Labour breakaway boost as donors chuck cash at Chuka Umunna
Is the Streatham MP the leader-in-waiting of the new centrist party?
Rumours that senior Labour MPs are working behind the scenes to build a new ‘centrist’ political party have been fuelled by a series of recent donations to Chuka Umunna.
Tony Blair is said to be actively looking for donors to fund a new centrist party and a handful of senior Labour MPs are also rumoured to be working behind the scenes to build a new movement.
Moderate MPs are reportedly speaking to donors in a bid to build up a war chest to fund the breakaway from supporters of the current leader.
Many frustrated Labour MPs believe that Umunna is best-placed to be leader of the new party – and the latest Register of Member's Interests suggests that a few big Labour donors might agree.
It reveals that Umunna was recently given £25,000 by Victor Blank, the former chairman of Lloyds TSB. He previously gave £150,000 to Labour in the run-up to the 2015 election, when Ed Miliband was leader.
Umunna was also handed £15,000 by property tycoon Sir David Garrard, who donated around £700,000 to Labour before Corbyn was leader.
And he took £5,000 from Paul Myners, the former chairman of Marks & Spencer and Guardian Media Group who was made City minister by Gordon Brown.
All three donations were registered last month by Umunna. Blank's donation is to fund 'staff employment' but there are no clues about what the other £20,000 should be spent on.
Umunna has not publicly backed a new party and earlier this year he signalled that he was against the idea. He told the New Statesman: “I’m quite tribal about this. The only way you’re going to have progress in this country is through the Labour Party.”
But that was before Corbyn’s strong performance in the general election killed off the prospect of Umunna becoming Labour leader.
More recently, Umunna’s amendment on Brexit has been seen by many Labour insiders as a sign that he is ready to lead a breakway. The amendment demanding the government guarantee Britain’s place in the single market prompted almost 50 Labour MPs to rebel - and intensified the hard left’s antipathy towards Umunna.
The Streatham MP is also at the forefront of a new cross-party group to oppose hard Brexit, along with Tory MP Anna Soubry.
Meanwhile, Tony Blair is said to be actively looking for donors to fund the new centrist party, with sources in the lobbying world suggesting he has spoken to at least one major Labour donor in recent weeks.
Earlier this year, Blair met Dr Assem Allam, who has offered to fund moderate Labour MPs who want to set up a new ‘centrist’ party. But Blair told the Mail on Sunday that he had met Allam to discuss his new think-tank, The Tony Blair Institute For Global Change, and he insisted there had been no discussions about a new party.