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Labour’s Party-within-a-party: latest funding figures

Progress, Labour’s Blairite party-within-a-party, has now raised over £2.8million to fund its activities. Its annual income is now well in excess of the maximum ever achieved by the Militant tendency (which raised £283,818 in 1986 according to its published fighting fund totals) and it doesn’t finance the production of a weekly newspaper. Although it is understood that Ed Miliband has privately urged Progress to avoid factional activity within the party, they continue to promote candidates for internal party elections and to provide training for their supporters in parliamentary selections.

At present, Progress offer superficial support to Labour’s leader, and is careful to invite some MPs who backed him in the leadership campaign to participate in their events. However, few can doubt where Progress would stand should Ed experience another period of bad media coverage like that to which he was subjected prior to the riots and phone hacking scandal.

Progress Donors Total Donation
Lord David Sainsbury £1,827,500
Lord Michael Montague £875,500
Sir Frank Lowe £50,000
Pfizer Ltd £40,5370
Lord Bhattacharyya £20,000
Pharmacia Ltd £11,750
Jon Mendelsohn £10,000
British Retail Consortium £6,511
Network Rail Infrastructure Ltd £5,875
Lord Patrick Carter £5,000
Total £2,852,673

(Source: The Electoral Commission)

The principal Progress patron is Lord David Sainsbury who has been a donor since April 2004 and continues to fund Progress at the rate of £260,000 a year. His donations of over £8.4million to the Labour Party stopped when Ed Miliband became leader. Lord Sainsbury took over financing Progress when funding from a trust set up by industrialist Lord Michael Montague dried up.

In addition to their funding of Progress, Ad-man Sir Frank Lowe had given £300,000 to the Labour Party while Tony Blair was leader, and Lord Bhattachaya, an engineer and academic, gave it £400,000. Lord Patrick Carter founded and ran private health care provider Westminster Health Care and was made a peer by Tony Blair. Of all the donors, Jon Mendelsohn is the only one who could be better described as a Brownite rather than a Blairite.

In examining Progress funding, it is important also to link it to Movement for Change, the “community organising” outfit created under the auspices of David Miliband’s leadership campaign. It too is funded by Lord Sainsbury, and has received £225,000 so far this year in addition to funds channeled through the David Miliband leadership campaign.

Although Ed Miliband agreed to his brother’s request to back the Movement for Change, it continues to work very closely with Progress and be run entirely by backers of David Miliband’s leadership bid, including Blair McDougall, national director and James Purnell’s former special advisor.

In spite of the association with now disgraced Maurice Glasman, ex-Blue Labour guru who is no longer a frequent visitor to the Leader’s office, the objectives of Movement for Change seem politically neutral. However, it is hard not to see the enthusiastic and evangelical young people by whom we were accosted when entering last year’s party conference as a bunch of Midwich cuckoos, being groomed to become the next generation of Blairite clones in the parliamentary Labour Party.

(See this for information on Bell Pottinger’s sponsorship of Progress)


  1. Steve Kelly says:

    Can it be expelled in the same way Militant and the Alliance was during the 1980s?

  2. Mike Killingworth says:

    Yes, but only if the leader wants it to be. And they didn’t have a leader’s brother making hand signals. What the Party needs is a new leader and fond as I am of Diane Abbott* the boots are too big for her also. Is there no one who entered Parliament in, say ’92 or ’97 who could do the job.

    *Try googling our names together

  3. Éoin Clarke says:

    Good work Jon. I will continue to raise awareness of your pieces in any way I can..

  4. Phil C. says:

    “… and to provide training for their supporters in parliamentary selections.”

    Just a thought – to reduce the disconnect between the Labour Party and the voters, and to maximise the Labour vote at general elections, would it not be wise to match candidates to constituencies in the selection process, wherever possible?
    i.e. short list left wing candidates in a constituency where the public want and would support a left wing MP.

    1. Jon Lansman says:

      Phil C: Isn’t that the job of the local party members who (should) select their candidate?

  5. Phil C. says:

    Jon, I have only a tiny fraction of your knowledge. Apologies if my comment was simplistic or silly or inadvertently offensive.
    Your OP says that Progress are keen to help their candidates in parliamentary selections.
    My line of thought was that the upcoming re-jigging of constituencies presents a national organisational challenge and a one-off opportunity to re-select or de-select parliamentary candidates. In this peculiar circumstance, I wondered if some priority could be given to matching candidates to constituencies.
    Fairly local to me, Shaun Woodward was shoe-horned in at St Helens, and Frank Field bafflingly continues as MP for Birkenhead. I could quote other examples, too, of a visible mismatch between MP and local electorate. Right-of-centre careerists occupying seats for which they are not suited, surely cannot a good advert for the Labour Party.
    Added to this, Ed Miliband has spoken of the need to repair the disconnect with the electorate.

  6. Kris Evans says:

    Would feel very uncomfortable with funding from pharmacos and a retail lobby group. They don’t give out of the goodness of their heart. What are they being offered in return. This is where the dark side of politics resides.

  7. Mick Coats says:

    You get expelled for questioning the Regional Office (North West) candidate, on trumped up charges. Seven of us from Rochdale CLP got expelled two years ago (including 3 pensioners, and ex full time union official and a TUC tutor, all active members.)

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