Andy McSmith's Diary: Paid Labour – how leadership campaigns have cashed in

Andy Burnham has received £36,000 from AgustaWestland chair Graham Cole

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Indy Politics

Andy Burnham has received more than £130,000 in donations or interest free loans to fund his campaign for the Labour leadership, according to his entry in the latest Register of Members’ Interests.

His biggest single backer is Graham Cole, chairman of the helicopter firm AgustaWestland – which under the name of Westland was the subject of a furious political argument nearly 30 years ago, which culminated in the theatrical resignation of the Defence Secretary, Michael Heseltine, and the forced resignation of the Trade Secretary, Leon Brittan. Cole has given or loaned Burnham a total of £36,000. Another £20,000 came from Gabriel Scally, the doctor who resigned in 2012 to attack the Coalition government’s health policies, and another £20,000 from Ecotricity, the UK’s biggest renewable energy company.

Yvette Cooper’s biggest backer is revealed to be the thriller writer Ken Follett, husband of the former Stevenage MP Barbara Follett, who gave £50,000. He has been a Labour donor on and off since the 1980s, despite a falling out with Tony Blair’s advisers in the mid-1990s. That came about because of a briefing to political journalists by Tim Allan, who was then a spin doctor working for Blair, but now runs a lobbying firm, and has contributed £10,000 to Liz Kendall’s campaign.

Kendall’s other main backers are – unsurprisingly – well-known Blairites such as the Labour peer Clive Hollick, former owner of the Daily Express, and the former Health Secretary Patricia Hewitt, who employed Kendall as a special adviser.

Farron had Laud on his side

One of the bankrollers of Tim Farron’s successful campaign to lead the remnants of the Lib Dems was an eccentric named Derek Laud, a lobbyist who became a minor political celebrity in the 1980s because he was the first black member of the Monday Club, a Tory group that believed in “repatriation” – a polite term for deporting people with the wrong skin colour.

He was also the first black master of the hounds and, briefly, a Conservative parliamentary candidate, but a couple of years ago he denounced the Tories as a “racist” party. He gave Farron’s campaign £2,000.

Crosby’s red (-faced) Ferrari

There were many distinguished guests at the summer party hosted by the Conservatives’ Australian election guru Lynton Crosby, and there was the LBC presenter Nick Ferrari. He arrived with a gift of an English cricket shirt, in Crosby’s size. On being presented with it, the host laughed out loud, threw it on the floor and exclaimed: “You Pommy bastard!”

Uber-expensive and unbridled

The popularity of the private taxi firm Uber took a plunge in London and the South-east when it tripled its fares on the day of the Tube strike. Uber’s rivalry with London’s black cabs is an example of unfettered free enterprise versus regulation.

You might suppose therefore that Uber’s rise would be celebrated by Conservatives – but in a debate in the Commons late on Wednesday, there was an excoriating attack on Uber by the Tory MP Charles Walker, for “equipping another fleet of barely regulated and unqualified drivers to ply their trade, with little or no thought given to how drivers it enables conduct themselves.” He was speaking more as a parent than a defender of free markets: no one likes their children getting into a car having no idea what sort of person is at the wheel.

The official reply, delivered by the transport minister Robert Goodwill was that it is not the government’s responsibility to issue cab licences. That is done by local agencies, such as Transport for London.

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