There was some comment on the blogosphere about the outbreak of hostilities between sources close to Harriet Harman and her putative deputy leadership rival Hazel Blears last week. Some light might be shed on this by another article in the Evening Standard, which we reproduce below:
LABOUR WANTS CASH FROM LEADER CAMPAIGNS
BY JASON BEATTIE POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT
CASH-strapped Labour officials have ordered leadership and deputy leadership contenders to hand over some campaign funds to the party. Under new rules, all candidates for the two posts must donate 15 per cent of money they raise to central funds. Any surplus at the end of the contests must also be given to the party. Insiders say that without the levy the party will be unable to pay for the ballots.
Organisers have also sparked controversy by saying there should be no cap on expenditure. The move has prompted fears that the deputy leadership race will be skewed in favour of candidates with well-off backers. ‘It creates an imbalance in the election,’ said one contender.
Five names have entered the deputy leadership race so far: Alan Johnson, Peter Hain, Hilary Benn, Harriet Harman and Jon Cruddas. Mr Johnson is thought to be close to securing the support of supermarket tycoon Lord Sainsbury.
Mr Hain has the backing of Shaun Woodward, another Labour multi-millionaire.
The requirement that any surplus campaign funds be donated to the Party will be of particular concern to Harman, who had already promised donors that any surplus would go to charity. Weeks after making this promise in her appeal for funds, a Code of Conduct was whisked through an NEC Organisation Sub-Committee meeting, under the eagle eye of Hazel Blears. The Code puts Harman in the tricky situation of banning her from keeping a promise she has already made. Harman’s team smell a rat, and there are other aspects of the Code of Conduct that may well also be viewed askance by those who suspect Blears of having a hand in its drafting.
Whether there is any substance to these suspicions or not, it does show the difficulty Blears will have in trying to run a shadow campaign while Party Chair. On the one hand, she is involved in drafting the rules and is refusing to say whether she is standing; on the other, her allies are spinning her candidacy in the media and signing up MPs. It threatens to leave a hint of stitch-up lying over the whole campaign – the very last thing the Party needs.
The demand for 15% of all funds to be donated to the Party will also be controversial in some quarters – some of John McDonnell’s potential donors may be reluctant to see their money swallowed up by Party HQ, for example.
As an aside, the support of Tory defector Shaun Woodward for Peter Hain may prove a double-edged sword, providing some cash and one more nomination, but painting him firmly in soft-Blairite colours rather than the more leftish image he sometimes portrays.