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The House Live All
By Lord Watson of Wyre Forest
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Unite Follows Through On Vow To Reduce Labour Funding With Donations Slashed Since 2020

3 min read

The ongoing drift between Labour leader Keir Starmer and its previous financial powerhouse, Unite the Union, is revealed today as donations slump compared to this time last year.

The Labour Party reported £131,000 in donations from the union led by left-winger and former Jeremy Corbyn ally Len McCluskey between January and March of this year (Q1).

During the same period of time last year, when the party was in the midst of a fraught leadership race to replace Corbyn, Labour received almost half a million pounds from Unite.

Donations from in 2019 for the January to March period were £541,000 and in 2018 donations totalled £450,000.

Unite heavily funded the Labour leadership campaign of former shadow business secretary Rebecca Long-Bailey, then warned the party it would be reducing funds just months after Starmer's election as leader.

The union's executive council voted to cut its affiliation to the party by 10%, or 50,000 affiliates which will reduce its funding by £150,000 in an initial 12 month period. It is understood around £500,000 a year still goes to Labour in affiliate fees from Unite.

A statement at the time said the union wanted to nurture other voices within its “movement” with the savings it could make from Labour, but said the party remained its largest affiliate.

McCluskey is due to be replaced this summer, and a leadership contest for his successor is underway.

Other unions however continued to give large sums to Labour including Unison, which reported £549,999 in donations in Q1 and Usdaw (Union of Shop, Distributive and Allied Workers) which gave £506,215.

Details of political donations reported in the first three months of 2021 for all parties were released by the Electoral Commission this morning, and revealed the Tories continue to significantly outstrip Labour when it comes to funding. They reported £6.4 million in donations, compared to Labour’s £4.3 million.

Their largest donation reported in Q1 came from billionaire businessman Peter Cruddas who handed over a £500,000 sum to the party just days after his controversial appointment to the House of Lords.

The donation came after Boris Johnson faced criticism for his decision to appoint Cruddas given the House of Lords Appointments Commissions advised the PM they were unable to support his nomination after "carrying out its vetting".

But the PM dismissed the advice from the oversight body, saying Cruddas would be given the seat in the Lords because of his "outstanding" contributions to business and charity and his "long track record... of political service".

Cruddas' half-a-million pound donation was received by the Tory party on 5 February, just three days after he was formally introduced to the House of Lords.

The Conservative party also secured donations from several large investment and property firms, including donations totalling £100,000 from property developer Nick Candy and a further £250,000 from investment banker Howard Shore.

Global investment bank, Britannia Financial Group, also provided a £250,000 donation to Johnson's party, with a further quarter-of-a-million pounds coming from Flowidea Ltd, the firm run by Swiss banker Henry Angest.

Meanwhile, the donation figures show The Reclaim Party, led by failed London mayoral candidate and lockdown sceptic Laurence Fox, secured £1,000,000 in support from former Tory and Brexit Party supporter Jeremy Hosking.

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