Tom Watson has fired off a punchy blogpost attacking the number of super-rich Tory donors in the wake of this weekend’s Rich List. “What do many of the 100 richest people in the UK have in common,” Watson asks, “A good number of them have donated significant amounts of money to the Tory Party”. You have to admire Tom’s chutzpah, given he has accepted donations from several entrants on the Rich List himself.
JK Rowling – worth £650 million and one of the highest profile Rich List entrants – gave thousands to Watson’s deputy leadership campaign. Former Rich Lister Sir David Garrard has been a major Watson donor. Mega-rich former blackshirt Max Mosley has given £500,000 to support Watson in the last year. Other Watson backers include multi-millionaire Labour moderate bankroller Trevor Chinn and millionaire casino tycoon Derek Webb. Classic Watson, listing the millionaires on the Rich List who donated to the Tories but not mentioning the ones who donated to him. For the money not the few?
Publicity-loving Labour MEP Seb Dance last week stirred up a full-blown internal investigation into claims that pro-Brexit group Labour Leave made improper payments to UKIP during the EU referendum campaign. Such payments would be in breach of Labour’s rulebook. The party’s largest donor and Labour Leave founder millionaire John Mills was caught up in the story, with Dance calling for him to be thrown out of the party.
“I am satisfied that the money was transferred for the purposes of meeting shared costs for joint referendum events that had been paid for by UKIP. This has been reported as such by Labour Leave in your spending return to the Electoral Commission. In addition, the Commission advised you to report this payment as a “donation” for regulatory purposes. There is no indication that the money has, or will be, used for any other purposes.”
Moves are being made at the highest level of the Labour Party to throw out their largest indivdual donor, the millionaire John Mills, who has given them nearly £2 million. He formed the pro-Brexit group “Labour Leave” to persuade Labour Party members to vote for Brexit, which was backed financially by Tory-supporting Brexit donors and has even paid £18,500 to UKIP. Labour Leave explain:
During the EU referendum campaign, Labour Leave co-organised events with other groups in favour of Brexit. These were cross-party events and included representatives from Labour, the Conservatives and UKIP, as well as non-partisan organisations. We sought clarity from the Electoral Commission to ensure we were compliant, and they advised us to pay our share of the cost in the form of a donation. This one-off payment to UKIP was solely our share of this cost. The figure covered the cost of venue hire, transport, accommodation and security for the events.
Seb Dance, a Labour MEP facing imminent unemployment, has written to General Secretary Iain McNicol demanding that Mills be thrown out of the party. Guido thinks Labour would be crazy to drive their biggest donor out of the party. They’re not that crazy, are they?
Labour Leave has a poll out this morning giving Paul Nuttall a 10% point lead in Stoke, on 35% to Labour’s 25%. It is being downplayed by psephologists as something of a voodoo poll due to its tiny sample size of 182 (the seat has an electorate of 62,000). The headline numbers should probably be taken with a pinch of salt, though the fieldwork does throw up one interesting titbit: “If Labour select a ‘staunch’ Brexiteer as their candidate then the numbers change completely”. The survey finds that if Labour has a Brexiteer as their candidate, the numbers then show them winning by 13 points, on 43% to UKIP’s 30%. Makes sense that Labour will fare better in Stoke with a Brexiteer than with a Remainer, will they heed this advice?
Reverse ferret on previous reports that Labour Leave were not endorsing Vote Leave:
Labour Leave’s founder John Mills has just put out a statement:
‘I am the founder and co-owner of Labour Leave. A statement has been put out by someone called Richard Hillgrove purporting to be from Brendan Chilton, General Secretary of Labour Leave. That statement is fraudulent. Richard Hillgrove has no position in Labour Leave. Labour Leave is an independent campaign but corporately it supports Vote Leave.’
Confused? We are…
Confused about what is going on with Labour Leave and Vote Leave.
Here's my quick explainer pic.twitter.com/Ay3nSzDGHD
— Sam Coates Times (@SamCoatesTimes) February 5, 2016
Richard Hillgrove is the infamous disgraced fantasist PR who narrowly escaped prison despite being found guilty of two counts of tax fraud. Among his clients is Camila Batmanghelidjh and Nigel Griffiths, the former Labour MP who was exposed by the News of the World for cheating on his wife. Griffiths is currently a leading figure in Labour Leave, and was cc’d in on the John Mills Vote Leave emails that were leaked to the Times. Who might be responsible for today’s clusterf**k?
UPDATE III: Friends of Hillgrove say “It’s preposterous that John Mills has cited Richard Hillgrove’s 2014 suspended sentence for tax fraud and put out a statement accusing him of PR fraud. Far from it.”