Former Liberal Democrat peer Matthew Oakeshott, who was expelled from the party for attempting to oust Nick Clegg.
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Former Lib Dem Lord Oakeshott donates £300,000 to Labour candidates

Peer also gives £300,000 to 15 Lib Dems and £10,000 to Caroline Lucas in attempt to build a "progressive alliance". 

Labour has long conceded that it will be heavily outspent by the Tories at the election (while arguing that its superior ground operation will compensate) but the party has recieved a rare financial boost tonight. The former Lib Dem peer Lord Oakeshott, who was expelled from the party after his attempted coup against Nick Clegg, has given £300,000 to 30 Labour parliamentary candidates in an attempt to "help save our country from a Tory government cringing to Ukip". Twenty nine of the candidates are contesting Conservative-held marginals and one, Melanie Onn, is seeking to hold Great Grimsby against Ukip. 

Oakeshott, a multimillionaire property investor, who now describes himself as a "non-party social democrat", has also donated £300,000 to 15 Lib Dem candidates, including eight MPs, and £10,000 to Green MP Caroline Lucas. His declared ambition is to build a "progressive alliance" to secure the election of a "Labour-led government headed by Ed Miliband as prime minister". He said:

Britain stands on the edge of a cliff with the general election only 105 days away. Will we vote Tory or Ukip for Euro referendum chaos, lasting two years at least and putting thousands of businesses, millions of jobs and our long term peace and security at risk?

Or will Labour, Liberal Democrat, Green and all progressive voters come together in the marginal seats that matter to elect a Parliament for progress and reform and a Labour-led Government with Ed Miliband as prime minister? He has stood firm against the clamour for a referendum with considerable courage and nous. Scotland shows how referenda, even with 55-45 vote, can settle nothing, just open a can of worms.

Oakeshott's donations bring the traditional issue of tactical voting to the fore. Of the Lib Dems' 56 seats, the Tories lie in second place in 37. If the left divides in these constituencies, the danger is that the Conservative will make enough gains to remain the largest single party. While Labour cannot be seen to advocate support for rival candidates (not least given the Lib Dems' role in government and Miliband's ambition to build a "One Nation" party), shadow cabinet ministers acknowledge that it is a concern. 

Although the left is currently more fragmented than for decades, with the Greens and the SNP eating into Labour's vote, Oakeshott's donation is an example of how Miliband has partially succeeded in reuniting progressives. The peer's gift is the second from a former SDP figure after David Owen donated to the party last year. It would have been unthinkable for either man to aid New Labour in this way. 

Here is the full list of candidates backed by Oakeshott.

Labour 

Jessica Asato (Norwich North)

Catherine Atkinson (Erewash)

Nick Bent (Warrington South)

Louise Baldock (Stockton South) 

Polly Billington (Thurrock) 

Lisa Forbes (Peterborough) 

Victoria Fowler (Nuneaton) 

James Frith (Bury North) 

Sophy Gardner (Gloucester) 

Jamie Hanley (Pudsey) 

Rupa Huq (Ealing Central & Acton) 

Sarah Jones (Croydon Central)

Uma Kumaran (Harrow East)

Peter Kyle (Hove) 

Amina Lone (Morecambe and Lunesdale)

Jo McCarron (Kingswood) 

Natasha Millward (Dudley South) 

Lara Norris (Great Yarmouth) 

Melanie Onn (Great Grimsby) 

Sarah Owen (Hastings & Rye) 

Nancy Platts (Brighton Kemptown) 

Lucy Rigby (Lincoln) 

Will Scobie (Thanet South) 

Lee Sherriff (Carlisle) 

Paula Sherriff (Dewsbury) 

Joy Squires (Worcester) 

Will Straw (Rossendale and Darwen) 

Sharon Taylor (Stevenage) 

Janos Toth (Cannock Chase) 

Julia Tickridge (Weaver Vale) 

Liberal Democrat

Norman Baker MP (Lewes)

Lorley Burt (Solihull)

Helen Flynn (Harrogate & Knaresborough) 

Martin Horwood MP (Cheltenham) 

Ros Kayes (Dorset West) 

Tessa Munt MP (Wells)

Julie Porksen (Berwick-upon-Tweed) 

Jackie Porter (Winchester) 

John Pugh MP (Southport) 

David Rendel (Somerton & Frome) 

Dan Rogerson MP (North Cornwall) 

Adrian Sanders MP (Torbay) 

Vikki Slade (Mid Dorset & North Poole) 

Dorothy Thornhill (Watford) 

Jenny Willott MP (Cardiff Central) 

Green 

Caroline Lucas (Brighton Pavilion)

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.

Photo: Getty
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Jeremy Corbyn faces a dilemma as Brexit solidifies: which half of his voters should he disappoint?

He comes from a tradition on the left that sees the EU as a capitalist club.

Imagine a man who voted to leave the European Economic Community in 1975. A man who spoke out against the Maastricht Treaty in 1993, saying that it “takes away from national parliaments the power to set economic policy and hands it over to an unelected set of bankers”. A man who voted against the Lisbon Treaty in 2008.

You don’t have to imagine very hard, because that man is Jeremy Corbyn. When campaigning for the Labour leadership in 2015, he told a GMB hustings, “I would ­advocate a No vote if we are going to get an imposition of free-market policies across Europe.”

When Labour’s Brexiteers gathered to launch their campaign in 2016, several seemed hurt that Corbyn and his shadow chancellor, John McDonnell, were not there with them. “It is surprising, when we voted against the advice of the chief whip on a number of European issues over the last decades, that Jeremy and John, who have always been in that lobby with us, that they would want to lead a campaign that isn’t even asking for a renegotiated position,” said the MP Graham Stringer.

I mention this because since the election campaign started in April, I keep having an odd experience – people insisting that Corbyn is not a Eurosceptic, and that he will use Labour’s new-found strength to argue for a softer Brexit. Others claim that Labour’s current position on freedom of movement (ending it) is the obvious, common-sense – even progressive – choice.

This matters. Look, if the evidence above doesn’t convince you that the Labour leader is intensely relaxed about exiting the European Union, I don’t know what else would. Yet it’s clear that some Labour activists strongly identify personally with Corbyn: they find it hard to believe that he holds different opinions from them.

The second factor is the remaking of Brexit as a culture war, where to say that someone is a Eurosceptic is seen as a kind of slur. Perhaps without realising it, some on the left do associate Euroscepticism with Little Englanderism or even flat-out racism, and see it as a moral failing rather than a political position.

But I’m not impugning Jeremy Corbyn’s character or morals by saying that he is an instinctive Brexiteer. He comes from a tradition on the left that sees the EU as a capitalist club. You can disagree with that premise but it’s a respectable line of reasoning.

Also, the Euroscepticism of Corbyn and his allies will undoubtedly give them an advantage in the months ahead; they are not consumed by fatalism, and the members of McDonnell’s shadow Treasury team feel that the removal of European state aid restrictions can help revive ailing bits of the British economy. They have a vision of what an ideal “Labour Brexit” would be – and it’s not just sobbing and begging Emmanuel Macron and Angela Merkel to take us back.

We do, however, need a reality check. Now that the necessary humble pie has been eaten, Labour’s unexpected revival at the ballot box means we can begin to treat Corbyn as a normal politician – with the emphasis on the second word. He’s not the Messiah, but he’s not a joke either. He is a charismatic campaigner who is willing to compromise on second-tier issues to achieve his main objectives.

From the general election, we can see just how good a campaigner Corbyn is: he can fire up a crowd, give disciplined answers to interviewers and chat amiably on a sofa. That throws into sharp relief just how limp his performances were last year.

He might have little else in common with Theresa May, but they both looked at the EU referendum and thought: yeah, I’m going to sit this one out. He called on activists to accept the EU “warts and all”; and said he was “seven, or seven and a half” out of ten in favour of staying in it.

For both leaders, this was a pragmatic decision. May did not want to be overtly disloyal to David Cameron, but neither did she wish to risk her career if the result went the other way.

Anyone in Labour would have been equally sane to look north of the border and back to 2014, and remember just how much credibility the party immolated by sharing stages with the Conservatives and allowing itself to be seen as the establishment. By limiting his involvement in the Remain campaign and whipping his MPs to trigger Article 50, Corbyn ended up with a fudge that gave Labour some cover in heavily pro-Brexit regions of the country.

That’s the politics, but what about the principle? I can’t shake the feeling that if Corbyn campaigned as hard for Remain in 2016 as he did for Labour in 2017, we would still be members of the European Union. And that matters to me, as much as left-wing policies or a change in the rhetoric around migrants and welfare claimants, because I think leaving the EU is going to make us poorer and meaner.

That’s why I worry that many of my friends, and the activists I talk to, are about to be disappointed, after waiting and waiting for Labour to start making the case for a softer Brexit and for the single market being more important than border controls. As Michael Chessum, a long-standing Momentum organiser, wrote on the New Statesman website, “Recognising the fact that immigration enriches society is all very well, but that narrative is inevitably undermined if you then choose to abolish the best policy for allowing immigration to happen.”

Labour’s success on 8 June was driven by its ambiguous stance on Brexit. To Leavers, it could wink at ending freedom of movement when they worried about immigration; to Remainers, it offered a critique of the immigrant-bashing rhetoric of recent times. But can that coalition hold as the true shape of Brexit solidifies? Over the next few months, Jeremy Corbyn’s biggest decision will be this: which half of my voters should I disappoint?

Helen Lewis is deputy editor of the New Statesman. She has presented BBC Radio 4’s Week in Westminster and is a regular panellist on BBC1’s Sunday Politics.

This article first appeared in the 22 June 2017 issue of the New Statesman, The zombie PM

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