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Big business shuns Labour conference in grip of hard left

The Stop the War Coalition and other fringe groups are flocking to Labour’s annual conference while big businesses have shunned it, according to a copy of the official conference guide.

The line-up for the event in Liverpool later this month prompted accusations from MPs that Jeremy Corbyn was reducing the party to a “protest movement”.

Google and Barclays Bank were among companies that paid to exhibit at last year’s conference but will not be there this time. Hard-left activists on Labour’s national executive committee have banned the fast food chain McDonald’s from attending, to the dismay of moderates.

However Stop the War, the hard-left group accused of intimidating Labour MPs over military action against Isis in Syria, will have an exhibition stand along with the Global Nuclear Weapons Ban Coalition and disarmament campaign group Uniting for Peace.

They are listed as exhibitors in the official conference guide along with the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (CND), which regularly attends.

I will not donate any more money to Labour

The technology corporation Fujitsu, the Royal Mail Group and the transport company Bombardier are the only big firms to have taken stands.

The former shadow cabinet minister Emma Reynolds said: “There is a danger that Labour is going to turn into a protest movement rather than a political party that seeks to change and improve society for the people we represent.”

A Labour Party spokesman said: “We have a full and varied list of exhibitors ranging from private companies big and small to charities, third sector organisations and pressure groups.”

A leading donor, Sir David Garrard, who has given Labour more than £1.6m, revealed this weekend that he had stopped bankrolling the central party as the hard-left Labour leader turns back the clock to the 1980s.

Garrard, a retired property developer, said: “The membership of the Labour Party has been reconstituted in such a fashion that I do not believe it represents the views of all the traditional members.”

Garrard has been funding moderate MPs such as Rachel Reeves and Chuka Umunna but said he would not fill the central party’s coffers while the hard-left controlled Labour.

“I will not donate any more money to the Labour Party until I believe it represents what I have always been convinced the party is supposed to stand for.”

Corbyn will be re-elected by an even greater margin when the result of the leadership contest with Owen Smith is announced at the conference beginning on September 25, according to opinion polls.

MPs will vote at a private meeting on the reintroduction of shadow cabinet elections, which could surround Corbyn with moderates in an attempt to contain him, as fears of deselections and a purge of party staff grow.

Jackie Walker, a prominent Corbyn supporter who was briefly suspended by Labour after reportedly saying Jews were the “chief financiers of . . . the slave trade”, will speak at a meeting on anti- semitism, the guide says.

Walker, vice-chairwoman of the hard-left Momentum faction, is listed to appear at an event entitled “Does the Labour party have a problem with Jews?” organised by the group Free Speech on Israel.

This weekend it emerged that an aide to Kate Osamor, shadow international development secretary, was suspended for endorsing social media posts by Iyad Burnat, a controversial Palestinian activist.

One post “liked” by Elizabeth Dudley, a member of Osamor’s parliamentary staff, showed the bodies of dead children with the flag of Israel alongside the swastika. A caption said: “Is the Zionists terrorists? What is the difference between Zionism and Nazism?”

In 2001 Corbyn was a founder member of Stop the War when the coalition was set up by trade unions, Muslim groups, CND and the Trotskyist Socialist Workers Party in the wake of 9/11.


Michael Foot leads a nuclear disarmament march shortly after resigning as Labour leader in 1983

Last year Labour MPs urged Corbyn to sever his ties after the group blamed terrorist attacks in Paris on French military action in the Middle East.

The Labour MP Ian Austin said there would be fresh anger over the group’s presence at the conference. “Organisations which employ thousands of people and have millions of customers are either no longer bothering to come or being banned, but don’t worry: we’ve got the completely inappropriately named Stop the War coming instead, an organisation that is led by our opponents on the hard left,” Austin said.

Corbyn also faced embarrassment over claims that he went to a drinks event on the night he delivered a speech warning that “early evening socialising” and a drinking culture discriminated against women.

A Jeremy for Labour campaign spokesman said: “Jeremy wasn’t calling for a ban on after work drinks. He highlighted a concern . . . that a male-led after-work networking culture can be detrimental to the career progression of female co-workers.”

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