Is the Labour Party embracing big business? Well maybe we need look no further than this year’s conference in Liverpool. OpenDemocracy, an independent media platform and news website reports that “according to the National Executive Committee, Labour’s governing body, “business day” received double the revenue of last year’s, with double the attendance – and many more on the waiting list. But it goes further. From events sponsored by American pharmaceutical companies, housing developers or arms firms to right-wing think tanks, lobbying was front and centre at the conference” https://www.opendemocracy.net/en/labour-conference-corporate-sponsorship-lobbying-think-tanks/
Right wing think tanks were out in force with the Adam Smith Institute (ASI) saying at a conference event on Sunday that it was set to announce a Labour peer as a patron. Days after openDemocracy reported the comment, the ASI released a statement praising Sir Keir Starmer’s speech, saying he “put forward a serious, innovation-focused, positive vision for the country”.
And alongside the think tanks, corporate sponsorship was rife. As openDemocracy revealed in August, fringe events were sponsored by arms manufacturers, fossil fuel companies and a spy-tech firm. Other sponsors included property developers, the National Residential Landlord Association, cryptocurrency firms, and pharma companies.
What’s in it for them? Companies that sponsor events are able to have representatives on the panel and can request certain questions be asked by the chair. But it doesn’t always go unnoticed.
As Private Eye pointed out 28% of Labour conference attendees were from the world of business while only 3% were attendees from trades unions (Number Crunching).
OpenDemocracy also reported that in a talk sponsored by spy-tech firm Palantir on the Ukraine war, an audience member accused the panel, which featured the company’s executive vice president for technology, of “human-rights-washing”. Palantir, whose owner has donated to Donald Trump’s political campaign, has built software to support drone strikes and immigration raids.
“Audience members also raised concerns in talks sponsored by fossil fuel companies reports openDemocracy. In a Cadent-sponsored event, there was a heated discussion when the company was challenged by an audience member on the environmental benefits of hydrogen gas. In another, audience members were removed after objecting to the presence on a panel of Offshore Energies UK, an energy lobbying company that supported the Rosebank oil field development.
It’s not clear whether climate Ed Miliband, Shadow Secretary of State for Energy Security and Net Zero raised any concerns about the presence of RWE the Essen based German multinational energy company. It generates and trades electricity in Europe, the Asia-Pacific region and the United States. Although it makes much of its green credentials (see: https://www.rwe.com/en/the-group/rwe-ag/ ), Private Eye (No.1609) described the sponsor of the conference Environmental Hub as ‘Europe’s most polluting energy firm’. RWE it reported “is a major coal miner, digging up lignite also known as brown coal and burning it power stations such as in its Neurath plant in western Germany.
Following stunning and historic by-elections wins at Selby, Tamworth and Mid Bedfordshire, the Labour Party looks increasingly like the government-in-waiting, hence its growing attraction to big business and corporate lobbyists. It’s likely that these relationships are going to prove pivotal in the coming years, which is why we need to be aware of what’s happening now and watch out very carefully for their influence on party policies.
Picture: Left Foot Forward.