An influential Labour group, which has Croydon North MP Steve Reed OBE among its directors, is under investigation by the Electoral Commission after failing to declare more than £800,000 in donations within the time required by law.
Business Insider has reported that the Electoral Commission is investigating “multiple” potential breaches of electoral law by Labour Together, an organisation with close links to party leader Sir Keir Starmer.
Labour Together describes itself as “a network for activists from all traditions of the Labour movement to explore new ideas and thinking on the future of the left”.
A former managing director of Labour Together is Morgan McSweeney, who is now Sir Keir’s chief of staff.
Companies House records show McSweeney was secretary of Labour Together from 2017 to April 2020, the time when Sir Keir became leader of the Labour Party. For two years, from 2007 to 2009, McSweeney worked for The Campaign Company, the Croydon-based consultancy set-up by David Evans, who is now the Labour Party’s general secretary.
Reed, despite representing part of a borough where its Labour council has gone bust, is the communities and local government spokesperson in Starmer’s shadow cabinet.
According to Business Insider, an analysis of the figures published by the Electoral Commission shows only a small minority of donations received by Labour Together – £165,000 of the £970,492 donated – had been declared within the 30-day period, from its first donation in October 2015 to its most recent donation in January 2021.
The Electoral Commission is also investigating a potential failure to register a responsible person within 30 days of accepting a reportable donation.
Both of these potential failures would be breaches of the Political Parties, Elections and Referendums Act 2000.
“Full and timely transparency in electoral funding and donations by all parties is critical to trust in elections and in politicians,” Susan Hawley, a from Spotlight on Corruption, told Insider.
Business Insider reports, “Figures published on the Electoral Commission website in February 2021 show 10 donations for a total of £298,992. Only one of these donations, worth £50,000, is shown to have been received by Labour Together within 30 days of it being reported. The rest range from between June 2017 and April 2019.
“Figures published by the Electoral Commission in December 2020 show 19 donations for a total of £465,500. None of these donations appear to have been received in the 30 days prior to their reported date of December 10, 2020. They range from June 2018 to September 2020.”
The report adds, “The December 2020 report was the first report of donations made by Labour Together since July 2018. A November 2017 report of donations included sums given in June and August 2017 totalling £46,000, while a £45,000 donation in June 2016 was not reported until August 2016.”
The figures show that Labour Together’s most significant donor has been a Mayfair hedge fund manager, Martin Taylor, who has given the organisation more than £700,000.
The Electoral Commission told Insider: “Labour Together is currently under investigation for potentially failing to deliver donations reports within 30 days of accepting reportable donations, and for potentially failing to register a responsible person within 30 days of accepting a reportable donation. The outcome of the investigation will be published on our website when it has concluded.”
Labour Together explained the failures as “an administrative oversight” and “entirely unintentional”, claiming that they “contacted the Electoral Commission to make them aware of this as soon as we became aware of the error”.
They say that they are cooperating with the Electoral Commission to assist them in their inquiry. Which sounds very much like they’re bang to rights. Which is a bit awks, Starmer being a lawyer and all.
Neither Steve Reed nor Starmer’s office responded to Inside Croydon’s invitation to comment.
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