Tony Blair’s donation of £106,000 to Labour this week – divided between candidates in the party’s 106 designated target seats – doesn’t make him the party largest individual donor (there were seven individuals who gave more in 2014) but he is certainly the most controversial. Property tycoons like David Garrard (£629k), his late friend and former donor to the Tories, Andrew Rosenfeld (£200k), and ex-SDP member and Lib Dem peer Lord Oakeshott (£170k) as well as sculptor Anthony Gormley (£135k) are all squeaky clean by comparison. “I know how hard it can be to raise money to fund a local campaign” said Mr Blair, and how hard it would be therefore to turn down, he might have added.
Target seats are bound to be in need of cash to run their campaigns so beggars can’t be choosers. Or can they? So soon after the latest cash for access scandal involving Jack Straw and Malcolm Rifkind, is it really sensible to take cash from the former politician who “enjoys the best contacts that money can buy – as do those willing to pay him for access to those contacts” and is the subject of a new book designed to expose “the private dealings of this very public figure“, who’s made his fortune selling his soul to the oil-rich potentates he mixes with as special envoy in the Middle East and brutal dictators like those of Burma and Kazakhstan?
Blair Inc.: The Man Behnind the Mask is due out in two weeks, written by
In Scotland, the SNP has wasted no time in attacking Scottish Labour for accepting the cash:
Labour in Scotland are already paying the price for being joined at the hip with the Tories – and this revelation that candidates in Scotland are being bankrolled by Tony Blair only underlines that Labour simply can’t be trusted. Tony Blair’s bad money will do Labour in Scotland no good. The fact that Labour candidates are happy to accept donations from the man who led us into the illegal war in Iraq, introduced tuition fees and started the process of NHS privatisation is extraordinary.
Mind you, it isn’t the candidates in the five Scottish “target seats” to which Blair has donated money who will suffer. No-one expects Labour to win those – it is the Labour MPs who stand to lose their seats in Scotland and others standing in previously safe seats who may do so.
Alastair Campbell seems delighted by the donation from his former boss:
@tonyblairoffice donation of 100k to 106 target seats great boost to Labour campaign. Up against millions from Tory tax dodgers and hedgers
— Alastair Campbell (@campbellclaret) March 5, 2015
But will he be so delighted when Blair Inc. exposes “the complex financial structures in Blair’s world. From the many layers of tax liability to the multiple conflicts of interest produced by his increasing web of relationships“?
And in this election Blair is in any case no friend of Labour. This is the man who in December suggested Ed Miliband would not win the election because he had lurched the party too much to the Left, and explained how he was “still very much New Labour and Ed would not described himself in that way,” noting: “I am convinced the Labour Party succeeds best when it is in the centre ground.” He suggested the general election could be one “in which a traditional left-wing party competes with a traditional right-wing party with the traditional result”. Asked to clarify he meant a Tory win, he replied: “Yes, that is what happens.”
My advice: stick with union money. The cleanest in politics.