David Miliband steams ahead in donations race

Blur drummer and Lord Sainsbury help ex-foreign secretary amass £185,000 in donations.

The Labour leadership race may still be too close to call, but when it comes to donations, David Miliband is streets ahead of his rivals.

Figures released by the Electoral Commission today show that Miliband Sr raked in an impressive £185,000 in June, with Ed Balls trailing on £28,000 (he picked up £15K from the novelist Ken Follett) and Ed Miliband in third place on £15,000. Andy Burnham and Diane Abbott didn't receive any donations over the £1,500 declaration threshold.

Miliband's war chest includes £20,000 from the top Labour donor, Lord Sainsbury (plus £11,188 for office use), £10,000 each from the film-maker David Puttnam and the IT mogul Parry Mitchell, and £6,000 from the Blur drummer, Dave Rowntree. And there's more -- his reported total excludes 94 smaller donations under the £1,500 threshold.

Miliband's fundraising powers help him in two ways. Not only do they allow him to run a well-resourced campaign, they also suggest that, if elected, he could attract and retain the sort of big-money, big-charisma donors Labour has conspicuously lacked in recent years.

In a nod to his Marxist roots, Miliband has pledged to contribute one-third of his donations to a "fighting fund to help Labour win seats back at the next election". It's the sort of smart gesture that shows he is much more than the Blairite clone of popular imagination.

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George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.

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Ignored by the media, the Liberal Democrats are experiencing a revival

The crushed Liberals are doing particularly well in areas that voted Conservative in 2015 - and Remain in 2016. 

The Liberal Democrats had another good night last night, making big gains in by-elections. They won Adeyfield West, a seat they have never held in Dacorum, with a massive swing. They were up by close to the 20 points in the Derby seat of Allestree, beating Labour into second place. And they won a seat in the Cotswolds, which borders the vacant seat of Witney.

It’s worth noting that they also went backwards in a safe Labour ward in Blackpool and a safe Conservative seat in Northamptonshire.  But the overall pattern is clear, and it’s not merely confined to last night: the Liberal Democrats are enjoying a mini-revival, particularly in the south-east.

Of course, it doesn’t appear to be making itself felt in the Liberal Democrats’ poll share. “After Corbyn's election,” my colleague George tweeted recently, “Some predicted Lib Dems would rise like Lazarus. But poll ratings still stuck at 8 per cent.” Prior to the local elections, I was pessimistic that the so-called Liberal Democrat fightback could make itself felt at a national contest, when the party would have to fight on multiple fronts.

But the local elections – the first time since 1968 when every part of the mainland United Kingdom has had a vote on outside of a general election – proved that completely wrong. They  picked up 30 seats across England, though they had something of a nightmare in Stockport, and were reduced to just one seat in the Welsh Assembly. Their woes continued in Scotland, however, where they slipped to fifth place. They were even back to the third place had those votes been replicated on a national scale.

Polling has always been somewhat unkind to the Liberal Democrats outside of election campaigns, as the party has a low profile, particularly now it has just eight MPs. What appears to be happening at local by-elections and my expectation may be repeated at a general election is that when voters are presented with the option of a Liberal Democrat at the ballot box they find the idea surprisingly appealing.

Added to that, the Liberal Democrats’ happiest hunting grounds are clearly affluent, Conservative-leaning areas that voted for Remain in the referendum. All of which makes their hopes of a good second place in Witney – and a good night in the 2017 county councils – look rather less farfetched than you might expect. 

Stephen Bush is special correspondent at the New Statesman. He usually writes about politics.