Miliband given £1m by taxpayer to fill in 'blank sheet' with policy ideas

 

Labour has received almost £1m from the taxpayer to help draw up policies for the next general election – with very limited results so far.

The money has been paid by the Electoral Commission from a fund designed to help parties draft manifestoes and explore policy ideas.

The scale of the payments emerged as Ed Miliband faces criticism from the Tories and Liberal Democrats for failing to spell out in greater detail the alternative vision his party plans to present to the country.

Soon after he became Labour leader, he said he was presenting the party with a "blank sheet" of paper on policy and was setting up 19 review groups to start filling it in. Since then that process has been abandoned and only a handful of policy proposals have emerged.

However, The Independent can disclose that since the last election Labour has received two payments of £342,459 each and others of £155,773 and £114,000 – a total of £954,691 – as "policy development grants".

The party is also due to collect a further £100,000-plus under the little-known scheme before the end of the year, taking the running total to more than £1m.

Last night John Glen, the Tory MP for Salisbury, claimed that Labour's policy review had become a "running joke in Westminster".

In a letter to Mr Miliband, he challenged the Labour leader to explain where the money had gone.

He wrote: "The public will be shocked to hear you have taken over £1m in public money over the past two years in the name of this blank page. It is turning out to be the most expensive blank sheet of paper in history."

Under the policy grant development system, £2m a year is made available to the major political parties – defined as those with two or more MPs – to develop ideas to include in manifestos for local, national and European elections.

About three-quarters of the cash goes to Labour, the Tories and the Liberal Democrats equally, with the rest divided between the Scottish Nationalists, Plaid Cymru, the Democratic Unionists and the SDLP.

A Labour spokesman responded to Mr Glen's letter: "Even from the Tories this is desperate and risible stuff.

"Clearly they're rattled by the One Nation agenda Ed Miliband has set out. Whether it is the bank bonus tax, vocational education, plans to build 100,000 new homes, a youth jobs guarantee, cutting tuition fees, restorative policing and a proper plan for jobs and growth, it is Labour setting the agenda."

Mr Miliband announced the policy drive shortly after becoming leader, setting up a series of working parties to come up with voter-friendly ideas.

The subjects they were asked to consider included: making politics work for young people; women and development; innovation in food and farming; valuing our natural world.

The policy review was initially overseen by Liam Byrne, but he lost responsibility for the work at the last shadow Cabinet reshuffle and was replaced by Jon Cruddas. The result has been to leave the policy-making process in limbo.

Privately, senior opposition figures acknowledge that they have produced little detailed policy. But they argue that it is more important to establish Mr Miliband in the public eye and set out the party's general direction of travel and to fill in the blanks closer to the election.

However, Labour sources said it was absurd for the Tories to protest over the payments as they received the same amount of money over the period.

Labour has received two payments of £342,459 each and others of £155,773 and £114,000

Life and Style
Small winemakers say the restriction makes it hard to sell overseas
food + drink
Arts and Entertainment
A comedy show alumni who has gone on to be a big star, Jon Stewart
tvRival television sketch shows vie for influential alumni
Arts and Entertainment
Carrie Hope Fletcher
booksFirst video bloggers conquered YouTube. Now they want us to buy their books
News
Clare Balding
peopleClare Balding on how women's football is shaking up sport
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment
Damien Hirst
artCoalition's anti-culture policy and cuts in local authority spending to blame, says academic
Sport
premier leagueMatch report: Arsenal 1 Man United 2
Arts and Entertainment
Kirk Cameron is begging his Facebook fans to give him positive reviews
film
News
i100
Sport
Jonny May scores for England
rugby unionEngland 28 Samoa 9: Wing scores twice to help England record their first win in six
Life and Style
fashionThe Christmas jumper is in fashion, but should you wear your religion on your sleeve?
Arts and Entertainment
Jason goes on a special mission for the queen
tvReview: Everyone loves a CGI Cyclops and the BBC's Saturday night charmer is getting epic
Arts and Entertainment
Jerry Hall (Hand out press photograph provided by jackstanley@theambassadors.com)
theatre
Sport
Tony Bellew (left) and Nathan Cleverly clash at the Echo Arena in Liverpool
boxingLate surge sees Liverpudlian move into world title contention
Voices
Neil Findlay
voicesThe vilification of the potential Scottish Labour leader Neil Findlay shows how one-note politics is today, says DJ Taylor
Life and Style
food + drinkMeat-free recipes and food scandals help one growing sector
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

Reach Volunteering: Financial Trustee and Company Secretary

Voluntary Only - Expenses Reimbursed: Reach Volunteering: A trustee (company d...

Recruitment Genius: Senior Project Manager

£45000 - £65000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Shopfitter

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity to join a successful an...

Recruitment Genius: Digital Sales Account Manager

£25000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Digital Sales Account Manager...

Day In a Page

Mau Mau uprising: Kenyans still waiting for justice join class action over Britain's role in the emergency

Kenyans still waiting for justice over Mau Mau uprising

Thousands join class action over Britain's role in the emergency
Isis in Iraq: The trauma of the last six months has overwhelmed the remaining Christians in the country

The last Christians in Iraq

After 2,000 years, a community will try anything – including pretending to convert to Islam – to avoid losing everything, says Patrick Cockburn
Black Friday: Helpful discounts for Christmas shoppers, or cynical marketing by desperate retailers?

Helpful discounts for Christmas shoppers, or cynical marketing by desperate retailers?

Britain braced for Black Friday
Bill Cosby's persona goes from America's dad to date-rape drugs

From America's dad to date-rape drugs

Stories of Bill Cosby's alleged sexual assaults may have circulated widely in Hollywood, but they came as a shock to fans, says Rupert Cornwell
Clare Balding: 'Women's sport is kicking off at last'

Clare Balding: 'Women's sport is kicking off at last'

As fans flock to see England women's Wembley debut against Germany, the TV presenter on an exciting 'sea change'
Oh come, all ye multi-faithful: The Christmas jumper is in fashion, but should you wear your religion on your sleeve?

Oh come, all ye multi-faithful

The Christmas jumper is in fashion, but should you wear your religion on your sleeve?
Dr Charles Heatley: The GP off to do battle in the war against Ebola

The GP off to do battle in the war against Ebola

Dr Charles Heatley on joining the NHS volunteers' team bound for Sierra Leone
Flogging vlogging: First video bloggers conquered YouTube. Now they want us to buy their books

Flogging vlogging

First video bloggers conquered YouTube. Now they want us to buy their books
Saturday Night Live vs The Daily Show: US channels wage comedy star wars

Saturday Night Live vs The Daily Show

US channels wage comedy star wars
When is a wine made in Piedmont not a Piemonte wine? When EU rules make Italian vineyards invisible

When is a wine made in Piedmont not a Piemonte wine?

When EU rules make Italian vineyards invisible
Look what's mushrooming now! Meat-free recipes and food scandals help one growing sector

Look what's mushrooming now!

Meat-free recipes and food scandals help one growing sector
Neil Findlay is more a pink shrimp than a red firebrand

More a pink shrimp than a red firebrand

The vilification of the potential Scottish Labour leader Neil Findlay shows how one-note politics is today, says DJ Taylor
Bill Granger recipes: Tenderstem broccoli omelette; Fried eggs with Mexican-style tomato and chilli sauce; Pan-fried cavolo nero with soft-boiled egg

Oeuf quake

Bill Granger's cracking egg recipes
Terry Venables: Wayne Rooney is roaring again and the world knows that England are back

Terry Venables column

Wayne Rooney is roaring again and the world knows that England are back
Michael Calvin: Abject leadership is allowing football’s age-old sores to fester

Abject leadership is allowing football’s age-old sores to fester

Those at the top are allowing the same issues to go unchallenged, says Michael Calvin