Wednesday, February 5, 2014

What would have Peter Mandelson and Nick Griffin working together? Wythenshawe, of course

Whilst doing some digging around, I came across some quite interesting information about the groups currently ranged against UKIP.

In the current Wythenshawe & Sale East by-election, UKIP have seen leaflets put out by a variety of organisations, including Unions Together and Solidarity. There is also a host of online campaigns, including Hope not Hate, Action2014 and British Influence and even a comedy tour, the 'StopUKIP' tour which is currently playing to rows of empty seats across provincial theatres.

There are several interesting points to note about these groups. Firstly, with the exception of Hope not Hate, none of them are registered with the Electoral Commission despite their spending being high enough for registration to be required by law. Search their on-line database, and you won't find entries for Unions Together, Solidarity, Action2014, British Influence or Stop UKIP.

So who are they all?

Hope not Hate we already know: funded by a mixture of unions, central government and outside trusts and campaign bodies such as Peter Mandelson's 'Progress' group and the Joseph Rowntree Foundation - with some help from Lord Ashcroft for their increasing anti-UKIP workload - they are targeted against UKIP. Their on-line campaigning is handled by Blue State Digital, whose political director Gregor Poynton is the husband of Labour MP Gemma Doyle. Poynton was a former employee of the Labour Party. Their managing director, Matthew McGregor, is a former Hope not Hate and Labour Party activist who worked on Ken Livingstone's London Mayoral campaign. Blue State Digital are the company who helped Hope not Hate evade up to £70k in tax as described in an earlier post.

Unions Together are an umbrella groups for political campaigning by trades unions: their membership comprises ASLEF, Bectu, BFAWU, Community, CWU, GMB, MU, NUM, TSSA, UCATT, Unison, UNITE, Unity and USDAW, but of course is dominated by the largest. Ostensibly set up to act as a pressure group within the Labour movement - "we campaign within the Labour Party because we want to help make sure that Labour stands up for the needs of our members" - their forays into electoral politics are relatively recent. A disclaimer at the bottom of their website reads 'website hosted by Blue State Digital'. One of Unions Together's tasks is harvesting of postal vote forms for Labour, as discussed in my previous post: such actions are questionable, if not directly illegal.

Then we have British Influence and Action2014 - the latter being wholly owned and operated by the former. The co-presidents of British Influence are Danny Alexander, Kenneth Clarke and Peter Mandelson, which tells you all you need to know about its political views on Europe and UKIP. British Influence don't use Blue State Digital for their on-line campaigning, they use a company called Mass1. Mass1 include amongst their clients the Labour Party and several unions including the TUC, Unite, GMB and PCS. There are three directors of MASS1, who are:

Mark Epstein - who worked with Blue State Digital director Matthew McGregor on Ken Livingstone's campaign
Tom Gutteridge - who also runs 'The People's Operator', a mobile phone company which donates part of its profits to campaign organisations, and runs a scheme for large unions and campaign organisations including GMB, Unite and the Labour Party
Peter Luff - who is also a director of the European Educational Research Trust Limited, a 'charity' which has failed to file returns with the Charity Commission for over 3 years, and which in 2008 donated almost its entire income to the European Movement.

Finally, we have leaflets put out by "Solidarity". Originally I had assumed that these were from the 'Revolutionary Socialist' group as they were so full of bile against UKIP, but closer examination reveals that the issuer is actually the 'Solidarity Trade Union' set up by the BNP in 2005 and not recognised as a trades union by anyone apart from the BNP. Nowhere on their leaflets does it mention the BNP, and given their attempt at class based attacks they are likely only to be of use to Labour as it tries to pretend it is still interested in the working man. Once again, Labour and the BNP seem to be singing from the same hymn sheet.

All of these organisations have a single aim in common: to ensure a Labour victory. With the exception of Hope not Hate, none of these organisations are operating legally: they are not registered with the Electoral Commission, and therefore are not entitled to take part in an election as a 'third party'.

So where are the Electoral Commission in all of this? Springing into action? Of course not: nothing has been heard from the organisation which is supposed to police all of this. And how about Hope not Hate? Are they shouting as loudly as they usually do about the BNP's fake trades union? Of course not: there is a deafening silence from Lowles and co.

In some respects, this should be regarded as an accolade. The threat of UKIP in a safe Labour seat has brought together the far-right and the far-left in their attempts to halt the UKIP juggernaut. A plethora of left wing advertising agencies back them up with all the power that the champagne socialists of Islington can muster. In a week, we'll know how well they succeeded.


  1. Third party campaigning in a parliamentary by-election is not covered by the rules in PPERA 2000 that require third party campaigners to register with the Electoral Commission if they intend to spend more than £10,000. All these organisations are therefore entitled to campaign in the Wythenshawe & Sale East by-election but are constrained by strict spending limits imposed by the Representation of the People Act. Enforcing the expenditure limit is the job of the Returning Officer, although third party organisations do not routinely have to make returns, which is rather a loophole. The Electoral Commission has no role in this.

    However we are now in the four-month regulated period for the European election, so any campaigning by these organisations towards that election might result in a requirement to register as a third party.

    Do you have any evidence that Hope Not Hate is funded by Progress?

  2. Very chilling reading, but, perhaps not surprising.

  3. Thank you for a highly informative post! As one of your other poster's noted, it does make for chilling reading!