THIS is the richest and most powerful man in British politics whose money is behind every move to destroy Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn.
And as Mr Corbyn is set to be re-elected leader, we can expose the true power of Lord David Sainsbury’s staggering £12million of donations to his opponents.
It is all part of his mission to stop the trade unions and Labour becoming an inclusive anti-austerity socialist party.
And it’s a mission which shows no sign of slowing.
David John Sainsbury, Baron of Turville is a multi-millionaire British businessman.
From 1992 to 1997, he was chairman of the Sainsbury’s supermarket empire, established by his great-grandfather in 1869.
He was made a Labour life peer in 1997 by Tony Blair and served in the government as the Minister for Science and Innovation from 1998 until 2006.
He joined the Labour Party in the 1960s, but was one of the 100 signatories of the right wing Limehouse Declaration in February 1981, in opposition to then Labour leader Michael Foot.
He went on to be a member of the breakaway Social Democratic Party (SDP).
After the 1983 election Sainsbury was by far the biggest donor to the party, giving about £750,000 between 1981 and 1987.
But along with David Owen, Sainsbury opposed merging the SDP with the Liberal Party after the 1987 election, and provided office space for Owen to help him re-establish the “continuing” SDP in 1988.
That party was wound up in 1990, and Sainsbury changed allegiance back to the Labour Party, rejoining them in 1996.
Between 1996 and 2006, when he stood down as a government minister, Sainsbury donated £16 million to the Labour Party, usually in batches of £1 million or £2 million each year.
But in April 2006, Sainsbury faced a possible probe into an alleged breach of the ministerial code “after admitting he had failed to disclose a £2million loan he had made to the Labour Party.”
He subsequently apologised for “unintentionally” misleading the public, blaming a mix-up between the £2 million loan and a £2 million donation he had made earlier.
In July 2006, he became the first government minister to be questioned by police in the Cash for Peerages inquiry.
On 10 November 2006, he resigned as Science Minister, stating that he wanted to focus on business and charity work.
He categorically denied that his resignation had anything to do with the Cash for Peerages affair, stating that he was “not directly involved in whether peerages were offered for cash”.
He was the Blair government’s third-longest-serving minister after Tony Blair himself, and Gordon Brown.
Because of his importance to the Labour Party as a donor, contemporary press reports described him as “unsackable”.
But now, thanks to the Electoral Commission filings, released on Tuesday, the continuing influence of Lord Sainsbury’s wealth and influence can be revealed.
For while Jeremy Corbyn has relied on £187,000 in personal and trade union donations since first standing for election as Labour leader in 2015, Lord Sainsbury has donated almost £25 million to MPs and political groups in the past 10 years.
Some £12million of this has gone to right wing opponents of Mr Corbyn. This dwarfs the donations of his Blairite contemporaries: property developer David Garrard’s £1.6million; hedge fund manager Martin Taylor’s £1.3million; and showbiz agent Michael Foster’s £470,000.
Of Lord Sainsbury’s donations since 2006, about £8million went directly to Labour (but that stopped when Ed Miliband became leader), over £2.1million went to the Lib Dems (who may also be seen as opponents of Mr Corbyn) and £4.2million to various Scottish and Europe referendum lobby groups.
This left about £12million for cash hand-outs to groups vehemently opposed to Mr Corbyn and to individual Blairite MPs: Alan Johnson, David Lammy, David Miliband and Tristram Hunt received £227,329 between them.
These figures only include those submitted to the Electoral Commission. We have no way of knowing whether Lord Sainsbury may or may not have donated through other companies or agencies.
His favourite group is Progress, which has received £4.22million of his cash since 2004.
Progress is the Blairite power behind the core group of MPs plotting, since last year, to oust Mr Corbyn.
Progress runs on £282,000-a-year funding from Lord Sainsbury. Its income since 2010 is about £1.85million.
Tristram Hunt MP is a particular Sainsbury favourite — he was Lord Sainsbury’s personal spokesman before he became a Labour MP.
Hunt was working for Sainsbury when Progress was formed out of the money left over from the original campaign to make Tony Blair leader of the party.
Progress is deeply committed to pro-privatisation and pro-corporate policies. It has also steadily campaigned to reduce trade union influence in the Labour Party and latterly to do away with one member one vote for the Labour leadership.
Progress is vehemently opposed to Mr Corbyn and his left wing policies.
It is chaired by Alison McGovern. Vice-chairs are fellow Labour MPs Jenny Chapman, Stephen Doughty, Julie Elliott, Tristram Hunt, Dan Jarvis, Liz Kendall, Seema Malhotra, Toby Perkins, Lucy Powell, Steve Reed, Jonathan Reynolds and Nick Smith.
Prior to 2015, Progress was chaired by John Woodcock – the same MP who has viciously attacked Jeremy Corbyn on a number of issues.
Current members of the Progress strategy board include: Baroness King of Bow, Gloria De Piero MP, Nick Smith MP and Phil Wilson MP.
But there are other more shadowy groups besides Progress.
The right wing Movement for Change kitty of £1.75million has been almost exclusively funded by Lord Sainsbury.
The Movement for Change grew out of Citizens UK, the community action group established by Neil Jameson, former director of Save the Children and the Children’s Society, and Lord Maurice Glasman.
The organisation – which was a strong supporter of David Miliband – has a strong base among a diverse range of faith communities, which in turn has a strong influence over its culture and agenda.
But there is a political ambiguity to its aims which many in the Labour Party find troubling as it seems anti-trade union.
Maurice Glasman said: “The unions are the great silent, awful fact in all this. They are the self-organised wing of the Labour movement. They are dominated by a narrow crust of progressive activists, they are disengaged from their members.”
Peter Mandelson’s Policy Network & Communications Ltd has also been funded to the tune of £291,349 by Lord Sainsbury.
Policy Network is an international right wing progressive think tank and lobbying group.
Its president is Lord Mandelson, who has consistently briefed and spoken against Jeremy Corbyn, often in derogatory terms.
Other directors are Lord Roger Liddle, former special adviser to President of the European Commission José Manuel Barroso and Tony Blair, is its chairperson.
Other anti Corbyn groups, the soft left Owen Smith supporting Labour Together, received £85,000 and the Blairite Labour Tomorrow received £453,000, largely from Martin Taylor.
- An excellent piece from 2015 on donations to the Labour Party can be read here. But interesting that little of no mention is made of Lord Sainsbury!