Labour candidates who received campaign donations from former Prime Minister Tony Blair have been urged to return the “blood money”. Mr Blair is keen to forge links with a Labour Party that has turned its back on him in recent years, despite him leading them to three election victories in a row.
Mr Blair, whose personal fortune is estimated to be worth as much as £100 million thanks to lucrative consultancy contracts following his premiership, has donated £1,000 each to 106 candidates fighting to take target seats.
Relations between the former Prime Minister and current Labour leader Ed Miliband are icy. He has not made it a secret that he disapproves of Labour’s swing to the left under Miliband, who, as the son of a Marxist academic is ideologically wedded to socialism.
Handing money directly to the candidates has therefore been seen as Mr Blair bypassing the party leadership. In a letter sent to the recipient candidates, Mr Blair said: “I know how hard it can be to raise money to fund a local campaign, but for you, in one of our 106 battleground seats, it is even more vital. This is where the election will be won for Labour and that is why I am making a donation to all 106 campaigns.
“As one of our key seat candidates you know better than most the scale of the challenge we face, but I have every confidence that with your drive, determination and organisational skills, you will deliver a successful local campaign that will also see our party returned to government.”
But the party’s political opponents have already made hay out of the donations. According to the Daily Mail, Defence minister Anna Soubry, who is defending her seat of Broxtowe, Nottinghamshire next May, sent a quick-fire message to her Labour opponent Nick Palmer simply saying “Blair money, yes or no?”
Palmer, an ex-Labour MP who has received the money from Blair declined to reply.
In Scotland, SNP deputy leader Stewart Hosie said: “The fact that Labour candidates are happy to accept donations from the man who led us into the illegal war in Iraq, introduced tuition fees and started the process of NHS privatisation is extraordinary. Tony Blair’s bad money will do Labour in Scotland no good.”
And Rhodri Glyn Thomas, the Plaid Cymru member of the Welsh Assembly for Carmarthen East, has called on his Labour opponents to give the money back, accusing Mr Blair of being a corporate stooge who had amassed “blood money”.
“The former Prime Minister since leaving office has amassed a multi-million pound fortune by doing the bidding of the global banks that created the longest lasting recession since records began with their rotten behaviour,” he said.
“He has worked for multinational energy companies who have rigged the energy market created by his Labour Government resulting in inflated energy costs for consumers, and global dictators guilty of human rights abuses. It is deeply disturbing that this blood money will now be used by the Labour Party in Carmarthenshire.”
Dan Hodges, the former Labour advisor and son of MP Glenda Jackson, has lamented the acceptance of the donation in his Telegraph column, arguing that, at a time when the Labour Party under Miliband is trying to distance itself from Blair’s New Labour legacy, taking the money makes no sense.
He wrote: “Why is the party […] broadcasting the fact their election campaign is being bankrolled by Tony Blair? Who exactly is meant to benefit from this?
“One hundred and six cash-strapped candidates, I suppose. But even though every little helps, £1000 isn’t going to go all that far. And each of those candidates is about to spend every hour between now and polling day being chased around by angry people in ill-fitting multi-coloured jumpers who will shout: “Did you take Blair’s blood money?””