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8 November 2022

Labour to hire attack dogs “willing to get hands dirty” as Starmer prepares for election

The Tony Blair-era aide and media entrepreneur Waheed Alli will lead the party’s fundraising drive.

By Rachel Wearmouth

Keir Starmer is preparing to bolster his election team, while the media entrepreneur and peer Waheed Alli has been drafted in to boost a fundraising effort with major donors.

Alli, the founder of Silvergate Media and the co-creator of the reality TV programme Survivor, will lead an expansion of the “Rose Network” fundraising drive, with all the money raised to be devoted to campaigning and new hires.

Labour says it is on an election footing, and that it has “a spring in its step” and is “closing the funding gap with the Tories”. The party is moving into a new headquarters in Southwark this month, and will seek in the weeks ahead to recruit political attack dogs “willing to get their hands dirty” and digital communications experts. Labour is around 20 points ahead of the Conservatives in the polls as Tory support remains depressed following Liz Truss’s disastrous premiership. 

Alli is well known in Labour circles having served as an aide during Tony Blair’s time as leader. He is also a close friend of Anji Hunter, the former prime minister’s director of government.

A Labour Party spokesperson said: “Big donors are coming back to Labour because they can see we are a changed party, under new management, serious about getting into government. Because of the hard work we’ve done, all the money we raise is now going directly to campaigning. We are rebuilding our campaign machinery with a focus on communications and digital transformation, not just in HQ but across the country.

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“As we expand our senior volunteer fundraising effort, we’re delighted that Alli will lead this work as our chair of general election fundraising given the extra interest we are receiving from potential donors, and he will work with the party staff team to ensure we have the money we need whenever the election might come.”

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Starmer put his team on an election footing last month after Rishi Sunak, the third Conservative prime minister this year, took office on 25 October. The party is said to need battle-minded political animals and “less presentations, more delivery”.  It follows criticism the party has been too timid and reliant on focus groups when making its case to voters.

One Labour aide told the New Statesman: “The problem is now you look round the office and ask: who is combing through Tory candidates’ social media? Who is going line-by-line through the Tory manifesto? The team at HQ has been pretty bare bones and so the party will be looking to spend the money to address that.”

Another Labour source said: “We will be hiring people who are there to deliver, rather than talk. We’ve got enough people sharing ideas. We need people who get their hands dirty.”

Staff are in the process of moving to the new headquarters after a personnel shake-up in the summer, with all policy and communications staff now reporting to the campaign director Morgan McSweeney.

Following the departure of Sam White, Starmer’s former chief of staff, Labour’s centre of power has shifted from figures in parliament to the party’s headquarters.

[See also: PMQs: the Gavin Williamson scandal makes Rishi Sunak look weak]