Labour's not working as party faces job cuts

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The Independent Online

* In a not-altogether-dissimilar manner from a high-flying football team that has overspent and is now preparing for possible relegation and life in a lower division, Labour will later this year sack party workers to try to stem the £27.3m haemorrhage in its accounts.

The general secretary, Peter Watt insists it is "necessary to put the party in a position of increasing financial strength".

A spokesman yesterday admitted to me that job losses are "likely". Labour began negotiations with its employees' trade unions on Tuesday.

The party plans to slash its budget by 20 per cent. About half its current expenditure is on staff. Last year Labour spent £49.8m in total, £15m of which went towards fighting the general election.

Its income was just £35.3m, causing the biggest financial crisis in its history - the backdrop for the "loans for peerages" scandal, when Tony Blair sanctioned undeclared loans from business supporters worth £14m.

Labour has 230 employees spread across its head offices in London and Newcastle, nine regional centres and bureaux in Wales and Scotland.

About two-thirds of Labour's union-affiliated employees are GMB members. But a spokeswoman for the union said that Labour officials had not mentioned job losses to them. "It's hardly news to anybody that the party is in trouble," she said. "We are monitoring this." The irony will surely not be lost on traditional Labour supporters.



* Has the Government gained an unexpected supporter in its battle with civil liberty campaigners over identity cards?

The actor Richard E Grant surprisingly for such a mild-mannered character, has a rather totalitarian view on the subject.

"You should be able to insert a microchip programmed with your DNA details into your hand, which would enable everyone to sail through customs in a nano-second," he says in this month's edition of Stuff magazine.

"You would never have to fill in a form again, get your passport stamped or renewed."

With George Orwell 56 years beneath the churchyard grass in Sutton Courtenay, opponents to the ID scheme better get searching for a rival pin-up.

* The ruffians of the parliamentary press lobby were removed from the Palace of Westminster on Tuesday and decanted into a satellite building on Millbank for two months, to allow renovation work.

Less than 48 hours into their residence, one scribe has scratched into the wall of the lift the thought: "Fuck MPs." I'm told the graffiti is an "accurate portrayal of correspondents' feelings towards our current political elite".

The hacks used to have tiny offices, allowing them to hide scoops and secret meetings from their rivals. Now, all but the Daily Mail andFinancial Times are plumped together in big open-plan rooms. The other correspondents are "bereft", apparently. Not because they have to share stories, but " because there is no bar or restaurant".

* As Fidel Castro's future hangs precariously in the balance, his plight has not gone unnoticed by the good people at The Beard Liberation Front. The self-styled "beardies" have sent a get-well message to the Cuban dictator wishing him a speedy recovery after his intestinal operation.

Although not Commies themselves, Castro's beard represents something of a world symbol for the BLF. It once heroically survived a CIA plot involving an exploding cigar. "Whatever you think of Castro's Cuba," says BLF supremo Keith Flett, who has a salt-and-pepper face rug, "it is noteworthy that in the last 40-plus years Cuba has consistently had an hirsute leader while the US and UK have not.

"That says something."

pandora@independent.co.uk

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