John McTernan is the Director of Political Operations (the post was formerly known as Political Secretary, but McTernan evidently got a more sinister sounding title in lieu of a pay rise one year) at No 10. It has been alleged that he was sent to speak to Hayden Phillips about trade union donations, behind Jack Straw’s back, and with a message deviating considerably from the Party policy unanimously agreed by the NEC and Annual Conference.
Luke Akehurst, like the rest of us, was pretty unhappy about this idea. Unlike the rest of us, however, Luke clearly has a following in high places. McTernan (presumably with a bit of time on his hands in between making the tea) has issued a rapid rebuttal via Luke’s comments section:
Someone in No 10 is reading this and the Guardian report is totally untrue. I can do better than to give an account of what the Prime Minister said to the PLP Parliamentary Committee yesterday afternoon:
The Prime Minister attended the Parliamentary Committee where he was asked about Hayden Phillips Review of Party Funding. The PM made clear that he will do nothing that would break the link.
In the discussion he said that the party has some serious decisions to make about party funding. If the status quo remains then Lord Ashcroft’s money will mean that the Labour Party will be massively outspent in key Labour seats at the next General Election. We need annual spending limits and local spending limits to be introduced if there is to be a level playing field at the next election.
The Tory Party want a cap on donations but they are resisting spending limits. Hayden Phillips needs to recognise that trade union funding is already highly regulated. He is proposing a model where trade unionists opt into paying the levy. That is completely unacceptable to the Labour Party.
It would seem that Blair is listening to the Labour Party after all – or at least to Luke Akehurst, anyway. So if you have a complaint, question or query for those people running the country, post on Luke’s blog; the Downing Street monitoring unit will pick it up and get an answer straight back to you. We’ll have to comment there more often!