Labour may offer luvvies seats on the board

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THEY have eaten countless overpriced fund-raising dinners, given time and money to the cause and sipped champagne at Downing Street drinks parties. Now Luvvies for Labour could be offered a reward - seats on the board.

Anxious to avoid a repetition of last year's left-wing rout in elections to the party's ruling National Executive Committee, officials at the Millbank headquarters have suggested fielding a celebrity team this year.

Names suggested so far include the Eastenders actor Ross Kemp, authors Ken Follett and Melvyn Bragg, Manchester United manager Alex Ferguson and former athlete Steve Cram.

Among other arty types who have made large donations to Labour are the actor Jeremy Irons, film producer David Puttnam, director Richard Attenborough and author Ruth Rendell. Strangely, all of these are now in the House of Lords, though this will not prevent them from standing.

Last night a Labour spokesman said the party's campaign team had made the "semi-serious" suggestion of a celebrity line-up, reported in today's Tribune newspaper. There were fears that literally hundreds of people might stand, none of whose names would be familiar to most members.

"The idea has been discussed, but in the end it isn't for people here to decide who stands for the NEC. People suggested as a sort of joke that you could see well-known celebrities standing," he said.

However, it would be up to individuals to put their names forward because there would be no official slates.

None of the celebrities suggested were available yesterday to say whether they relished attending monthly discussions on party rules, though.

There was also some doubt about whether all Labour's fashionable friends are still loyal to Tony Blair. Even Ken Follett and his wife Barbara, previously at the centre of the Blairite glitterati, hosted a party recently at Number 11, home of Chancellor Gordon Brown.