Tony Blair is 'absolutely proud' of the string of businessmen who have bunged money into New Labour's coffers. Millions of people who have voted Labour will instead be sickened at Blair's courting of the rich. Businessmen do not give money for nothing. They expect New Labour to bow to their interests.
'Major donors need to feel that they are at the centre of things,' admits Amanda Delew, one of Labour's key fundraisers. One donor has certainly put himself at the centre of things-property developer Robert Bourne is head of the Legacy consortium which is favourite to buy the Millennium Dome. Bourne has donated £100,000 to New Labour and hosted a lavish birthday party in October 1999 for Peter Mandelson, former Dome minister and now Northern Ireland secretary.
Bourne is offering £125 million for the Dome, whose structure and surroundings are worth an estimated £600 million. Among the other millionaires buying influence with New Labour are:
- Publisher Lord Hamlyn, who has palatial homes in France and London. He used the property boom to add to his fortune by renting out buildings in central London to Sainsbury's for £16.8 million a year.
- Lord Sainsbury, former supermarket mogul and science minister. He backs the use of genetically modified (GM) food and has financial interests in companies that produce GM products.
- Christopher Ondaatje, the Canadian-based millionaire writer and publisher who used to be a Tory. He is linked to the offshore tax haven of Bermuda, with a £3 million house there, and is a member of the Bank of Bermuda's exclusive Centurion Club.
The Mirror reported on Monday that even more rich businessmen are lined up to fund New Labour. It says that among them is a former ally of Margaret Thatcher. The Mirror says a friend of the new donor describes him as someone who 'has always been thought of as a Thatcherite Tory.'