Last June, in the wake of the ‘Corbyn surge’ in the General Election, supermarket magnate Lord Sainsbury announced that he was ceasing his financial support for anti-Corbyn group Progress:
After Sainsbury’s announcement, Progress – who in 2014 were fined for accepting donations from him when he was not on the electoral register – launched an urgent funding drive to fill the gap. A visit to the group’s website still triggers a pop-up appeal:
However, in spite of Sainsbury’s June pronouncement the Electoral Commission website records the following, substantial donation in late September last year:
Major donations to right-wing groups raise again the importance of supporting the independent left media, who do not profit from rich donors.
We contacted Lord Sainsbury’s press office and Progress director Richard Angell to ask whether the peer is still funding the Blairite group. Neither has responded.
Shortly after publication, Mr Angell sent this comment, which he asked to have published in full:
In June, it was announced that Lord Sainsbury was ending his support for party political causes, Progress included, in 2017. Progress received the last of that funding in two quarterly payments on the last day of September and December 2017. This support gave Progress the time to save the organisation, the jobs of its staff and its important work going forward. I want to thank all our members who rallied to save Progress as force for centre-left Labour politics.
2018 is a new financial year, and a new start for Progress. We appreciate 21 generous years of funding from the country’s most successful science minister ever but the future of the organisation is in the hands of its members and supporters from now on. Progress is the most transparent group on the left and declares all donations of £5,000 or more on its website in line with highest standards set out by the campaign group http://WhoFundsYou.org and amounts of £7,500 or more with the Electoral Commission in the normal way.
It’s interesting that the end of funding was announced fully six months early and two large donations were subsequently made. Whether ‘saving’ Progress was a good thing will be a matter hotly disputed by supporters of Jeremy Corbyn’s vision for the party.
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