Labour up to its old tricks again.
Hard-up Labour in fight to raise funds - Times Online
Labour has resumed a secret courtship of influential donors before new funding rules are introduced to cover the party from future sleaze allegations, The Times has learnt.
Labour fears being left behind by the Tories in building up their war chest to fund the next general election. Labour, now £20 million in debt, generated only £580,000 from individual donors in the last quarter of last year, while Tory fundraisers brought in £9.8 million over the same period.
Jon Mendelsohn, Mr Brown’s leading fundraiser, is inviting small businessmen as potential donors to a series of private dinners to mingle with Cabinet ministers. They have been told that they could help to shape the next Labour manifesto.
Mr Mendelsohn is one of a number of people who face police questions over donations ...
Inside the candlelit Chelsea Suite, which has a spectacular view of the Millennium Wheel, diners received a glass of champagne and were invited to mingle. By 7.30pm they had taken their places around an oval, linen-covered table for their starter of honey-peppered duck breast with orange salad and pink peppercorns.
The seating plan ensured that every potential backer was near to a Labour official, including Mr Mendelsohn and Chris Lennie, the acting general secretary of the party, who hosted the event. Lord Sainsbury, the party’s most generous donor, and Jon Aisbitt, the City hedge fund manager who gave £250,000 last year, were also present. Before a main course of beef wellington with herb-infused vegetables, accompanied by a burgundy, Mr Balls made a short speech about the need for trust in education.
The delicate subject of future donations was not mentioned until the end of the evening. It was raised by a donor and then quickly brushed over by a Labour official.
Stefanos Stefanou, an ebullient Greek Cypriot-born businessman who has given up to £40,000 to the party, asked one official: “What are you expecting from us? Is it a contribution?”
The Labour official lowered his voice and replied that the dinner was supposed to be limited to an exchange of ideas. He then paused before implying that the party would be in touch for contributions before the general election, one guest said.
After a chocolate pudding served with physalis berries, the ministers were introduced to each backer.
Martin Littler, 59, the chairman of Inclusive Technology, the special educational firm that has donated £15,000 to Labour over the past five years, said that the meeting had been particularly useful for him because he had met the Education Minister. “I am always flattered and surprised to be invited to this kind of event. Ed Balls was very good. How often would a businessman like me get a chance to speak to the Education Secretary like this?” he said.
By 10.30pm both ministers had left in their chauffeur-driven cars. According to their spokesmen, they were entitled to use them despite visiting a party event because of a possible House of Commons vote.
And there were passerbys thinking the stench was Bazalgette's adjacent sewer venting...