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11 February 2008

Time for a treasurer with teeth

Labour Home's Alex Hilton on why he's mounting a campaign for a new treasurer for the Labour Party

By Alex Hilton

All CLPs and nationally affiliated organisations have now been sent their NEC nomination forms, which include the position of treasurer of the Labour Party, a post which, I have been told, has only been democratically contested once in the past 15 years. The editorial team at is backing one of our own, Mark McDonald, a human rights barrister and former NUPE shop steward.

Yet we’re not just backing Mark to win, we need him to take a powerful mandate to the NEC to enable him to raise the bar on the party’s compliance with its financial obligations. And so we’re asking Labour CLPs, unions and affiliates to nominate Mark for this position, which could potentially have a greater impact on Labour’s performance at the next election than the deputy leadership contest last year.

First and foremost, this isn’t an attack on Jack Dromey, who has held the post for four years. Neither is Mark’s candidacy a confrontation with the party hierarchy. This bid is meant as an illustration to the party that it can benefit from the constructive co-operation of regular party members at every level. It isn’t about political manoeuvreing, it’s about governance, oversight and, for want of a sexier term, risk management.

Mark’s diligence, talent and hard work, together with a direct mandate from members and affiliates, will benefit the entire party. Grassroots members will benefit from the reduced likelihood of their activism being negated by small, high profile mistakes at the centre of the party.

The government will benefit from fewer media hits distracting the news agenda from a focus on delivery and policy. The union movement will benefit from a clear voice on the NEC mandated to ensure that party spending is as diligently scrutinised as party fundraising and that their valuable contributions are not wasted.

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And we will all benefit from a greater confidence from donors that they will be appreciated for what they are and that there will be no undue benefit or drawback from their support. Donors large and small may deserve our gratitude, but not our favours.

Apart from Jack Dromey and Mark McDonald, I haven’t heard of any other candidates seeking nominations for this post. And it is the semi-honorary reputation of the role that has damaged successive post-holders’ mandate to scrutinise Labour’s financial arrangements.

In today’s climate, the status quo simply is not an option as it provides too many political hostages to fortune. And each one of those scandals that breaks lets down, not just party members, but they let down the countless people who depend on a Labour government to speak up for them; people who will be abandoned if we gift an election to the Tories.

“Vote McDonald for Improved Risk Management” may not be a clarion call that will stir souls, yet it could be the difference between a Labour and a Conservative government after the next election. So make sure your union, affiliate and CLP nominates a treasurer with teeth.

Alex Hilton is the editor of and Labour’s Parliamentary Candidate in Chelsea & Fulham