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Unite remains biggest Labour donor

The trade union Unite remained Labour's largest donor in the third quarter of 2013, despite its public spat with the party leadership over the selection of an election candidate in Falkirk.

Unite gave Labour £777,740 between July and September, almost a quarter of the party's total donations of £3,157,761, according to official figures.

Conservatives received the most donations in the three-month period, with a total of £3,275,185, while Liberal Democrats took in £798,408, said the Electoral Commission.

Labour launched an internal inquiry in July into allegations that Unite had tried to fix the Falkirk selection for its favoured candidate, but the investigation was closed in September after finding no evidence that rules were breached.

Leader Ed Miliband is pressing ahead with plans to reform his party's financial links with the unions, so that affiliation fees are paid only in relation to members who choose to support the party. He will seek approval for the new arrangements at a special conference in the spring.

The GMB union has announced it will cut its affiliation fees by £1.1 million in response to the proposed reforms but this decision does not take effect until January.

The latest figures showed the GMB were Labour's fourth largest donor, with £297,698, after Unite, shopworkers union Usdaw (£618,849) and public sector union Unison (£372,603).

Largest Conservative donors were Addison Lee taxi boss John Griffin, with £500,000, City financier Michael Farmer, with £250,000, and investment banker James Lupton, with £250,000.

Conservative Party chairman Grant Shapps said: "Independent figures from the Electoral Commission show that the trade unions have given 75% of Labour's donations since the union barons installed Ed Miliband as Labour leader, including £10 million from Len McCluskey's Unite union.

"Despite Ed Miliband's promises of change, nothing has changed. The union bosses still buy the policies, fix the selections and pick the leader. It's the same old Labour.

"If Ed Miliband is serious about standing up to Len McCluskey, he should re-open his inquiry into the Unite union's attempt to fix the Labour Party selection in Falkirk. If he's too weak to govern his party, Ed Miliband is too weak to govern the country, too weak to cut the deficit and too weak to fix the welfare system."

Labour shadow Cabinet Office minister Michael Dugher said: "It looks like big money donations get you a seat at the Prime Minister's top table.

"While donors are being wined and dined by the Prime Minister, hard-working families facing a cost-of-living crisis are being forced to go to food banks. Once again, we see that this is a Government that only stands up for a privileged few.

"Private dinners with David Cameron and senior Tories have raked in well over £1 million for the Tories in the last three months. David Cameron's Tory Party is bankrolled by a small number of extremely wealthy donors - millionaires to whom he gave a tax cut while everyone else picks up the bill. This Government is totally out of touch."


From Belfast Telegraph