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

Susan Sarandon described David Bowie as
peopleSusan Sarandon reveals more on her David Bowie romance
sportDidier Drogba returns to Chelsea on one-year deal
Arts and Entertainment
The Secret Cinema performance of Back to the Future has been cancelled again
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Arts and Entertainment
Christian Grey cradles Ana in the Fifty Shades of Grey film
filmFifty Shades of Grey trailer provokes moral outrage in US
BBC broadcaster and presenter Evan Davis, who will be taking over from Jeremy Paxman on Newsnight
peopleForget Paxman - what will Evan Davis be like on Newsnight?
Louis van Gaal would have been impressed with Darren Fletcher’s performance against LA Galaxy during Manchester United’s 7-0 victory
The new dawn heralded by George Osborne has yet to rise
voicesJames Moore: As the Tories rub their hands together, the average voter will be asking why they're not getting a piece of the action
Dejan Lovren celebrates scoring for Southampton although the goal was later credited to Adam Lallana
newsComedy club forced to apologise as maggots eating a dead pigeon fall out of air-conditioning
Arts and Entertainment
Jo Brand says she's mellowed a lot
tvJo Brand says shows encourage people to laugh at the vulnerable
Life and Style
People may feel that they're procrastinating by watching TV in the evening
Rhys Williams
commonwealth games
Isis fighters travel in a vehicle as they take part in a military parade along the streets of Syria's northern Raqqa province
Arts and Entertainment
Southern charm: Nicolas Cage and Tye Sheridan in ‘Joe’
filmReview: Actor delivers astonishing performance in low budget drama
Life and Style
fashionLatex dresses hit the catwalk to raise awareness for HIV and Aids
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Senior Risk Manager - Banking - London - £650

£600 - £650 per day: Orgtel: Conduct Risk Liaison Manager - Banking - London -...

Commercial Litigation Associate

Highly Attractive Package: Austen Lloyd: CITY - COMMERCIAL LITIGATION - GLOBAL...

Systems Manager - Dynamics AX

£65000 - £75000 per annum + Benefits: Progressive Recruitment: The client is a...

Service Delivery Manager (Software Development, Testing)

£40000 - £45000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A well-established software house ba...

Day In a Page

Evan Davis: The BBC’s wolf in sheep’s clothing to take over at Newsnight

The BBC’s wolf in sheep’s clothing

What will Evan Davis be like on Newsnight?
Finding the names for America’s shame: What happens to the immigrants crossing the US-Mexico border without documents who never make it past the Arizona desert?

Finding the names for America’s shame

The immigrants crossing the US-Mexico border without documents who never make it past the Arizona desert
Inside a church for Born Again Christians: Speaking to God in a Manchester multiplex

Inside a church for Born Again Christians

As Britain's Anglican church struggles to establish its modern identity, one branch of Christianity is booming
Backhanders, bribery and abuses of power have soared in China as economy surges

Bribery and abuses of power soar in China

The bribery is fuelled by the surge in China's economy but the rules of corruption are subtle and unspoken, finds Evan Osnos, as he learns the dark arts from a master
Commonwealth Games 2014: Highland terriers stole the show at the opening ceremony

Highland terriers steal the show at opening ceremony

Gillian Orr explores why a dog loved by film stars and presidents is finally having its day
German art world rocked as artists use renowned fat sculpture to distil schnapps

Brewing the fat from artwork angers widow of sculptor

Part of Joseph Beuys' 1982 sculpture 'Fettecke' used to distil schnapps
BBC's The Secret History of Our Streets reveals a fascinating window into Britain's past

BBC takes viewers back down memory lane

The Secret History of Our Streets, which returns with three films looking at Scottish streets, is the inverse of Benefits Street - delivering warmth instead of cynicism
Joe, film review: Nicolas Cage delivers an astonishing performance in low budget drama

Nicolas Cage shines in low-budget drama Joe

Cage plays an ex-con in David Gordon Green's independent drama, which has been adapted from a novel by Larry Brown
How to make your own gourmet ice lollies, granitas, slushy cocktails and frozen yoghurt

Make your own ice lollies and frozen yoghurt

Think outside the cool box for this summer's tempting frozen treats
Ford Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time, with sales topping 4.1 million since 1976

Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time

Sales have topped 4.1 million since 1976. To celebrate this milestone, four Independent writers recall their Fiestas with pride
10 best reed diffusers

Heaven scent: 10 best reed diffusers

Keep your rooms smelling summery and fresh with one of these subtle but distinctive home fragrances that’ll last you months
Commonwealth Games 2014: Female boxers set to compete for first time

Female boxers set to compete at Commonwealth Games for first time

There’s no favourites and with no headguards anything could happen
Five things we’ve learned so far about Manchester United under Louis van Gaal

Five things we’ve learned so far about United under Van Gaal

It’s impossible to avoid the impression that the Dutch manager is playing to the gallery a little
Screwing your way to the top? Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth

Screwing your way to the top?

Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth, says Grace Dent
Will the young Britons fighting in Syria be allowed to return home and resume their lives?

Will Britons fighting in Syria be able to resume their lives?

Tony Blair's Terrorism Act 2006 has made it an offence to take part in military action abroad with a "political, ideological, religious or racial motive"