Millions of veterans are to be offered cut-price membership deals by the Labour Party as part of an aggressive recruitment campaign targeting traditional Tory voters.
Nearly four million former soldiers, pilots and sailors could take advantage of a 1p membership deal if plans drawn up by the former cabinet minister, Peter Hain, are put in place.
Labour believes David Cameron's party is fast losing the support of the armed forces amid regular revelations about cuts to troop numbers and equipment. The party wants to launch an advertising campaign this winter in the hope of cashing in on the antipathy towards Tories they believe is now held by many veterans. Labour leaders have long been frustrated at the military support enjoyed by the Tories. This has persisted despite the fact traditional recruiting grounds are in poorer parts of the country such as the North-east and Scotland, where Labour is strong.
The idea of the 1p membership has emerged from the review set up after last year's election defeat. The Refounding Labour review, being conducted by Mr Hain, is supposed to come up with fresh ideas about how to invigorate the party after 13 years in power. The idea will be voted on at the party conference in September.
Jim Murphy, the shadow Defence Secretary, said: "This would be an exciting move which would strengthen not just Labour's defence policy but also Labour's links with the whole defence community."
His excitement was not matched by veterans groups. Sid West, the deputy campaign manager at the Equality for Veterans Association, said: "I am not interested in bribes from political parties. Veterans have real hardships, like the lack of parity for pensions, soI wish the parties would concentrate on serious things like that."