Keir Starmer and Angela Rayner in a bakery in Ramsbottom on March 31, 2022.
Cameron Smith/Getty Images
- Vanessa Bowcock, Labour’s fundraising chief from 2009 to 2017, is returning to work for the party.
- Labour is expected to start seeking large donations from individuals, as it moves away from unions.
- Bowcock left in May 2017 over anti-semitism and disagreements about fundraising strategy.
A major fundraiser is returning to Labour as the party seeks to attract donations from individual large donors in a bid to shore up its finances, Insider has learned.
Vanessa Bowcock will lead the party’s fundraising efforts as Labour prepares to fill its coffers for a general election campaign, which is expected by 2024. She is due to start work before the local elections on May 5.
Bowcock was the party’s director of development, responsible for the major gifts programme, from February 2009 to May 2017. She previously worked for the party under Tony Blair’s leadership from September 1997 to August 2001 as a high value fundraiser.
Bowcock is leaving her current role as director of fundraising at the Holocaust Educational Trust, where she has worked since October 2019.
She left her role at Labour during Jeremy Corbyn’s time as leader due to disagreements with the leadership in fundraising strategy and concerns on anti-semitism, sources familiar with the situation told Insider.
In 2019, Bowcock was a signatory to a letter calling on Corbyn to either tackle an anti-semitism crisis exacerbated in the wake of a BBC Panorama documentary on anti-semitism in the party, or to resign.
Bowcock will work directly with Labour leader Keir Starmer’s office. A Labour official told Insider the party is “due to be debt and deficit free” this year. They – and the other unnamed sources in this story – were granted anonymity to speak frankly about the party’s fundraising campaigns.
The party’s most recent published accounts for the year ending December 2020 had a deficit of more than £1 million.
Labour’s financial situation has been weakened by threats from the union Unite, the party’s biggest donor, to pull funding, as well as significant legal costs for cases being brought against the party by former officials. The poor performance in the 2019 general election also led to a decrease of £1.5 million in taxpayer support given to opposition parties.
The official said the party is seeing “a far greater interest by potential donors” as a result of Labour’s new leadership.
Bowcock’s “re-return”, as one former senior official put it, is seen as a sign that the party is returning to the fundraising model it followed under Blair and Ed Miliband: raising significant funds from a small group of individual donors drawn from the business community.
One donor who had engaged with Bowcock under Miliband’s leadership described her as “very good and very competent” at fundraising.
The individual, whose donations decreased under Corbyn’s leadership, told Insider the new leadership and Bowcock’s appointment meant they would be “more willing” to give money to the party.
“I didn’t vote for Keir Starmer, I voted for Lisa Nandy, but I would be more willing to give money to the party than under the previous leadership,” they said.
A former senior official who had worked with Bowcock told Insider she is a “very talented and very skilled high level fundraiser”, but noted she would have her work cut out. “Compared with the Tories, Labour has a limited number of high-value donors,” they said.
Bowcock’s appointment comes as Blair’s chief fundraiser, Lord Levy, returns to support Starmer’s efforts, the Sunday Times reported.
The left-wing campaign group Momentum, which is critical of Starmer’s leadership, said the news was a shift from a “people-powered movement to a Party for the rich.”
A spokesperson told Insider it was a “return to the bad old days of a Labour leader going cap in hand to billionaires. This strategy isn’t just failing – it’s out of touch with a public sick of corporate money dominating politics.”
The Labour Party declined to comment on staffing matters. Bowcock also declined to comment.
Read the original article on Business Insider