Straw begs cash to win NEC seat

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The Independent Online
JACK STRAW, campaign manager for Tony Blair's successful leadership bid, has made an unprecedented appeal for donations to help him win a seat on Labour's National Executive Committee.

The shadow Environment Secretary's move has astonished fellow modernisers and infuriated critics of the leadership struggling to regain power in the party's ruling body.

Letters have gone out from his campaign organiser, Janet Anderson, MPfor Rossendale and Darwen, pointing out that Mr Straw, MP for Blackburn, is standing for one of the two seats left vacant by the election of Tony Blair and John Prescott. For the first time, the NEC election will be conducted by a ballot of all the party's 250,000 individual members.

Mrs Anderson says: 'Reaching out to all these members is an expensive business. Jack is having to circulate copies of a leaflet inviting support to all the party's 6,000 branches. The cost of printing and postage alone is substantial and there are no separate sources of funding for this.

'I am therefore writing to you to ask whether you might consider making a donation to Jack's campaign.'

It is not known how many letters went out, nor how much money has so far been raised. Voting in the executive committee elections will not end until 20 September. Neither Mr Straw nor Mrs Anderson could be contacted yesterday.

Mr Straw's four-page glossy, coloured leaflet with a frontispiece of the Shadow Environment Secretary headlined 'Campaigning to Win' signals his desire to become Labour's new head of campaigns.

He warns: 'A big lead in the opinion polls is not enough. The difference between winning and losing will be down to the strength of our campaign on the ground, to membership and activity in every seat.

'That's why the NEC's role is crucial. It runs the party, the membership scheme, organises campaigns, liaises with the Shadow Cabinet and helps decide our election priorities.'

Sceptical MPs and party activists suggest Mr Straw's campaign is timed to ensure he willbe on the team that writes Labour's election manifesto.