This is partly to invite you to a party, and partly to make a request.
One of the unattractive features of modern politics is the increasing dominance of money. We’re not yet at the American stage, where basically someone who wants to stand for Congress needs to be either a millionaire or the friend of a millionaire. But increasingly survivors in British politics need to compete in the financial arena as well as in the world of policies and argument.
The Observer tells the remarkable story of modern Conservative fund-raising. At one dinner, the paper reports “oligarchs, Middle Eastern businessmen and City financiers vied to bid huge sums at an auction.” “A Russian banker – the wife of a Putin ally – paid £160,000 to play tennis with Boris Johnson and David Cameron. “ “A Russian businessman with offshore wind interests paid £90,000 for a bust of David Cameron.” And the obscure United and Cecil Club (based at the address of a riding school in Berkshire owned by the former head of the Tobacco Manufacturers’ Association) have donated £285,000, concentrated on the 10 most marginal seats.
Candidates often get surprising approaches in this climate. I was recently approached by a special interest group pressing the cause of Azerbaijan: the lobbyist asked if I’d like to receive their updates (I said politely that I read anything I’m sent) and if they could have details of my next fund-raiser so they could contribute. I declined. If I win, I want to win with funds that I don’t feel are controversial.
Broxtowe is the 8th most marginal seat In Britain, so many of you are already receiving glossy letters from David Cameron and Anna Soubry – much of it paid for by such donations, some less obviously partisan by you as a taxpayer, because MPs are allowed to write to constituents about local issues and to include invitations to subscribe to their partisan emails. Others will have been telephoned by the central Conservative phone bank, a sophisticated operation run from Birmingham.
It’s generally expected that the Broxtowe election next May will be won by Anna Soubry or me – we are half of one per cent apart. The LibDems are focused elsewhere (and haven’t even chosen a candidate here yet); UKIP are expected to make an effort but realistically just aiming for a good third place; the Greens are expected as in 2010 to get less than 1%. It’s genuinely a two-horse race.
But as things stand, I’ll be wildly outspent and it does make a difference.
So I’d like to ask you if you can contribute towards balancing the scales. You can help in any of SIX ways, depending on whether you’d just like to help with a simple donation, or come to a party or a theatrical performance or a discussion.
- By bank transfer to Broxtowe Labour Party, 08-90-74, account 58020100. 100% of your donation will go to my campaign.
- By cheque to Broxtowe Labour Party, c/o Dawn Elliott, 12 Linden Grove, Beeston NG9 2AD. Again, 100% will go to the campaign.
- By PayPal at the www.broxtowelabour.com website. This is the simplest option for many.
- Come to our party next Friday at the Pearson Centre, Beeston (2 Nuart Road NG9 2NH, by the library) starting at 7.30pm. The guest speaker is Dennis Skinner, and there will be a 3-course meal (veggie and vegan options available), music and what we expect to be an exceptionally good time. Tickets are £15: please order from Dawn Elliott at above or let her know by email at email@example.com. Please let us know by Wednesday if you are coming, so we can make sure the right amount of food is ready for you! The surplus on the night will go to the campaign.
- Come to the performance of United We Stand at Chilwell Arts Theatre, Chilwell School, Queens Rd West, Beeston NG9 5AL on Wednesday. This is a national tour by a celebrated national theatre company (who put on The Ragged Trousered Philanthropists recently in Chilwell and Kimberley) who have promised to donate 20% of the proceeds to our campaign. See http://www.townsendproductions.org.uk/productions/united-we-stand
Doors open at 7 for 7.30. You can order tickets from firstname.lastname@example.org .
- Come to my next eat’n’debate event on Friday November 21 at 7.30pm. The subject of the discussion: “How should we respond to UKIP’s challenge?” The cost for a fish and chip supper is £20, of which 50% goes to the campaign (the rest goes to the restaurant). The venue is just opening for us that evening, and this one for a change is in ‘All things nice’, 9 Bath Street, Ilkeston, Derbyshire, DE7 8AH. (Parking on South Street or the Albion Centre, East Street). Please let me know if you plan to come to that so we can tell the caterers to have enough fish!
What will you get in return for helping? A tennis match with me? A bust of Mr Miliband? An introduction to influential people?
No. What you’ll get is the satisfaction of having contributed to a fair fight for Broxtowe. A contest where whichever candidate offers the most reasonable, balanced arguments wins – not the candidate whose party has the most connections to oligarchs. I actually don’t mind (much!) losing a fair fight. But I’d like the chance to put my case on equal terms. If you can help, whether it’s with £10 or £100 or £1000, I hope you’ll consider it.