This afternoon, Labour members received an email from Anneliese Dodds, the Shadow Chancellor, entitled ‘This is the plan’.
The email invites members to donate to a campaign to save people’s jobs.
‘In the face of the biggest economic crisis in decades, we can’t allow the government to withdraw critical support for jobs and businesses.’
‘We’re printing leaflets, creating adverts and connecting on social media’.
This line does not spell out that the money donated will necessarily go towards leaflets and social media ads, but it is a clear insinuation.
It gives us the impression we are being asked to spend money on a particular cost and that is why the email has urgency – it’s like the printer has started churning out stuff and they’ve just realised they can’t cover the cost.
However the money is unlikely to go towards anything like printing or social media.
It’s just a straight ask for money by the party HQ.
That the money is for nothing in particular is given away within the body of the email by the line:
‘We put a pause on our fundraising as the pandemic broke out, which was the right thing to do.’
This indicates that this email is not specifically about anything and is just general fundraising. It undermines any suggestion that the money is for printing leaflets or conducting a social media campaign.
The Labour Party has effectively contradicted its motives within the same email.
So where will the money go?
As things stand, the question of where the money will be spent cannot be answered because Labour Party accounts give the minimum amount of information.
The Labour Party do not break down their expenditure. Just look at the last annual accounts and you will see what I mean.
The money could be used to cover the £600,000-plus payout to former staff who sued the party (despite legal advice suggesting that Labour would win the case).
Or it could be used to pay for more middle management. It was found that, in 2018, the party employed five Executive Directors, at least 13 directors and at least 15 heads and five managers. That is a lot of bureaucracy to pay for.
But we’ll never know exactly where the money goes.
We won’t even be able to discover how much money is raised by the appeal.
And that leads to another question: how do we know the Labour Party needs money?
Or, how much money does the Labour Party have at its disposal?
Again, this information is not available. But we do know that in 2018 the party had £12m in net reserves.
We also know that each year the party HQ receives £50.06 per member on standard rate, while local CLPs receive a derisory £2.50.
As was discovered in a survey of Labour members last year, 50% said their CLP had no building or office, and only 35% believed that their CLP had enough funds to fight a good election campaign.
If any part of the Labour Party needs funding, it is the local parties not the HQ.
With more funding, local parties would be able to support their communities through the pandemic and the mass unemployment that is anticipated.
Broxtowe Labour Party managed to find funding from trade unions to set up a community hub that has supplied over 2,000 food parcels to local people as well as to give legal advice and other practical support to people in need.
This is exactly what Labour needs to do. We need to be there in every constituency offering support – both materially and through advice.
Even were the money raised from Anneliese Dodds’s email being spent on leaflets and social media campaigns, this would be of little practical use to anyone struggling with redundancy or unable to access Universal Credit.
If Labour expects to be taken seriously by the public then it must be more honest in its communications, must be more transparent and must devolve its finances to local parties so that practical support is available where it is needed.