Big Labour donors returning to party under Keir Starmer

Several former financial backers report rejoining, with some ‘ready to give again’ in wake of Jeremy Corbyn’s departure

Former Labour donors who had abandoned the party are already considering renewing their support under Keir Starmer’s leadership, it has emerged.

Figures who have given the party large sums in the past said they had rejoined Labour, with one major donor saying they were already prepared to give again. Another former supporter said there was “a long road” ahead after allegations of antisemitism in the party, but that they had been impressed with Starmer’s start.

“I would not give Labour money under Corbyn, but I would now be happy to give money to Labour,” said one significant former donor. “Previous donors need to meet Keir and Angela [Rayner, the deputy leader] and learn to trust them, because the history over the last four years has been horrific.”

Juliet Rosenfeld, whose late husband Andrew was one of Labour’s most generous donors under Ed Miliband’s leadership, said she had rejoined the party to vote in the leadership contest. “I voted for Keir and am delighted he has won,” she said. “He is someone ‘without a side’. I trust him completely on the issues that matter, and I will, and have, encouraged others to come back to Labour.”

Juliet Rosenfeld sitting in an armchair
Juliet Rosenfeld, whose late husband, Andrew, was a big Labour donor under Ed Miliband. She said she trusted Starmer ‘completely on the issues that matter’. Photograph: Paul Stuart/The Observer

Another former backer said: “It will be a long road: it’s not going to happen easily to get rid of antisemitism. It’s deep in the party membership. Keir’s doing all the right things, but it’ll still take time.”

Big private donations dried up almost completely under Jeremy Corbyn, although the party’s huge membership and union support put it in a strong financial position without the need for funding from wealthy backers. However, Unite, Labour’s biggest union backer and a major supporter of Corbyn’s leadership, has issued warnings over future funding. The union vehemently opposed the party’s decision to hand a six-figure payout to former staff who blew the whistle on the party’s handling of alleged antisemitism.

More lawsuits are believed to be in the pipeline in relation to a leaked internal party report that revealed details of private messages and included names of people who had made official complaints. The report alleged that party staff had worked against the interests of Labour at the 2017 election and even directed money away from the control of Corbyn’s office.

In its submission to an inquiry examining the leaking of the report, Unite again issued a warning about future funding. “Unite provided the vast majority of affiliate funding during the 2017 general election,” it states. “Failure to uncover exactly what happened with this secret project, and to take steps to ensure it can never happen again, will prejudice the party’s relationship with its affiliates and no doubt its wider fundraising capacity more generally.”

Michael Levy, Labour’s leading fundraiser under Tony Blair, said that the party should consider having a mix of funding from private donors and unions. “It’s very early days, but whereas I would say major donors would have had no interest over this last period, I think there is a real possibility now that they will return to the fold. The party needs to be funded by people who believe in the cause and we need to work closely with the unions. Neither should be mutually exclusive.”


Michael Savage

The GuardianTramp

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