Millionaire stars chip in for Labour

THE TRADE unionists who once exclusively bankrolled the Labour Party have now been joined by a colourful mix of media moguls, City gents, shopkeepers, leading figures from the arts and comedians.

The Labour Party annual report to be submitted to next month's party conference reveals that while the traditional representatives of the old working class, such as the Transport and General Workers Union, still give vital funds to Labour, their influence is being diluted by a cadre of the "rich and famous" who have been converted to Blairism.

The party has named its donors offering Labour in excess of pounds 5,000 under its new code of ethics. Top of the "rich list" is Lord Sainsbury of Turville, head of the family supermarket chain. With a fortune estimated at more than pounds 3bn he is the richest man in Britain and is the party's most generous supporter.

A former backer of the Social Democratic Party, Lord Sainsbury, ennobled by Tony Blair, is believed to have given Labour pounds 3m, including pounds 1m this year. Not to be outdone, supermarket competitors Safeway and Tesco also provided sponsorship funds to Labour in 1997. Likewise, Sainsbury plc has also underwritten party events.

Another Labour Party million-pound man is the super-rich restaurateur Robert Earl. The owner of the Planet Hollywood chain and a former acolyte of Thatcherism, he came to the Labour Party's rescue when a gaping hole was left in its bank balance by the Ecclestone affair.

He replaced the pounds 1m that had to be returned to Bernie Ecclestone, the head of Formula One racing, after the Government was accused of favouritism for allowing motor racing exemption from the blanket ban on tobacco advertising in sport.

Top media figures now backing Labour include Lord Hollick, who controls the Express Newspapers Group, the publisher Lord Hamlyn, and Felix Dennis, the hippie radical who first found fame at the Oz trial in 1971 and went onto make a fortune with his magazine company. Greg Dyke, head of Pearson TV, is once again on the list of major donors, as is Melvyn Bragg, who was made a Labour life peer at the beginning of the summer. The two men backed Tony Blair with pounds 80,000 of their own money when he ran for the Labour leadership in 1994 and have been in the Prime Minister's inner circle ever since.

Elements of "corporate Britain", once the most trenchant supporters of the Conservative Party , now also feel comfortable enough with New Labour to help it out financially. Ronald Cohen, a thrusting venture capitalist, and David Goldman, the software tycoon, both feature on the donors list. Representing Asian business acumen is Nathu Ram Puri, an engineer-capitalist.

Fashion-conscious New Labour also has a surfeit of celebrity glamour among its donors. The "A-list" names include the boss of Creation Records, Alan McGee, the man behind Oasis and latterly a critic of "Cool Britannia", a phenomenon that New Labour strategists eagerly exploited for political gain.

His successive donations have led to him to being appointed to serve on a Government task force on the music industry, along with multi-millionaire popster Mick Hucknall. Pet Shop Boy Neil Tennant, Rochdale's soul diva Lisa Stansfield, Pete Townshend, Peter Gabriel and the actors Jeremy Irons and Richard Wilson are also on the donor lists. The world of sport is represented by Manchester United's manager, Alex Ferguson, who once worked in the bastion of Old Labour, the Clyde shipyards, and Alan Sugar, chairman of the struggling Premier League club, Tottenham.

Cross-dressing actor Eddie Izzard and fellow comedian Ben Elton also gave at least pounds 5,000 each. It is a long way from the days when Len Murray and Jack Jones hob-nobbed at Number 10.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Personal Tax Senior

£28000 - £37000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity to join ...

Recruitment Genius: Customer and Markets Development Executive

£22000 - £29000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company's mission is to ma...

Recruitment Genius: Guest Services Assistant

£13832 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This 5 star leisure destination on the w...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Account Manager

£20000 - £32000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Sales Account Manager is requ...

Day In a Page

A nap a day could save your life - and here's why

A nap a day could save your life

A midday nap is 'associated with reduced blood pressure'
If men are so obsessed by sex, why do they clam up when confronted with the grisly realities?

If men are so obsessed by sex...

...why do they clam up when confronted with the grisly realities?
The comedy titans of Avalon on their attempt to save BBC3

Jon Thoday and Richard Allen-Turner

The comedy titans of Avalon on their attempt to save BBC3
The bathing machine is back... but with a difference

Rolling in the deep

The bathing machine is back but with a difference
Part-privatised tests, new age limits, driverless cars: Tories plot motoring revolution

Conservatives plot a motoring revolution

Draft report reveals biggest reform to regulations since driving test introduced in 1935
The Silk Roads that trace civilisation: Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places

The Silk Roads that trace civilisation

Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places
House of Lords: Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled

The honours that shame Britain

Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled
When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race

'When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race'

Why are black men living the stereotypes and why are we letting them get away with it?
International Tap Festival: Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic

International Tap Festival comes to the UK

Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic
War with Isis: Is Turkey's buffer zone in Syria a matter of self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

Turkey's buffer zone in Syria: self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

Ankara accused of exacerbating racial division by allowing Turkmen minority to cross the border
Doris Lessing: Acclaimed novelist was kept under MI5 observation for 18 years, newly released papers show

'A subversive brothel keeper and Communist'

Acclaimed novelist Doris Lessing was kept under MI5 observation for 18 years, newly released papers show
Big Blue Live: BBC's Springwatch offshoot swaps back gardens for California's Monterey Bay

BBC heads to the Californian coast

The Big Blue Live crew is preparing for the first of three episodes on Sunday night, filming from boats, planes and an aquarium studio
Austin Bidwell: The Victorian fraudster who shook the Bank of England with the most daring forgery the world had known

Victorian fraudster who shook the Bank of England

Conman Austin Bidwell. was a heartless cad who carried out the most daring forgery the world had known
Car hacking scandal: Security designed to stop thieves hot-wiring almost every modern motor has been cracked

Car hacking scandal

Security designed to stop thieves hot-wiring almost every modern motor has been cracked
10 best placemats

Take your seat: 10 best placemats

Protect your table and dine in style with a bold new accessory