercial connections like a model member of the ‘successor generation’. He is close to Mandelson”

High powered stuff, Guido’s favourite bit has to be the specific instructions given last month to the donors who are members of the “Manifesto Group”:

“Following the presentation and discussion there will be further discussion on policy proposals submitted to me prior to the meeting. The deadline for submissions for inclusion on the agenda is November 15th.  Policy ideas from the LFIG Manifesto Group are always welcomed by Number 10. We need to produce practical proposals in the form of short bullet points.”

Nick Butler is not the only one of Gordon’s closest advisers who handles relations with LFIG,  members get discreet access to Patrick Diamond, the PM’s Senior Policy Adviser.  How much does this access cost? A quick check of the Electoral Commission’s records gives you some idea of the levels of money we are talking here.  Labour needs big money for the election and donors want to know what they are getting for their money.  To take just one example, Guido wasn’t too surprised to spot Lady Sternberg pictured at one of LFIG’s events.  Her husband has donated £427,633 to Labour…

*Nick Butler’s role in the release of Al Megrahi is discussed here.




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