Labour Party Conference Diary: Is the party really so strapped for cash it needs Philip Morris's tobacco cash?

 

The Labour Party’s finances are perennially in a bad way and are fated to get worse as Ed Miliband alters the rules for union affiliation. The latest set of accounts shows that in 2012, the party did at least manage to live within its means. Income exceeded expenditure by £2.8 million, but was with trade unions affiliating to the tune of almost £8 million. How much of that will still come in when the party is collecting directly from union members rather than through their subs, we have yet to find out. Also, the party has debts exceeding £13 million, mainly a hangover from the last general election, a figure almost equal to its entire assets.

Consequently, Labour badly needs the precious thousands they can earn by renting out commercial stalls at their annual conference. But one stall in particular is not universally welcomed. That is the one hired by the tobacco firm, Philip Morris.

The Labour government banned smoking in public buildings, including pubs, and tobacco advertising and the Shadow Health Secretary Andy Burnham has hinted that a Labour government may force cigarettes to be sold in plain packets. It seems odd, therefore, that the party should be accepting a wodge of money from a firm of cigarette makers.

Dianne Abbott, the shadow health minister, voiced her disapproval at a fringe meeting in Brighton. “On selling exhibition space to big tobacco, the health team led by Andy Burnham did make representations to the party about this and we were not able to get that changed,” she said. “But the health team is not happy.”

***

Labour was humiliated on the opening day of its conference when it was beaten four nil in the annual football match against lobby journalists. All four goals were scored by the lobby’s star striker, Sky cameraman, Ramzi Bedj. The Labour team were at a temporary disadvantage when Ed Balls was called off the pitch to be interviewed by 5 Live. One of Bedj’s goals was scored in his absence, but not even his loyal spinners claim that was a decisive moment in the match. The lobby team was captained, as it has been for several years, by Patrick Hennessy – despite the fact that only last week he quit journalism to work for Ed Miliband. He will not be captaining the Lobby team again.

***

The ongoing row over the serialisation of the memoirs of Gordon Brown’s former attack dog, Damian McBride, is like white noise that makes it difficult to focus on the official business at the Labour Party conference. McBride has made himself a byword for the practice of secretly trashing the reputations of political rivals who are supposedly on your own side.

One person who can feel vindicated by the unfolding saga is Alistair Darling. The former Chancellor had claimed that he tried to get McBride sacked before he did any more damage. That has now been confirmed by none other than McBride in person, who tweeted:  “He complained about me and told Gordon to get rid. Quite right too.”

Meanwhile that other Alastair (different spelling) – Alastair Campbell – is seething about the way the story is being played. In presenting extracts from the McBride book, the Daily Mail has implied that Gordon Brown needed McBride, because Tony Blair had Alastair Campbell.

That misses the point. Campbell was a combative fellow, but he did not habitually do what McBride has admitted doing: he did secretly and maliciously brief against government ministers or civil servants. At least not often: it is generally believed that in one exasperated moment he complained that Brown had “psychological flaws” – but that was not his normal method of operating. He is, after all, the model for that comic monster Malcolm Tucker, who did not shy about telling people what he thought of them to their faces.

***

Ed Miliband, appearing on the Andrew Marr programme, promised a crackdown on “train companies and others who are actually taking people for a ride under this government.” Er, Ed, aren’t train companies supposed to take people for a ride?

Ian Katz, editor of Newsnight, tweets to say that Monday night’s Newsnight will be “one to stay in for” featuring, as it does, Rachel Reeves. Yes, that’s Rachel ‘boring, snoring’ Reeves, according to an earlier tweet from the same Mr Katz. He has obviously improved his manners in the intervening week.

***

Congratulations to 11 separate constituency Labour parties, mostly from London but including Telford, Great Grimsby and Pendle, for arriving at the Labour conference armed with a policy suggestion that directly addresses the concerns of families with young children. Bring in free school meals, they proposed. Not their fault that Nick Clegg got that one in first.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
2015 General Election
May2015

Poll of Polls

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Reprographics Operator

£12500 - £13000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The largest independent Reprogr...

Recruitment Genius: Web Design Apprentice

£6240 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company is a well established websit...

Tradewind Recruitment: French & German Teacher

£120 - £145 per day: Tradewind Recruitment: French & German Teacher X2 Materni...

Recruitment Genius: IT Support Engineer / Systems Administrator

£25000 - £32500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Based in SW London, this compan...

Day In a Page

Isis hostage crisis: The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power

Isis hostage crisis

The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power, says Robert Fisk
Missing salvage expert who found $50m of sunken treasure before disappearing, tracked down at last

The runaway buccaneers and the ship full of gold

Salvage expert Tommy Thompson found sunken treasure worth millions. Then he vanished... until now
Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

Maverick artist Grayson Perry backs our campaign
Assisted Dying Bill: I want to be able to decide about my own death - I want to have control of my life

Assisted Dying Bill: 'I want control of my life'

This week the Assisted Dying Bill is debated in the Lords. Virginia Ironside, who has already made plans for her own self-deliverance, argues that it's time we allowed people a humane, compassionate death
Move over, kale - cabbage is the new rising star

Cabbage is king again

Sophie Morris banishes thoughts of soggy school dinners and turns over a new leaf
11 best winter skin treats

Give your moisturiser a helping hand: 11 best winter skin treats

Get an extra boost of nourishment from one of these hard-working products
Paul Scholes column: The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him

Paul Scholes column

The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him
Frank Warren column: No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans

Frank Warren's Ringside

No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans
Isis hostage crisis: Militant group stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

Isis stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

The jihadis are being squeezed militarily and economically, but there is no sign of an implosion, says Patrick Cockburn
Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action

Virtual reality: Seeing is believing

Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action
Homeless Veterans appeal: MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’

Homeless Veterans appeal

MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’ to help
Larry David, Steve Coogan and other comedians share stories of depression in new documentary

Comedians share stories of depression

The director of the new documentary, Kevin Pollak, tells Jessica Barrett how he got them to talk
Has The Archers lost the plot with it's spicy storylines?

Has The Archers lost the plot?

A growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent over the rural soap's spicy storylines; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried, says Simon Kelner
English Heritage adds 14 post-war office buildings to its protected lists

14 office buildings added to protected lists

Christopher Beanland explores the underrated appeal of these palaces of pen-pushing
Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Scientists unearthed the cranial fragments from Manot Cave in West Galilee