Disco. Photo: Getty
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What is the Lib Dem Disco?

The Lib Dem Disco 2014 is the social highlight of the party's conference this autumn. But what is it?

The Lib Dems, much to the excitement and cheerful derision of Westminster insiders, have announced that they are holding disco at their annual party conference. “The Lib Dem Disco 2014 is the social highlight of the Lib Dem Conference 2014” (their italics), is how the website describes it.

There was a bit of worry in the New Statesman office that “disco” was short for “discussion”, and that the event would be little more than men in yellow polyester ties talking about Trident and land value taxation, looking sad. But it looks like it’s actually a party, with lights and dancing and everything. Maybe even dry ice.

The Evening Standard describes it thus: “. . . the Liberal Democrats’ biggest movers and shakers are preparing to throw some of their best shapes at a party fundraising event next month”. And a fantastic sketch in the Guardian follows the night all the way through, from the “promised price of entry on the door” rising to the last song: that catchy auto-tuned Nick Clegg apology, I'm Sorry. Here’s an extract:

Undercover journalists at the event are likely to be found crowding around Vince Cable who, in an effort to impress, will be indiscreetly undermining his impartiality on a range of issues for anyone who cares to watch. Simon Hughes will be found reminding everyone that he actually drives a taxi, and as such is able to give people a ride home. There will be no takers. A remixed dance version of the Stealers Wheel classic Stuck in the Middle with You will be played on repeat.

The line-up of guest DJs, according to the website, is as follows:

DJ Fazza.T a.k.a FatBoy Tim MP

DJ Dizzle Fizzle MP

DJ Ali C MP

DJ Caron Lindsay

To you and me, that’s Lib Dem MPs Tim Farron, Don Foster, Alistair Carmichael and Caron Lindsay. Attendees can place their bets on who will be the “DJ of the Night”. And if that isn’t enticing enough, the description to tempt us to the event goes: “Do you want to get down with Ashdown? Shake a tail feather with Sarah Teather? Or maybe do the hustle with Bob Russell? Well, now is your chance!”

Tickets cost £10 each (or £9k for students, as a few wags on Twitter have suggested), and the disco is to raise funds to fight the Lib Dems’ Cambridge seat, which is currently represented by Julian Huppert. Huppert himself will be the disco's MC, although, according to one well-placed Lib Dem Disco source, “he’ll look like a supply teacher at a drum and bass convention”.

I caught up with DJ Ali C (aka the Secretary of State for Scotland, Alistair Carmichael) this afternoon at Lib Dem conference, and he gave me an exclusive insight into what his set will include:

I have a list of three. And let me just say that one of them might possibly involve a band which included a Native America, a construction worker, a leather man, a traffic policeman, and encourage them [attendees], as it will be the Sabbath at that time, it will be after midnight, that they should engage with a particular Christian organisation. And I think knowing Liberal Democrat social functions as I do, I anticipate that that will be a fairly attractive proposition.

Anoosh Chakelian is senior writer at the New Statesman.

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Lord Sainsbury pulls funding from Progress and other political causes

The longstanding Labour donor will no longer fund party political causes. 

Centrist Labour MPs face a funding gap for their ideas after the longstanding Labour donor Lord Sainsbury announced he will stop financing party political causes.

Sainsbury, who served as a New Labour minister and also donated to the Liberal Democrats, is instead concentrating on charitable causes. 

Lord Sainsbury funded the centrist organisation Progress, dubbed the “original Blairite pressure group”, which was founded in mid Nineties and provided the intellectual underpinnings of New Labour.

The former supermarket boss is understood to still fund Policy Network, an international thinktank headed by New Labour veteran Peter Mandelson.

He has also funded the Remain campaign group Britain Stronger in Europe. The latter reinvented itself as Open Britain after the Leave vote, and has campaigned for a softer Brexit. Its supporters include former Lib Dem leader Nick Clegg and Labour's Chuka Umunna, and it now relies on grassroots funding.

Sainsbury said he wished to “hand the baton on to a new generation of donors” who supported progressive politics. 

Progress director Richard Angell said: “Progress is extremely grateful to Lord Sainsbury for the funding he has provided for over two decades. We always knew it would not last forever.”

The organisation has raised a third of its funding target from other donors, but is now appealing for financial support from Labour supporters. Its aims include “stopping a hard-left take over” of the Labour party and “renewing the ideas of the centre-left”. 

Julia Rampen is the digital news editor of the New Statesman (previously editor of The Staggers, The New Statesman's online rolling politics blog). She has also been deputy editor at Mirror Money Online and has worked as a financial journalist for several trade magazines. 

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