A SECRETIVE and influential Labour group has received a record-breaking amount of political donations in 2024.

Labour Together – a think tank that helped Keir Starmer into power and purge the party of Jeremy Corbyn and the left wing – has been given nearly £2 million from (mostly) wealthy corporate donors so far this year.

According to an analysis of Electoral Commission data, the group has received a total of £1.92m – representing 56.5% of all political donations to regulated donees, as in those not made directly to parties.

This dwarfs the next largest recipients, which includes shadow minister Wes Streeting and Welsh Labour leader Vaughan Gething (below), as well as other prominent political organisations and elected office holders.

The record-breaking start to the year for the think tank can be linked to its largest donor – billionaire hedge fund manager Martin Taylor – who gave more than £1.3m in the past two months alone.

His two single donations of £825,000 and £500,000 in March and April respectively are the largest recorded in Electoral Commission data for regulated donees since their online public records began in 2013.

It comes as Keir Starmer’s Labour have made huge efforts to court big business, including removing the cap on bankers' bonuses.

The second biggest donor to Labour Together in the past year is South African-born businessman Gary Lubner (below), who leads Belron – the world's largest vehicle-glass repair and replacement company. He donated more than £600,000 since January 2023.

The Labour Party themselves received their highest-ever yearly amount of private donations across 2023, aided by Lubner, who gave £4.5m.

The largest single donation of £3m was provided by Lord David Sainsbury, the long-standing Labour supporter.

Lord Sainsbury was a major donor when the party was last in power, serving as a minister in Tony Blair’s government.

He later cut off his support to the party as it shifted to the left under Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership, but returned to the fold in 2022.

Of note, the third-largest donor to Labour Together since the start of 2023 is Francesca Perrin – Lord Sainsbury’s daughter – at £210,000. Her father gave £137,500 to the group in April this year, with her husband William also donating £50,000.

Perrin was recently made a director of Labour Together according to Companies House.

The philanthropist, who previously held Government advisory roles under both Blair and Brown, also donated £1m to Labour last year.

But what is Labour Together and how influential is it?

The National: Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer holding an 'In Conversation' event in Glasgow

LABOUR Together has been instrumental in the rise of Keir Starmer and purging the party of the left wing.

Formerly known as Common Good Labour, the group was first set up in 2015 by John Clarke, the former director of Blue Labour – an organisation that advocated for a more culturally conservative Labour.

The name was changed to Labour Together a few months later, according to Companies House.

The mission? To wrestle back control of the party from their left wing, aided by new funding from donors opposed to Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership.

This included backing Keir Starmer – both resource and monetary-wise – during the 2020 leadership contest.

The group – which was previously fined and found guilty of breaches in electoral law for failing to declare £730,000 in donations between 2017 and 2020 – is now heavily linked and influential in the Labour Party as it prepares for power.

Morgan McSweeney, who took over as director in 2017, stepped down in 2020 but has since risen to be perhaps the most influential non-elected figure in British politics as a trusted aide to Starmer and the head of the party’s General Election campaign.

Nearly all the MPs involved in building Labour Together — Rachel Reeves, Wes Streeting, Shabana Mahmood, Steve Reed, Bridget Phillipson, Lucy Powell and Lisa Nandy — now sit in Starmer’s top team.

The move to instate more right-wing candidates and banning left-wing ones has led to fresh accusations that Starmer’s Labour are increasingly purging the party of the left-wing.

The National: Labour Together Josh Simons speaking to Sky News

One of the latter includes Labour Together director Josh Simons (above), who has been handed Labour’s candidacy for Makerfield – a very safe Labour seat.

The MP hopeful previously suggested smuggler gangs should be put on a barge, which could then be shipped to the north of Scotland.

Diane Abbott was returned the whip this week, with Starmer U-turning in the end after a huge backlash and clarifying that she will be able to defend the seat she has held for 37 years.

But on Wednesday, another more left-wing MP, Lloyd Russell-Moyle, revealed that he had been suspended due to what he called a “vexatious and politically motivated complaint”.

And Faiza Shaheen said she was in a “state of shock” after being blocked from representing Labour in Chingford and Woodford Green for liking a series of tweets that allegedly downplayed antisemitism accusations.

In a statement on Thursday, Shaheen has since said she would be taking legal action against Labour after a “systematic campaign of racism, Islamophobia and bullying”.

“This looks like democracy for sale”

TOMMY Sheppard, SNP candidate for Edinburgh East, told the Sunday National that corporate sponsorship of politics is “problematic at the best of times”.

“I think people are going to be quite alarmed at the idea of Labour Party campaigns effectively being funded by hedge funds and people who have pretty much zero interest in dealing with the consequences of capitalism and trying to regulate and reform it,” he said.

“These are people who want to see a Labour Party that is toothless, without ambition and without principle.”

He added: “It looks extremely unhealthy.”

The National: Jeremy Corbyn is to stand as an independent in the upcoming election

Jeremy Corbyn (above) told the Sunday National that we will not solve crises including poverty and homelessness by "defending the economic status quo".

He added: "The central purpose of any movement should be about the fundamental redistribution of power and wealth in favour of working people. An economic strategy that protects the interests of business is not going to bring about the change that millions of people need."

Transparency International, meanwhile, voiced concern that the amount of money being donated to groups like Labour Together could “further undermine public trust”.

"Politics is increasingly more expensive, even as the public continues to feel the pinch of the cost of living. Expensive politics increases the pressure on fundraisers to get money from wherever they can, no matter what might be expected in return,” said Juliet Swann.

"These sorts of giant amounts so far removed from most of the public’s disposable incomes risk further undermining public trust in the system, as it looks like democracy for sale. This is especially the case when donations are followed by perceived rewards for the cash given.

"Upper limits on individual donations are key to tackling the problem of big money in politics and restoring public trust in how our democracy functions."

Labour Together has been approached for comment.