An analysis by Political Scrapbook into donors who fund the Labour Leave campaign has found a troubling conflict of interests.
While a big majority of the Labour party – including MPs, members and voters – are in favour of remaining within the EU, a small but vocal minority want to leave.
The Labour Leave campaign was set up to advocate for that side, and claims on its website:
Labour’s Vote-to-LEAVE campaign is funded and staffed by Labour, Trades Unions and Socialist Society Members.
But an analysis of its donors casts doubt on this claim.
The Electoral Commission records donations above £7,500 to registered groups and political parties.
It shows that Labour Leave Limited received five declared donations in total, from three entities:
- £150,000 from Mr Jeremy Hosking
- £150,000 from Mr Richard Smith
- £15,000 from the official Vote Leave campaign
And this is where the problem arises, because all of them have very strong right-wing links.
As the Independent pointed out a few months ago, Smith is a Midlands businessman who makes defence equipment.
Mr Smith hit the headlines in 2007 when he flew David Cameron 90 miles from Oxford to his house near Hereford in his private jet for a meeting – just a week after the Leader of the Tory Opposition had unveiled proposals to tax unnecessary flights.
His company owns 55 Tufton Street – an address in central London that serves as a base for several right-wing groups including the Taxypayers’ Alliance, the climate change deniers from Global Warming Policy Foundations. More on him here.
As Left Foot Forward pointed out a few weeks ago, Hosking is major Tory donor, and has made his money through private equity.
Hosking donated £100,000 to the Conservative Party last April ahead of the general election, and gave another £50,000 in March of this year – the same month he bunged £50,000 to Labour Leave.
Hardly a socialist. More recently, he sent another £100,000 to Labour Leave, taking his total to £150,000.
This is the official Leave campaign, fronted by Michael Gove, George Osborne and Iain Duncan Smith.
It is likely that Labour Leave has also had funding from other sources, but which did not have to be declared as they were below the £7,500 limit.
And some of those donors may be trade unionists and socialist society members. We don’t know because the list is not public.
However, the vast majority of its funding has very likely come from these three sources.
Update: John Mills, chair of Labour Leave, has responded to our questions:
1. The Labour Leave campaign states it is funded by socialist societies and Labour members, yet all of the declared donations have come from right-wing Tory donors. Doesn’t that make the statement on your website incorrect?
For a long time Labour Leave was funded largely by me ( a very long-standing Labour Party member) and small contributions from elsewhere in the Labour movement, so what we said until recently about funding was true. More recently we have had funding from all sorts of sources, including Conservative–voting people and we have therefore changed what our website says about funding.
2. Why doesn’t the Labour Leave campaign declare on its website who it is funded by?
We just have not got around to doing so. There is no secret about who funds Labour Leave as the Electoral Commission declares all donations of £7,500 or above. We do also have hundreds – I think now about 600 – individual donors, whom we think are very largely Labour people, who have provided us with smaller amounts.
3. Would it be fair to say the Labour Leave campaign is being used by right-wing Tories who have an anti-worker agenda?
No, I think that all our major non-Labour donors think that Labour Leave has a crucial role in marshalling support for the UK leaving the EU among Labour-leaning voters. Their reasons for wanting the UK to leave the EU cover a wide range of issues such as its cost, border control, the EU record in Greece, democracy, the euro, etc. I don’t think they have any more of an anti-working agenda than anyone who votes Conservative – which is not what I do!