Labour seeks divine inspiration for new funds

Labour’s belated appointment of a commercial director finally completes the new senior management team. Given the parlous state of the party finances, this is perhaps the most important appointment of all.

Broadening Labour’s donor base to attract corporate funds is essential not just to tackle the party’s debt, but to deepen Labour’s ties with business. Last year in 2011, total donations from individuals, companies and limited liability partnerships to the party were just £1.2m – 6% of total income of £19,316,555.

It’s a tough challenge and into this breach has stepped John McCaffrey.  His track record in raising funds is exemplary: several millions of pounds secured over the past few years. For a role such as fundraising, it is the only metric that counts.

But McCaffrey is in one sense a novel appointment. The official Labour press statement seems straightforward enough,

“John McCaffrey is a leading international fundraiser with years of experience which will be of enormous benefit to the Party. He has worked widely raising very substantial funds across the education, arts and museums sector in the UK and the US.”

But it doesn’t highlight a key element of McCaffrey’s CV.

In the past, Labour’s money men have been sympathetic businessmen, happy to tap their network of contacts. Lord Levy was a case study, and David Cameron’s Eton contemporary, Andrew Feldman, performs a similar role for the Tories.

In contrast, McCaffrey’s background is the church. The Catholic Church to be specific. He has personally raised gargantuan amounts for Catholic causes including $5m in 2006 towards the renovation of the Pauline chapel in the Vatican which has two of Michelangelo’s final frescos and £6.5m towards the cost of the papal visit to Britain in 2010.

Pope Benedict XVI said thank you for McCaffrey’s work on the Pauline chapel by making him a Knight Commander of the Order of St.Gregory the Great.

One corporate fundraiser who worked for the party in the late 1990s and early 2000s, speaking off the record to Uncut over the weekend, was guardedly optimistic.

“There’s a surprising amount of god amongst top high net worth individuals. Take Stephen Green, the guy who used to run HSBC, setting aside their current troubles for one moment, this man is an ordained CofE minister. He’s not the only one by a long shot.

There’s enough of them at that level that have a sense of mission that goes beyond just making piles of cash. McCaffrey will be plugged into this network. But giving to the church and basically buying your place in heaven is one thing, giving to the Labour party will be a much tougher ask.”

The process of coaxing a political donation from an individual or an organisation that has not given before is a delicate one. The fundraiser was clear on the challenges that McCaffrey will face,

“Potential donors very rarely had anything specific they were after. A bit of face time, a sense of being in the game and to be convinced that Labour was doing things that they personally agreed with. In the past lots of this was economic – low taxes, investment in public infrastructure, public private partnerships, that sort of thing.

It’s likely the guys in McCaffrey’s network will have their boat floated by other things. Morality, decency, that end of the spectrum. On the one hand, this is easier to sell, particularly in opposition and doesn’t require spending commitments; on the other, some of the issues can be quite tricky. Needs the right tone and language and above all else, a real belief in the leader’s morality.”

Ed Miliband’s moral tone in response to issues such as hacking, and Libor, has been clear and authoritative. With Tim Livesey, his chief of staff recruited from the Archbishop of Canterbury’s office, and now McCaffrey, the voice of Christian morality will certainly be heard in the Labour’s leader’s inner circle.

But, on issues like gay marriage there is likely to be contention. The Catholic Church has mobilised its support at all levels to oppose the proposals, including among their high net worth supporters.

How John McCaffrey navigates the moral minefield on these types of polarising issues with his network will determine whether he is successful in attracting the funds Labour desperately need.

It takes time, years, to build up a new donor base, and results will not be immediate. The former Labour corporate fundraiser summed up the position,

“He needs at least 9 months. By then we should begin to see the start of a change. By next spring, if some new donors have committed and the pipeline of meetings with potential donors is full then happy days. If not, then it will be time for a rethink.”

The Labour party’s political prayers will be with John McCaffrey.

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7 Responses to “Labour seeks divine inspiration for new funds”

  1. Michael Bater says:

    Why for heavens sake?

  2. swatantra says:

    Hope this is not a prelude to Religion interfering in politics on the scale as in America.

  3. John Dore says:

    I doubt for a second that religion will be any more prominent than it already is, the church want influence, but outside of Ronan Carey they don’t want to be seen to being involved.

    The bigger challenge is the turmoil that Unite et al are creating, they don’t want New Labour type funds coming into the party as it diminishes the dependence on them and their influence. But it cuts both ways, potential donors will not ‘invest’ in Labour if they see it as a Union Stooge party. Ed is acutely aware of this and the public flaunting of Blair is a sign to the Unions that he is his own man.

    McCaffrey has an impossible job in my view.

  4. Clint Spencer says:

    I think the phrase you’re looking for is bob hope and no hope.

  5. Mike Homfray says:

    I think that a lot of people will be wanting to keep well away from any political donations given recent history. I also can’t see companies prioritising them given the economic situation

    We need to move towards both downsizing political spending and ensuring that it doesn’t have to be gained from vested interests. The German system of state funding makes sense

  6. Steve Taft says:

    Well, it will be an embarrassment if a party cannot even try to back-up their candidate because they ran out of funds. I hope that the party can stretch its financial worries and also think about the important issues in society.

  7. Miranda says:

    Managing money is always difficult and setting a budget is a tough challenge. If the party has a debt then I think that it’s necessary to keep that in mind and limit spending. Money and politics are closely connected, politics usually make lots of different financial decisions. But we live in difficult economic times when lots of consumers use payday loans no fax to stay afloat and saving money is a necessity not for consumers only but for those who make financial decisions in policy. There are lots of different ways for raising funds and I think it’s important to choose the most safe way which is not about borrowing.

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