Millionaire donor in UK court bid to fix Labour leadership election

Michael Foster on the BBC soon after heckling Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn in September. (BBC/You Tube)

A millionaire Labour donor is taking the party to court on Tuesday in a bid to remove incumbent leader Jeremy Corbyn from the ballot for this summer’s leadership election.

Michael Foster is a former showbusiness agent whose clients have included actors Sacha Baron Cohen and Hugh Grant and radio host Chris Evans.

Foster is also the man who heckled Corbyn at a Labour Friends of Israel reception last year.

Foster screamed: “Oi! Oi! Say the word ‘Israel!’” in response to Corbyn’s speech at the event, which took place in September soon after Corbyn swept to victory.

A veteran campaigner for Palestinian rights, Corbyn had called for the siege of Gaza to be lifted. This so incensed Foster that he stood up on his chair and tried to shout him down.

Soon after, he explained to the BBC’s Daily Politics show that what had outraged him was Corbyn’s “talk of Palestine” and “talk of the siege of Gaza.”

Foster ran for parliament in 2015 as a Labour candidate in Cornwall, but failed to win the seat from the ruling Conservative Party.

Labour Friends of Israel did not reply to an email asking what Foster’s involvement with the group is, if any. Foster could not be reached for comment.

“I will destroy you”

During his campaign in 2015, Foster reportedly harassed a rival candidate at an election debate.

In a discussion of a proposed tax on mansions, Loveday Jenkin of Cornish party Mebyon Kernow had pointed out that Foster lives in a $2 million house in Cornwall.

Foster reportedly responded by calling her – as The Daily Mail rendered it – ” You c***.”

“If you pick on me again I will destroy you,” Foster added.

Jenkin told the newspaper that Foster “clearly has an anger management problem and no understanding of the problems affecting Cornish people.”

Foster denied the reports, but admitted to being an “aggressive agent” with a “legendary temper” so intense that he once broke his own finger “while tapping on a table to make a point, so forcefully that the bone snapped.”

Famous friends

During his failed 2015 election bid, Foster enlisted celebrity friends, some of whom made videos supporting him.

British TV actor Ross Kemp also recently made a video for “Saving Labour,” a hastily formed group which has been involved in a failed effort to oust Corbyn as leader.

The coup was initially launched in June by right-wing Labour MP Margaret Hodge who tabled a motion of no-confidence in Corbyn.

It peaked with a string of resignations from Corbyn’s shadow cabinet. These lawmakers then piled massive amounts of pressure on Corbyn to step down. Corbyn refused, citing his overwhelming mandate from Labour Party members and supporters.

A leadership challenge was launched, and Corbyn now faces Labour MP Owen Smith as his sole opponent in an election contest which will be decided in September.

Were Corbyn to be removed from the ballot by Foster’s legal action, it would leave Smith – a former lobbyist for the pharmaceutical industry – as the only candidate in the leadership election, making any democratic vote redundant.

Earlier this month Labour’s national executive decided that party rules stipulate the standing leader automatically goes onto the ballot in the event of a challenge. This means Corbyn does not need the support of 51 Labour MPs or members of the European Parliament, unlike challengers.

Foster’s attempt to reverse this decision seems like the last gasp of the failed coup. According to one expert, it is unlikely to succeed.

Millionaire donor

The register of members interests shows that Foster made a $13,000 donation and a further $13,000 interest-free loan to Labour MP Liz Kendall last summer, to support her failed bid in last year’s leadership election.

Widely perceived as the Blairite continuity candidate, Kendall came last, with a humiliating 4.5 percent of the vote.

Foster also donated another $9,000 to Kendall in December.

Foster has reportedly donated more than $500,000 to the Labour Party over the years, including about $156,000 to his local Labour Party in Cornwall, which he reportedly rules with a “firm smack of command.”

Tags

Comments

picture

He can keep his money. We can replace his £500,000 with just £1 each, and do without him very nicely thank you.

picture

What a foolish man. If he thinks his money will defeat Corbyn he seriously underestimates the intelligence of the thousands of new members, unions, momentum and.many others who will put their hard earned penny's together to create pounds if that's what it takes.

picture

Another rich man stamping his feet because he can't have his own way through his wealth. Diddums

picture

He seems to believe that, as he's made large amounts of money of the backs of other people's tallent, he's entiled to tell the world what to do. When this fails, it's of to court, to see if he can buy his form of justice. It matters not a jot to him that the majority of labour members want Corbyn as the leader. You can guarantee he was a horrible friendless spoilt little shit as a child.

picture

Once again the 'might as well be Tories' show their true colours. We see exactly how unpleasant and self serving they really are. Banging your finger into a table until it breaks! This man epitomizes why we are hungry for a new kind of politics UK.

picture

"When you conduct a membership association and it has a set of rules, you cannot, in Britain, a democracy that stands or falls by application of law, bend the rules to suit a particular circumstance or particular position," Mark Foster.

So when the ruling body of that membership association has agreed what the rules mean, you use your wealth to bring a naked political challenge because you don't like the result? Mr Foster, you might be rich, but you don't seem to have much of a moral compass, perhaps that is why you are so angry.

picture

This crawling coup is actively feeding the demand for real change in the Labour Party- as embodied in Jeremy Corbyn and his policies. Labour members want an end to NHS privatisation, re-nationalisation of the rail system, rejection of austerity, public investment in public institutions- and that means jobs- taxation restored for huge business consortia, and a foreign policy devoted to the cause of peace not war. And so do a majority of British voters, when these questions are properly put to them.

Every time someone like Michael Foster treats the membership with open contempt, manipulates rules and twists the law to thwart democracy, the cause of the Left is strengthened.

Following Corbyn's crushing victory over the witless Owen Smith, the ex BBC producer and Pfizer lobbyist, the fight must be carried to the constituencies themselves, where the likes of Smith, Eagle Hilary Benn, et al will be given the what's known in the States as the bum's rush- deselection, in more elegant terms.

Thanks again to the Electronic Intifada for keeping us informed on these major developments in Labour's revival. Corbyn is a friend of Palestine and a supporter of the BDS movement- yet another reason he's under constant, unprecedented attack in the media and by the fossilised remnants of Blair and Brown's parliamentary party.

By the way, Hillary Clinton's long-standing preferred figure for Labour leader is David Miliband, the archest of Blairite neoliberals. Sadly, he no longer sits in Parliament. His futile return is awaited in some quarters with the ardour once lavished on the "Young Pretender" of the House of Stuart.

picture

I note that Foster stridently asserts the central importance of private Jewish donors (by which he means Zionist) to the Labour Party. This is exactly the sort of menacing talk given free rein in US political circles, wherein professions of loyalty to Israel are a necessary qualification for receipt of mega-buck donations to candidates. I don't know whether it's ironic or just sad that threats to withdraw their financial support by wealthy Jews actually reference anti-Semitic tropes. Figures like Foster spend their whole lives simultaneously proclaiming and denying their power, and then wonder why people refuse to listen to either of their arguments.

picture

What a loathsome person Foster is. How many examples do we need? He behaves in disgusting and despicable ways..and has done for many a moon..........BUT, Hugh says "he is a good man!"....A good man?!? Are you serious?!
The fact that Foster helped make both those clowns very wealthy would, I am sure, have nothing to do with their backing of him...heaven forfend!

picture

It doesn't matter how much he "donates", because a) Corbyn isn't for sale, and b) he'll write it off against tax as a 'charitable donation'.
He is acting like a Feudal lord, and feudalism should have no place in this modern society.

picture

Foster donated £17,000 to Liz Kendall's leadership campaign. Presumably he expected a better performance than the one she turned in. She came dead last with 4.5% of votes cast. He ought to be skulking outside her office shouting "Oi, Oi!"

Add new comment

Asa Winstanley

Asa Winstanley's picture

Asa Winstanley is an investigative journalist who lives in London. He is an associate editor with The Electronic Intifada. He first visited Palestine in 2004.