Labour offers industry fresh menu in Brussels

IT WILL be a night for captains of industry to remember: they will be whisked by Channel Tunnel train to the heart of Europe to savour dinner in one of the great gourmet capitals of the Continent with people who have access to the power-brokers of the EU.

This is the latest venture by the new model, commerce- friendly Labour Party. Fresh from its success at the European elections and confident of its growing ability to raise funds from big business, it is planning an event in Brussels along the lines of the pounds 500-a-head gala dinners it now holds in London.

Party sources say the Brussels dinner would both raise funds for the party and provide the opportunity for European- based multinational corporations to establish an entente cordiale with Labour's 62 Euro- MPs. The British contingent might number around 100.

This friendliness towards business began in earnest three years ago with the first of Labour's fund-raising gala dinners. The warming of relations is likely to be strengthened even further if Tony Blair, as expected, is elected leader.

But this continuing relationship with big business - which now includes flirtations with the likes of Philip Morris Inc, Hanson Trust and British Aerospace - is troubling Labour left-wingers, including members of the Shadow Cabinet and the National Executive Committee.

They believe that this new commercial thrust might create the sort of policy conflicts which Labour has always accused the Conservatives of having. A senior party member expressed concern that companies such as Philip Morris, the tobacco-to- foods conglomerate, and British Aerospace, the arms manufacturer, were both represented at Labour's last gala dinner, on the eve of John Smith's death.

This put the Labour Party in the extraordinary position of taking a prominent Philip Morris advertisement in its gala dinner programme while favouring a ban on tobacco advertising.

The advertisement pronounced that Philip Morris, which is advised by Lady Thatcher, was 'proud to be associated' with the Labour Party's gala dinner.

NEC member Clare Short wants the party to develop guidelines on the matter. 'Obviously we have to fund-raise but I think that we should pause and develop a code of ethics,' she said. 'We need to think about companies we should not have anything to do with - what we do about smoking, for example.'

Although acceptance of the Labour Party is growing - the last dinner attracted five times as many corporate guests as on previous occasions - a certain stigma is still attached to sympathy for the People's Party. Few of those at the function, for example, wished to be identified. As one explained: 'I cannot possibly tell you who else was there. In the City it would be like being 'outed'.'

Other fund-raising activities are increasing too. Membership of the 1000 Club, for individuals paying pounds 1,000 a year or more to the party, which since December 1990 has been arranging dinners mainly for City figures and members of the Shadow Cabinet, has risen strongly. Its president is acting leader Margaret Beckett and the chair is Ken Follett, the author. Last week the Industry Forum, a discussion group for the party and business leaders, attracted 30 people, including a director of Hanson Trust, the company which has a long track record of supporting the Conservatives and gave pounds 100,000 to the party in 1992, to take part in a discussion of Robin Cook's recent paper; 'Winning for Britain.'

One of the Labour Party's fund-raisers, Paul Blagbrough, who formerly worked at the City investment firm Save and Prosper, says that Labour recognises that it needs 'a dialogue with the corporate sector and events that are organised, such as the gala dinners, are opportunities to give substance to that idea'.

Some suggestions have been turned down. A plan for Sainsbury to sponsor women's events at the party conference has been rejected, as has a suggestion that MPs' conference folders might bear the Tesco label.

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: Sales Executive or Senior Sales Executive - B2B Exhibitions

£18000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Sales Executive or Senior Sal...

Recruitment Genius: Head of Support Services

£40000 - £55000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Warehouse Team Leader

£22000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This industry leading company produces h...

Recruitment Genius: Business Development Manager / Sales - OTE £40,000

£20000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This IT provider for the educat...

Day In a Page

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
Ashes 2015: Alastair Cook not the only one to be caught in The Oval mindwarp

Cook not the only one to be caught in The Oval mindwarp

Aussie skipper Michael Clarke was lured into believing that what we witnessed at Edgbaston and Trent Bridge would continue in London, says Kevin Garside
Can Rafael Benitez get the best out of Gareth Bale at Real Madrid?

Can Benitez get the best out of Bale?

Back at the club he watched as a boy, the pressure is on Benitez to find a winning blend from Real's multiple talents. As La Liga begins, Pete Jenson asks if it will be enough to stop Barcelona
Athletics World Championships 2015: Beijing witnesses new stage in the Jessica Ennis-Hill and Katarina Johnson-Thompson heptathlon rivalry

Beijing witnesses new stage in the Jess and Kat rivalry

The last time the two British heptathletes competed, Ennis-Hill was on the way to Olympic gold and Johnson-Thompson was just a promising teenager. But a lot has happened in the following three years
Jeremy Corbyn: Joining a shrewd operator desperate for power as he visits the North East

Jeremy Corbyn interview: A shrewd operator desperate for power

His radical anti-austerity agenda has caught the imagination of the left and politically disaffected and set a staid Labour leadership election alight
Isis executes Palmyra antiquities chief: Defender of ancient city's past was killed for protecting its future

Isis executes Palmyra antiquities chief

Robert Fisk on the defender of the ancient city's past who was killed for protecting its future