Another day, another ‘Bristol Labour Group’ donation mystery . . .
But first a quick recap: What we have is cash donations amounting to exactly £10k, made in two large tranches, from an unincorporated association – ‘the Bristol Labour Group’, which only has one declared member and is based in a public office, staffed by Local Government Officers at the Council House – to the Bristol North West Constituency Labour Party.
Now The Blogger finds after a careful search of the Electoral Commission’s register of donors that the only donations that have ever been made to any local Bristol Constituency Labour Party – or the national Labour Party – by ‘the Bristol Labour Group’ were these two donations made to Bristol North West this year in February and June.
These donations therefore appear to represent a rather new and novel method for members of ‘the Bristol Labour Group’ to donate money to their party.
It’s perhaps notable too that no similar donations have been made to the other Constituency Labour Parties in Bristol – West, East and South – by ‘the Bristol Labour Group’.
What’s so special about Bristol North West? What’s it done to deserve this extraordinarily generous and entirely original donation from ‘the Bristol Labour Group’?
A question you could ask is: what was the money for? The dates of the donations perhaps offer a clue. £4.5k was donated on the February 9 2007 and the other on June 30 2007. This places the donations either side of the local elections on May 3 2007.
Perhaps, then, the Bristol Labour Group was putting up money to fund their local election campaigns in the wards of the Bristol North West Constituency?
Afraid not. No wards in the Bristol North West Constituency were up for election this year. This makes the donations even more unusual. Wouldn’t this large sum of money have been more useful in, say, Bristol South or Bristol East where there were some tough election battles to fight?
So why the hell would ‘the Bristol Labour Group’ donate a huge sum of money to a constituency party that didn’t really need it on either side of a local election campaign involving their own wards and candidates that would have undoubtedly benefited from it?
Well. There was one election going on in Bristol North West this year. Or rather a selection. A new parliamentary candidate was needed by the Bristol North West Constituency Labour Party to replace their retiring MP, Doug Naysmith.
The candidates list, consisting of local former Filwood councillor Kelvin Blake, London barrister and Lambeth councillor Sam Townend and a couple of deadbeats, was finally drawn up on the 7 May 2007, after the first generous donation from ‘the Bristol Labour Group’ had been banked.
The winner of the contest, Sam Townend, was then selected by the Bristol North West Constituency Labour Party as their Prospective Parliamentary Candidate on June 25 2007. A further donation was then accepted by Bristol North West Constituency Labour Party from ‘the Bristol Labour Group’ on 30 June 2007.
Here’s what some local Labour members and activists had to say about Townend’s selection:
“Sam Townend is a bizarre choice. Kelvin Blake had strong local credentials, a compelling personal story of triumph over adversity, is a good campaigner and had the extremely vocal backing of the Bristol Evening Post. Looking from the outside, I cannot conceive of why they didn’t chose him.”
“Labour have now left Paul Harrod (for the Lib Dems) free to play the local choice card and lost the opportunity to play the “parachute” card against Charlotte Leslie. They have antagonised the Evening Post and lost a chunk of activists over it. Was this a trade union led decision? Just seems very strange.”
“There is no evidence of Townend having much campaign know-how from his poor result in Reigate last time. He got a large swing against the Lib Dems in Lambeth in the locals but that was a borough wide swing against the administration and a particular ward “issue” (some have said there was an aggressively homophobic campaign against the Lib Dem incumbant but I do not have the local knowledge to verify this).”
“The Labour party has made a right pigs ear of this selection, bringing in a London cllr & barrister (with what looks to be a deal of baggage) over a local ex-cllr, Kelvin Blake. This was always going to be a close one. Tory gain, unfortunately.”
I suppose this is what you get from a constituency party that has Derek Pickup in it.
More soon . . .