Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Limited Company, or Insiders Out

Leadership hopeful LIZ KENDALL

WITH all the talk we've been hearing about "infiltrators" and outside influence in the Labour Party, I'm grateful to a friend up in Leicestershire, Peter Flack, for posting this piece of information up on Facebook.

It concerns a group called Progress, of which I've heard but not yet seen - unlike say, Labour Left Briefing, or Socialist Appeal, they don't seem to have dedicated supporters out selling their paper at union meetings or demonstrations, but can afford to send a free newsletter out to Labour Party members. Of fairly recent origin, they no longer call themselves "New Labour" but confidently describe themselves as Labour's "new mainstream" on their website.

Peter, who's of similar vintage to myself in the labour movement, though we've travelled different paths, says: 
Here we go. The donors to Progress. the real infiltrators in the Labour Party. As you can see they are all ordinary working people with a civic conscience. LOL
The financing of the Progress Tendency.

I see from the Progress website that:

Progress is chaired by John Woodcock MP. Our vice-chairs are Jenny Chapman MP, Stephen Doughty MP, Julie Elliott MP, Tristram Hunt MP, Dan Jarvis MP, Liz Kendall MP, Seema Malhotra MP, Alison McGovern MP, Toby Perkins MP, Lucy Powell MP, Steve Reed MP and Jonathan Reynolds MP. Progress’ honorary president is Stephen Twigg MP.

According to Wikipedia, "Progress was founded in 1995 by Paul Richards, Liam Byrne and Derek Draper, the former aide to Peter Mandelson, as an organisation to maintain a dialogue with Labour's new leadership under Tony Blair. It has organised many events and conferences, and hosted several important speeches by senior party figures. Its annual conference has become a staple of the political calendar with many cabinet ministers and other leading politicians attending.

"Lord David Sainsbury has provided substantial funding for Progress, contributing £2 million of the £3 million of donations and sponsorship to Progress from 2001 to 2011.  In 2014 Progress was fined £6,000 by the Electoral Commission for accepting donations of £390,000 from Lord Sainsbury while he was not on a UK electoral register, between December 2011 and April 2013.
In May 2014 Progress dropped using the "New Labour" label, introduced by Tony Blair, for the Labour party."

About Lord Sainsbury himself, Wikipedia tells us:

"David Sainsbury joined the Labour Party in the 1960s, but was one of the 100 signatories of the 'Limehouse Declaration' in an advertisement in The Guardian on 5 February 1981; he went on to be a member of the Social Democratic Party formed by the authors of the Declaration. After the 1983 election Sainsbury prompted the party to give more priority to recruiting members and finding a firm financial base; he was by far the biggest donor to the party, and a trustee, giving about £750,000 between 1981 and 1987. Sainsbury's donations were typically earmarked to specific projects rather than general day-to-day operations.

"Along with David Owen, Sainsbury opposed merging the SDP with the Liberal Party after the 1987 election, and provided office space for Owen to help him re-establish a separate political party, the "continuing" SDP, which was created in 1988.That party was wound up in 1990, and Sainsbury changed allegiance back to the Labour Party, rejoining them in 1996. A year later, he entered the House of Lords as a Labour peer, being created Baron Sainsbury of Turville, of Turville in the County of Buckinghamshire on 3 October 1997.

"Between 1996, the year he rejoined Labour, and 2006, when he stood down as a government minister, Sainsbury donated £16 million to the Labour Party, usually in batches of £1 million or £2 million each year. He donated a further £2 million on 7 September 2007, stating that he was impressed by Gordon Brown's leadership and believed "that Labour is the only party which is committed to delivering both social justice and economic prosperity". He gave another £500,000 on 15 December 2008, making a total of £18.5 million.

"It was reported in April 2006 that Sainsbury, "faced a possible probe into an alleged breach of the ministerial code after admitting he had failed to disclose a £2 million loan he had made to the Labour Party – despite publicly stating that he had." He subsequently apologised for "unintentionally" misleading the public, blaming a mix-up between the £2 million loan and a £2 million donation he had made earlier.

In July 2006, he became the first government minister to be questioned by police in the "Cash for Peerages" inquiry.  On 10 November 2006, he resigned as Science Minister, stating that he wanted to focus on business and charity work. He categorically denied that his resignation had anything to do with the "Cash for Peerages" affair, stating that he was "not directly involved in whether peerages were offered for cash", although this was contradicted by subsequent press reports attributed to "Labour insiders" which suggested that his resignation was indeed a direct consequence of the affair.

From July 1998 to November 2006, he held the post of Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State at the Department of Trade and Industry, as the Minister for Science and Innovation in the House of Lords, a government position for which he accepted no salary.

He was the Blair government's third-longest-serving minister after Tony Blair himself, and Gordon Brown. Because of his importance to the Labour Party as a donor, contemporary press reports described him as "unsackable." He has argued that there are "far too many reshuffles", and that there were considerable benefits to his remaining in post for so long.

David Sainsbury has also been associated with the Institute for Public Policy Research and Progress. Between 2001 to 2011 he provided £2 million of funding for Progress. In 2009, he created the Institute for Government with £15 million of funding through the Gatsby Charitable Foundation to help government and opposition politicians to prepare for political transitions and government.

" Sainsbury donated £390,000 to Progress and the Movement for Change between December 2011 and April 2013, while he was not on a UK electoral register, which is contrary to electoral law, leading to Progress and the Movement for Change being fined by the Electoral Commission."
(Wikipedia, my emphasis).

Unusually, for the labour movement, Progress is registered as a limited company, which means though it may be run by members, there is a tighter legal definition of who is a member.  But with its big names and big money it must have expected little limit on its influence.

noting Sainsbury's views on nuclear power and GM crops have been among those concerned that he might have too much influence.
By 2003 Lord Sainsbury had given over £11 million to the Labour Party. Mark Seddon, a member of Labour's National Executive Committee, told the BBC, 'In any other country I think a government minister donating such vast amounts of money and effectively buying a political party would be seen for what it is, a form of corruption of the political process.' Seddon said it was causing Labour to lose members amid criticism from the grassroots that the party was now 'in the pockets of the powerful and the rich'.
When he was made Science Minister, Lord Sainsbury resigned as Chairman of the Sainsbury's supermarket chain and put into a blind trust major investments in two plant genetics-related investment companies (Diatech Ltd and Innotech Investments Ltd). Innotech has a substantial stake in a firm called Paradigm Genetics involved in a joint GM-related venture with Monsanto. Between 1996 and 1999 Diatech was granted three patents for GM products that are said to have the potential to make millions of pounds in royalties.
For some, the choice of an unelected biotech investor and food industrialist to be Science Minister, based within the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI), was more than emblematic of the UK's corporate-science culture. While Lord Sainsbury is officially supposed to leave the room whenever GMOs are discussed at government meetings, even if this occurs, critically related areas like the strategic direction and the funding of the bio-sciences and of biotech related institutes fall directly within Sainsbury's area of responsibility and influence. As The Times (Apr 17, 2002) has noted, 'Suspicious minds looked at the 300 per cent increase in the government grant to the Sainsbury Laboratory and pondered whether this might be linked to the fact that Lord Sainsbury of Turville is the Science Minister.'
Sainsbury's biotech business interconnections with areas of his official responsibility are numerous. For instance, when Lord Sainsbury travelled to America as Science Minister in 1999, to research a report into biotechnology, he was accompanied by members of the BioIndustry Association, a lobby group for companies involved in GM food (the DTI helped pay their costs). His company, Diatech is an Associate Member of the BioIndustry Association.
Eight days before he became Science Minister he loaned Diatech money to buy a £2 million office in Westminster. Diatech has registered a patent for a genetic sequence taken from the tobacco mosaic virus for use in genetically modified plants. This was developed at the Sainsbury Laboratory by Mike Wilson who is a consultant to Diatech.
As for Progress , here is Wikipedia again:

"In 2012 Progress was at the centre of the debate over the direction of the Labour Party under Ed Miliband, after a widely circulated anonymous report called for Labour’s national executive to "determine the organisational nature of Progress, and whether or not this form of organisation is acceptable inside the Labour Party." Criticism of Progress had concentrated on the generous funding that Progress had secured from external donors, and on positioning, regarded as being on the right of the Labour Party. Following circulation of the report the GMB General Secretary Paul Kenny led calls at the 2012 Labour conference for Progress to be "effectively… (outlawed)…as part of the Labour Party."

In response, a Labour Party statement said, "We are a party that is reaching out to people, gaining new supporters and offering real change for the country in these tough times. The Labour Party is a broad church and we are not in the business of excluding people." 

These fine words must have been echoing through the mind of Harriet Harman in recent weeks, even if they seem to have been forgotten by some Labour MPs!

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