The Labour Party: for the money not the few?

JVL Introduction

Investigative journalists Sean Rankin and Steven McCracken have studied every donation made to Jeremy Corbyn and Keir Starmer as recorded by the Electoral Commission and the Register of Members’ Interests.

It makes for enlightening if not altogether surprising reading

As the authors suggest modestly, “our report is suggestive of the direction in which the party is moving under Starmer.”

This article was originally published by Morning Star on Thu 17 Dec 2020. Read the original here.

The Labour Party: for the money not the few?

Sean Rankin and Steven McCracken investigate which groups and which individuals have been funding Corbyn and Starmer.

THE Labour Party is engulfed in a factional dispute that seems to grow more serious by the day.

Despite pledging to bring unity to the party, Sir Keir Starmer has taken a series of controversial decisions that have deepened fault-lines between what we might call Labour’s socialist and centrist wings.

An unfortunate byproduct of factional disputes is that facts can become secondary.

Therefore, we decided to perform an objective analysis that goes to the heart of the Labour tradition: we analysed the economic base.

Details of every donation made to Jeremy Corbyn and Starmer are recorded by the Electoral Commission and the Register of Members’ Interests.

We tallied these and cross-referenced the various individual and group donors to produce a detailed report you can read in full at mstar.link/TheFreePressLabourAnalysis.

What did our raw analysis of the funders behind Corbyn and Starmer reveal?

Corbyn v Starmer: Donors

Corbyn was elected leader of the Labour Party in 2015. He received a total of £512,417 in donations from that point up to the time of writing.

Starmer received few significant political donations prior to this year. However, it is notable that Starmer received a greater amount in donations in 2020 (£708,605) than Corbyn received in five years at the forefront of Labour.

Lord Waheed Alli and Robert Latham donated £100,000 to Starmer.

Martin Taylor donated £95,000. Lord Clive Hollick and Sir Trevor Chinn donated £50,000.

The majority of Starmer’s funding is accounted for by personal donations of this type.

In contrast, the majority of the funding Corbyn received since 2015 came from trade unions.

Corbyn’s three largest donors were: Unite (£141,618); National Union of Rail, Maritime and Transport Workers (£50,000); and the Communication Workers Union (£50,249).

The largest donation Corbyn received from an individual was £7,000.

This came from Matt Wrack, the general secretary of the Fire Brigades Union.

According to our research, Starmer received a minimum of nine donations from individuals in excess of this amount.

The individual donations mentioned above are all larger by a factor of seven to 14 than the biggest individual donation received by Corbyn.

Digging into the details

When we deepened the level of our analysis, cross-referencing donors and significant groups within Labour, an even more interesting picture emerged.

A few names recurred during analysis of Corbyn donors. For instance, Jon Lansman loaned Corbyn £5,123 (subsequently repaid) and the organisation he founded, Momentum, donated £50,000.

Only the full article can do justice to the web of connections revealed by our analysis of Starmer’s donors. Nonetheless, we provide a summary below of the most striking patterns.

Owen Smith is an integral part of the story. Smith stood against Corbyn in the 2016 Labour leadership election that was triggered by a revolt of the shadow cabinet.

We cross-referenced individuals who donated to Starmer and Smith, those who donated to Starmer and centrist pressure groups, and those who donated to Smith and the same centrist pressure groups and found that a total of 14 donors recurred.

They provided Smith, like Starmer, with a level of funding for a single leadership campaign that dwarfed the amount Corbyn raised over five years.

Indeed, the £866,905 Smith raised was even greater than the amount raised by Starmer in 2020.

Several of the donors to Smith were Labour funders who not only turned their financial might against Corbyn but voiced their disgruntlement publicly.

Martin Clarke described Corbyn’s leadership as “simply so alien to my own views of what a Labour Party is all about” that he cut off his funding.

Billionaire Peter Coates, who donated £200,000 to Labour during the Blair years, said he remained a member of the party under Corbyn “through gritted teeth.”

Individual donors to Starmer were also heavily involved in the funding of groups within Labour that were critical of Corbyn’s leadership.

Labour Together is a group of MPs who were heavily implicated in anti-Corbyn activity.

Many participated in the 2016 mass resignation and are also members of the Tribune Group, which received funding from Labour Tomorrow.

Labour Together has only two donors: Trevor Chinn provided £35,000 and Martin Taylor £171,000.

Taylor donated a whopping £230,000 to Labour Tomorrow.

According to the Independent, this group was “was set up to distribute funds to other Labour centrist groups,” such as Saving Labour.

In total, Taylor has donated £516,000 to Starmer or groups opposing Corbyn.

We note that figures within Labour once criticised Momentum for trying to influence the internal apparatus of the party!

Finally, in regards to the anti-semitism crisis that has engulfed Labour in recent months, it is worth pointing out that many donors to Starmer have publicly attributed blame to Corbyn or associated him with anti-semitism.

At least five of Starmer’s donors were signatories of the Labour peer letter to the Guardian in 2019 that was highly critical of Corbyn’s handling of anti-semitism.

At least three members of Starmer’s wider network of connections also signed. Other donors were signatories to letters with a similar purpose.

Chinn, the donor who recurred most often in our cross-referencing, is a member of the executive committee of the British Israel Communications and Research Centre (Bicom).

The group has been described by the Guardian as “Britain’s most active pro-Israeli lobbying organisation” and has been notably hostile to Corbyn, a long-time activist for Palestinian rights.

To be clear, our research does not attempt to draw direct links between donations and public statements on anti-semitism.

However, given that Corbyn was suspended from the party for stating “the scale of the anti-semitism problem was dramatically overstated for political reasons,” it seems relevant to highlight that Corbyn clearly did have political opponents within Labour and that these individuals seem to be heavily represented in the donor list for Starmer.

The picture

Our report into donations to Corbyn and Starmer found that:

  • Six trade unions supported Corbyn versus three for Starmer.
  • Two individuals with a peerage or knighthood supported Corbyn versus 15 for Starmer.
  • One millionaire and/or former chief executive of a corporation supported Corbyn versus 12 for Starmer.
  • Overall financial backing for Starmer significantly outweighed support for Corbyn.

We suggest that you do not require training in Marxism to look at each economic base and conclude that Starmer is going to drive the Labour Party to the right.

Indeed, the “hidden patterns” of Starmer’s funding, highlighted by our research, suggest that he is the “continuity candidate” of an infrastructure of Blairite funders, think tanks and internal pressure groups.

These groups/figures withdrew financial support from Corbyn’s “socialist” Labour, diverted resources into the pockets of his opponents and now fund Starmer as he attempts to define a brand more palatable to corporate interests.

The fact that this process has resulted in the suspension of Corbyn, the removal of the whip and threats to expel supportive left-wing elements of the party is, we would suggest, highly suspect when viewed in the light of our findings.

Is Labour for the many or for the money? For the workers or the owners?

We believe our report is suggestive of the direction in which the party is moving under Starmer.


Sean Rankin and Steven McCracken are from The Free Press (the-free-press.co.uk), a journal and teaching tool exposing propaganda in the mainstream media. You can follow The Free Press on Twitter or Facebook. You can read the full version of our report here.

Comments (11)

  • goldbach says:

    By their friends shall ye know them.

  • Doug says:

    The internal report was the final nail in the coffin for Blairites, there is no longer any pretence that Red Tories have any place in the Labour party

  • John McLaughlin says:

    So starmer and his ilk are tories in all but name.

  • Sabine Ebert-Forbes says:

    First alarm bells started ringing for me during the leadership run when Starmer remained tight-lipped throughout when asked about who his financiers were…….

  • James Simpson says:

    This is excellent work, much needed in exposing the direction that Starmer is pushing the Labour party in. I’ve never been a member and voted for it only once, last December, and this report gives me no reason to have any interest in the party’s internal fights. Socialism will never be achieved in the Labour party and probably not at all in the parliamentary system.

  • David Townsend says:

    ‘Just follow the money.’

    Never more true.

  • Digger says:

    Our Labour party, like our labour itself, bought and paid for by interests inimical to ours. The PLP and swathes of Labour party infrastructure represent neither the membership nor the unions. We’re back to the days when we needed the ILPs because the Liberal party refused to represent workers.

  • Keith Venables says:

    Thanks for publishing this detailed account. It’s serious informed research like this that means I support JVL.

  • Hugh Neal says:

    The question I have been pondering since Starmer reluctantly revealed that his financial puppet masters include billionaires and a prominent Zionist is whether it actually matters to these people if a Labour government is ever elected. Probably not. The Tories have never been big on Palestinian rights and, of course, they represent the interests of the wealthy. Possibly Starmer’s brief is simply to turn Labour into a party which will continue to look after the comfortable people on the off chance that the electorate reject the Tories. This would lay the dread spectre of a socialist government which so terrified them in 2017. Starmer seeming to have no clear policies and devoting half his energy to victimising progressives in his own party bears this out.

  • Nick Pile says:

    I would highlight John Booth’s post (above) and its link to Robin Ramsay’s book “The Rise of New Labour”. Referring to the £millions donated to Blair by Michael Levy (a figure of £7 million is suggested, sufficient to give Blair “…. financial independence from the trade unions and the Labour Party. Blair hated the Labour Party and viewed it as his enemy”), the final footnote (on page 4) alarmingly suggests “…If it was indeed raised by Levy and not just laundered through Levy by the Israeli state.”

Comments are now closed.