When contacted about how the group was funded, the Renaissance press spokesman would only say that “Details of our start up funding can be found in the Guardian and Labourlist pieces on Renaissance.”
The Guardian piece stated: “the new group, which has financial backing from north-east lawyer Vaqas Farooq…”
The LabourList article stated: “The new group, funded privately by Labour members”.
“Detail” is perhaps not the right word.
The Renaissance mission statement declares that “Renaissance is currently privately funded by Labour members.” Neither Renaissance or Vaqas Farooq responded to emails requesting specific details of amounts of money invested so far in the group, nor did they respond to requests for the identities of these “Labour members” providing funds.
The lack of transparency from the aforementioned Socialist groups regarding their finances is understandable due to the proscriptive actions taken against them. But why would a privately funded pressure group, whose board members are sitting MPs, councillors and political advisors, be reluctant to disclose the details of who funds them? Should an organisation seeking to directly influence the policies and personnel of the Labour Party be able to withhold details of the interests they represent?
We argue that the wealthy donors to the individuals on the Renaissance Board in the past logically felt that these politicians represented their views. This also stands for donors to pressure groups the Renaissance Board Members have been affiliated with. Without transparency from Renaissance itself, it is up to us to make an educated guess about the nature of their donors, based on it’s Board Members prior associates.
So, to modify an old psychology axiom, the best predictor of future political donations are past political donations! And from what we have found, the financial fingerprints of the magnate tendency are all over the Labour Renaissance Board.
FOUNDERS AND BOARD MEMBERS
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Stephen Kinnock is the Labour MP for Aberavon. Stephen is the son of Neil Kinnock, who in a neat historical parallel, engaged in a dirty war against Tony Benn and the left-wing of the party during his stewardship of Labour in the 80s.
So, what can we glean from the individuals and organisations that have funded Kinnock since 2017?
Most importantly Vaqas Farooq, the individual identified as providing the key start-up funds for Labour Renaissance, has previously donated £3,000 to Kinnock through his company Innovation In Housing. Kinnock has also been paid £750 for a 3 hour presentation for Shoosmiths, a company Farooq is a Partner of (more on Farooq below).
Trevor Chinn has donated £2,000 directly to Stephen Kinnock in the past. Chinn’s total political donations currently stand at over £818,000.
Policy Network have previously paid for Kinnock to attend a conference in Canada.
Kinnock is a member of the Labour Tribune Group, an organisation we covered in our previous article, which received £15,000 from Labour Together.
Another patron of Kinnock is a company called BM Creative Management. The founder and Director of this organisation is Lord Waheed Alli (who we covered in our previous article on donors to Keir Starmer’s leadership campaign). A Blair era Labour peer, Alli has personally registered £472,000 in political donations since 2004. BM Creative Management have registered £417,000 in donations since 2008.
Kinnock has also received £5,000 from Dr Joseph Zammitt-Lucia, a self-described “business leader, entrepreneur” he “ works with business and institutional leaders to explore the implications of a rapidly evolving, chaotic socio-cultural environment on organizational strategy and operational effectiveness”. Whatever that means. Zammit-Lucia and Kinnock are both Board Members of the Radix think-tank, of which Shoosmiths are an official corporate patron. Zammitt-Lucia is also a prolific political donor, having registered £466,000, mainly to the Liberal Democrats, since 2011.
Kinnock received £4,000 from Nick Harrison. He is a senior partner at management consultancy behemoth Oliver Wyman. He is recorded as spending £67,000 on political donations, £60,000 of which was to an organisation called Labour People Ltd between 2015 and 2016. Harrison was a director of the company, of which no other information can be found other than they received £10,000 from Gina Miller.
Historically Kinnock has received donations from just one Trade Union, receiving £35,000 since 2017 from right-wing union Community. We also covered them in our previous article and their support for Owen Smith against Jeremy Corbyn.
Joe Jervis is a founder and Director of Labour Renaissance. He is currently Stephen Kinnock’s senior parliamentary researcher and a co-founder and Director of an organisation called Labour Network in England Ltd. Incorporated in 2017, LNE’s stated purpose is “cultural education”. The electoral commission have only one recorded donation made to LNE: in October 2017, four months after incorporation, the Network received £10,000 from Labour Together.
The list of Founding Supporters of the English Labour Network also has a few familiar names linked to Labour Together. John Cruddas is a Director of Labour Together, as well as a recipient of donations from both Chinn and Taylor. Morgan McSweeney, a close associate of David Evans and Starmer’s former campaign manager, is a Director of Labour Together. Shabana Mahmood MP is an affiliate of Labour Together. Liam Byrne is not associated with Labour Together, but has received donations from both Trevor Chinn and Progress Ltd.
Jervis also states that he is the Author, Co-Editor and Project Manager of a book called “Spirit of Britain, Purpose of Labour” published in 2018 by an organisation called Labour Future (website now deleted). Other contributors from Labour Renaissance board are Justin Madders and Charlotte Holloway. Labour Future was a pressure group funded by businessman John Mills, the founder of the JML shopping channel conglomerate. Mills served as Chair of first Vote Leave and then Labour Leave during the Brexit referendum and is also a Fellow of the Radix think-tank. He has to date made over £1.2M in political donations since 2005, including to Lisa Nandy MP, a Director of Labour Together.
Vaqas Farooq is a Partner at Shoosmiths law firm, as well as Director of The Renaissance Project Ltd (The Renaissance Project was listed as Innovation in Housing until August 2020.) Under the guise of IiH, Farooq is registered as making £11,000 of donations in 2020, £3,000 to Kinnock and £8,000 to the leadership campaign of Lisa Nandy MP.
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Ruth Smeeth is a former Labour MP and former Director of the charity Hope Not Hate. She is currently the Chief Executive of Index On Censorship. She has also served as Vice-Chair of the Jewish Labour Movement, as well as previous roles at BICOM and the Community Securities Trust. As an MP she received donations from the following individuals:
Trevor Chinn is registered as giving Smeeth a total of £10,500.
Simon Tuttle is the Chair of Hope Not Hate, and a former senior Private Equity Executive. A Trustee of Reprieve, Tuttle has also made £40,000 of registered political donations since 2017. This includes £10,000 to Labour Together and £20,000 to Lisa Nandy MP. He gave Smeeth £5,000.
Another of Smeeth’s patrons is a company called Betterworld Ltd. We have also discussed Betterworld, and it’s Directors Rebecca and Henry Tinsley, in a previous article. Betterworld are registered as having made over £618,000 in political donations since 2006. Henry Tinsley as an individual has made £63,000 in political donations since 2005. That’s £681,000 in total. Betterworld are registered as having donated to Lisa Nandy, a group called Labour Tomorrow who also received money from Martin Taylor, and Saving Labour, which received money from both Taylor and Trevor Chinn.
A final noteworthy benefactor of Smeeth is a company called Tamares Real Estate, which donated £5,000. Tamares is run by Poju Zabludowicz, the billionaire son of an arms dealer who founded BICOM. He is a former Trustee of the Jewish Leadership Council and has served as a Board Member of the Community Securities Trust.
Tamares have donated £315,000 since 2005, mostly to the Conservatives including David Cameron.
Smeeth received a total of £28,000 worth of funding from the following trade unions: USDAW, GMB, Unity and RMT.
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Yvette Cooper has been a Labour MP since 1997 and came third in the leadership contest won by Jeremy Corbyn. Unlike Kinnock and Smeeth, she has not registered any donations from the corporate patrons or front groups already mentioned above. However, her funding record tells its own story.
Since May 2019 Cooper has only two declared sources of funding. In June 2021 she received £25,000 from a company called MPM Connect. This company is run by Peter Hearn, a millionaire and prolific political donor. The only other source of funding Cooper has declared since 2019 is Hearn in a personal capacity! Combined MPM/Hearn have donated £199,000 to Cooper since 2016.
MPM have only been registered as political donors since 2020 but have already spent a total of £139,000. Hearn himself has donated £895,000 since 2007. That’s over £1M combined.
Other patrons include:
Anthony Doyle, who gave Cooper £10,000 in 2019.
Sonny Leong, donated £5,000 to Cooper and has made over £108,000 worth of donations in total, including to Labour Together’s Lisa Nandy.
Barbara and Ken Follett have funded Cooper with £27,600 since 2016, from a combined total between the couple of £758,000 since 2001. Barbara is a former Labour MP and Founder of the Labour Women’s Network. Her husband Ken is a bestselling novelist.
Millionaire Property Developer David Garrard donated £25,000 to Cooper in 2016. Since 2003 Garrard has made over £1.7M in political donations, including Ian Austin, Rachel Reeves and Owen Smith.
From the information available to us, Yvette Cooper has not received a single donation from a Trade Union in over 20 years!
Justin Madders is the Labour MP for Ellesmere Port. His donors are all Trade Unions: GMB, UNITE, Vauxhall Motors Unite Shop Stewards Committee and Unison, who have provided him with £46,324 since 2016. Madders is also a member of the Labour Tribune group.
Carolyn Harris is the Labour MP for Swansea East and Deputy Leader of the Welsh Labour Party. She is a former aide to Keir Starmer. Her Register of Interests shows that she is funded by the same Trade Unions as Madders: GMB, UNITE, UNISON and USDAW. She has registered a total of £17,700 since 2017.
Gurinder Singh Josan is a councillor and member of Labour’s NEC who stood as part of the “Labour To Win” caucus. Labour To Win is an organisation formed from Labour First and Progress Ltd, whom we mentioned above. Another infamous NEC member, Luke Akehurst, is a Director of Labour First.
Michael Payne is a Labour Councillor who is also affiliated to Labour To Win. In 2016 he organised a letter signed by 500 Labour Councillors in support of Owen Smith’s leadership bid against Jeremy Corbyn.
[For the other Renaissance Board Members see Appendix 1]
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In April 1944, Labour MP and founder of the NHS Aneurin Bevan gave a speech in the House of Commons criticising government proposals to limit the rights of workers to strike. He proudly stated:
I do not represent the big bosses at the top. I represent the people at the bottom, the individual men and women … This Regulation is the enfranchisement of the corporate society and the disfranchisement of the individual.
Under the Starmer regime, with the support of corporate front groups such as Renaissance, the Labour Party is now working for the enfranchisement of the corporate society, and the disenfranchisement of the individual. Labour is no longer the party of Bevan, representing the individual men and women at the bottom. Labour now represents the big bosses at the top.
With autocratic changes to the internal election mechanisms of the Labour Party looming, the question is what can be done to stop those with deep pockets gerrymandering the Party, and purging not just Socialist members, but Socialism itself."