Now Blair sets his sights on Hollywood

Click to follow
The Independent Online
THE Labour Party is to set up a branch in Hollywood, where it hopes to enrol an array of British celebrities such as Helen Mirren, Joanne Whalley-Kilmer and David Hockney.

David Puttnam, producer of Midnight Express, Chariots of Fire and The Killing Fields, is backing the idea. He will address an inaugural meeting of the branch and is likely to support a series of recruitment and fundraising rallies planned in Los Angeles for next year.

The branch will also hold dinners, parties and talks to raise the profile of Labour among the several thousand ex- pats in the Hollywood film business.

The branch is the brainchild of Simon Gornick, an Anglo-American Labour supporter (he has dual nationality and was brought up in Britain) who works for a subsidiary of Twentieth Century Fox.

'We want to rally all the people in the film business and to raise consciousness,' he said. 'We want to get them all lined up behind Labour. We are thinking of a beach party in early summer.'

The move is part of an aggressive membership drive, which has attracted 8,000 new members since the Labour Party conference. Party organisers estimate that Labour could gain up to 250,000 overseas votes which could tip the balance in Labour's favour in marginal seats.

'We didn't want to be at a disadvantage to the Tories,' said a spokesman for Labour's deputy leader John Prescott, who is spearheading Labour's membership drive. 'While the electoral process allows non- residents to vote we intend to take advantage of that.'

The Conservative party is already well-organised in Los Angeles, where supporters publish their own newspaper.

The younger brother of Margaret Thatcher's right-hand man, Sir Charles Powell, has been appointed Tony Blair's left-hand man. Jonathan Powell, a 38-year-old career diplomat currently working as First Secretary at the British Embassy in Washington, will take over as chief-of-staff in the Labour leader's private office in the new year.

Sir Charles was Lady Thatcher's foreign affairs adviser in Downing Street, His brother joined the Labour Party in January 1993 after being 'inspired' by Mr Blair on a visit to the US capital.

They disagree on more than politics. Unlike Sir Charles, Jonathan pronounces his name to rhyme with 'towel' rather than 'hole'.

Sir Charles said yesterday: 'Tony Blair is fortunate to get him. He is a very bright spark. I am sure he will do a jolly good job.'

The Labour leader said yesterday: 'I am delighted that someone of his calibre is joining the team that will help me prepare for the next election.'