Celebs and the super-rich back Blair with pounds 1m

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The Independent Online
LABOUR has already collected more than pounds 1m this year from a string of celebrity donors, according to a leaked internal document detailing Labour's 1999 "millionaires club".

The memo names Alan McGee, the boss of Creation Records, Mick Hucknall, the lead singer of Simply Red, and Felix Dennis, the enfant terrible of publishing whose titles include Maxim and several popular computer magazines.

According to the July memo, entitled "Gift Detail Report - High Value Donations for 1999", Alan McGee gave Labour pounds 20,000 cash in March, Mr Hucknall donated pounds 25,000 in April and Felix Dennis donated almost pounds 167,000 this year.

The leak comes in the week that Labour will reveal who gave big donations to the party in 1998. The annual report is also expected to indicate a sharp drop in membership in the last two years, cutting revenue from ordinary members by up to pounds 1m.

This year's fund-raising drive has been led by Lord Levy who has successfully wooed "high-value" donors for the party. Levy, a former tennis partner of Tony Blair, raised pounds 7m before the last election for Blair's private office. He became a Labour peer months after Blair took power and is now believed to be on target to gain pounds 6m for Labour this year.

Lord Levy's continued success in wooing the super-rich is seen in Labour circles as evidence that they are now regarded as a business-friendly party.

Lord Gavron, the publishing tycoon and chair of the group that owns the Guardian, is said in the document to have given pounds 500,000 in June - the biggest cash gift to Labour this year.

The document also details pledges of pounds 5.47m to the party by a string of well-known names. The document suggests that 11 pledges, worth pounds 3m, were made the day after Tony Blair personally hosted Labour's gala dinner at London's Hilton Hotel on 15 April. But many of these pledges are regarded as "merely wishful thinking" and much of the cash has not been collected, according to insiders.

"We do not comment on our internal finances and we publish our accounts annually," said a Labour spokesman last night. "There are serious inaccuracies in the figures published."