Even babies get the message from a Labour sponsor

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The Independent Online
IT'S official: the Labour Party is for sale. A party document sent to business lists more than 150 "sponsorship opportunities" in 1998, making clear that almost everything is up for grabs - including more than 17 items at the local government conference this weekend in Scarborough.

The nine-page paper lists possibilities ranging from "branding in [the] creche" at party conference, to the chance to place a company logo on the daily briefing sent by the Downing Street policy unit to MPs.

The document makes clear that companies need not list sponsorship separately in their annual accounts, and will be named by Labour only if pounds 5,000 or more is spent.

The push to bring in revenue reflects both the party's need to raise external cash, and the new opportunities it has to do so now it is in power. In the aftermath of the election the party has a pounds 4.5m overdraft. Individual events are not priced though officials say few will cost more than pounds 5,000. Sponsorship will raise hundreds of thousands of pounds for Labour this year.

At this weekend's local government conference, three receptions have been sponsored including the opening event with 2,000 delegates. The Engineering and Marine Training Authority, which backed it, will have been offered a "logo on invitation", "display space at reception", the chance for a company's own "VIPs to attend", "publicity photos", and a "mention in conference guide".

Functions that found backers included the leadership campaign team reception (with "branding in room") and the women councillors' reception (with "display space available").

April offers a chance for firms to get in on a gala dinner for 600 guests at a "prestigious central London venue", with the "opportunity for a representative to make the introductory speech", and for "thanks to the sponsor from the host and the keynote speaker". Any company willing to sponsor the flowers or the wine will get "one table of 10 guests in a premium position".

In addition, "tables for 10 guests are available at pounds 5,000. When a complete table is booked, the Labour Party will invite either an MP, a member of Labour Party staff or a celebrity to join the table as a guest". Similar opportunities are available for a dinner in Newcastle on 1 May.

The biggest cash cow will be the annual conference in Blackpool which boasts more than 80 chances to sponsor New Labour.

The party has clearly learnt from the Bernie Ecclestone fiasco. The document states: "The Labour Party cannot and will not offer meetings with either government ministers or senior Labour Party personnel in exchange for sponsorship or donations." Sponsorship "does not need to be listed separately in a company's annual accounts" but "all organisations or individuals who enter into an arrangement with the Labour Party which exceeds pounds 5,000 will appear in our annual accounts" - listed separately from donations. That raises the possibility of companies sponsoring events and not declaring having done so to shareholders.

A Labour spokesman stressed that the party reserved the right to refuse sponsorship from unsuitable organisations and had already turned down three potential backers. He added: "We obviously welcome sponsorship which we consider valuable assistance to the Labour Party."