Bid for tea with Nancy Dell'Olio - and help Labour clear its debts

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Indy Politics

It is billed as the "chance of a lifetime" for the Labour faithful to meet their heroes, from Tony Blair and Sir Alex Ferguson to Joe Calzaghe and Ruth Rendell.

With debtors circling, party bigwigs hope that the 600 well-heeled supporters trooping into Wembley stadium tonight for dinner will wave the plastic and help bail out Labour's parlous finances.

When guests take their £1,000-a-head seats in a function room high above the turf, Alastair Campbell, the former communications guru, and Richard Caborn, the ex-sports minister now leading England's bid for the 2018 World Cup, will do their best to relieve them of hundreds of thousands of pounds for party coffers.

The pair will auction more than 20 lots, ranging from a tennis match with the former prime minister and tea at Fortnum & Mason with the crime writer Rendell, to a pair of boxing gloves signed by Calzaghe and swimming lessons with Little Britain comic David Walliams. Other lots include a visit to Robben Island, South Africa, where Nelson Mandela was incarcerated.

Labour sources say the auction has already raised a six-figure sum, and predict the event will turn a profit of £1m. But with the party's debts at nearly £18m and loans of £3.75m due for review in October, the source added: "We need the money."

The party is in "challenging" financial position but officials deny it has neared bankruptcy. Accounts filed with the Electoral Commission are to be published this month.

Lots on offer for the party faithful

Tea with Nancy Dell'Olio

Meet the New York-born Italian lawyer, socialite and charity campaigner who shot to fame as Sven-Goran Eriksson's glamorous other half (no longer). Labour offers the chance for two people to join her for high tea at Claridge's in London.

Become a character in Alastair Campbell's new novel

A £10,000-plus lot. Mr Blair's former spin sultan is offering to make the victorious bidder a character in his first novel, All in the Mind, due to be published in October. Mr Campbell, whose diary, 'The Blair Years', was a bestseller (although it was later named as the most discarded book at Travelodge hotels), is offering to meet the winner for lunch. But he is making it clear that he is only offering donors a "small" part in the book.

Tennis with Tony

Described as a "fantastic one-off opportunity" for a game with the former prime minister, the outing has already attracted bids worth more than £10,000. Mr Blair is known to be viciously competitive. When he once played his chancellor and arch-rival, Gordon Brown, the match was said to be tenser than Sunday's five-set final between Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal.

Swim with David Walliams

The comedian and actor raised more than £1m swimming the English Channel for Sport Relief and swam the 12-mile Strait of Gibraltar. Labour reassures the squeamish: "This amazing item does not require you to swim in the cold sea of the Channel dodging ships."

Have John Prescott as a waiter for a day

Guests will be able to bid for a private box at a rugby league final, with the former deputy prime minister acting as head waiter. Mr Prescott spent 10 years as a steward in the merchant navy and once served the former prime minister Anthony Eden.

Lunch with Sir Alex Ferguson

The veteran Manchester United manager will invite a Labour donor to see his side at the club's Carrington training complex before having lunch. Sir Alex, a long time Labour loyalist, insisted that the party could still win the next election: "It is never over 'till it is over as anyone involved in sport knows." Someone, presumably a United fan, has already bid more than £10,000.

Own an Antony Gormley original

The Turner prize-winning sculptor has donated a work on paper, Feeling Material Again IV, to the auction. The 77x111cm black-and-white image is marked "for Labour" on the reverse.

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