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Thursday, 30 August, 2001, 14:06 GMT 15:06 UK
McDonald's Labour deal sparks row
McDonald's meal
McDonald's has earned the ire of anti-capitalists
Labour is under fire from within its own ranks for having sold sponsorship of a party conference event attended by Prime Minister Tony Blair to fast food giant McDonald's.

I would rather be outside the conference associated with anti-globalisation protesters than inside having anything to do with McDonald's

John Cryer MP
A Guardian newspaper report on the party's regular sale of commercial opportunities at its annual conference puts the cash due to be raised from the week-long event this year at more than 4m.

The paper's allegation that McDonald's has in effect bought the prime minister's presence at the event, with the firm having agreed to sponsor it only if Mr Blair turns up, has renewed criticism within the party that Labour is too close to major corporations.

Labour MP John Cryer condemned the sponsorship deal and said he would be writing to Charles Clarke, the party chairman and official host of the sponsored event, demanding an explanation.

I hope this is not a first step towards renaming us the McLabour Party

John Edmonds
GMB leader
He denounced McDonald's, which just last month was fined 12,400 after admitting a string of offences of illegally employing children, as anti-trade union.

"This deal will only serve to fuel the anti-globalisation protesters who are already threatening to barricade the conference," said Mr Cryer.

"I would rather be outside the conference associated with them than inside having anything to do with McDonald's."

15,000 cost

Both McDonald's and Labour have confirmed that the burger chain is sponsoring the high-profile reception, expected to cost 15,000, at the conference.

Tony Blair: Attacked for being too cosy with big business
The US company is sponsoring the food and drink for 450 guests at the event in Brighton.

But Labour has insisted that there was no agreement given to McDonald's that Mr Blair would attend.

The reception will be held on Monday 1 October - the eve of the prime minister's conference speech.

A Labour Party spokesman said: "McDonald's have sponsored events in the past.

"Last year they sponsored the exhibitors' reception and this year they plan to sponsor another reception.

"But there is absolutely no agreement whatsoever about the involvement of the prime minister at any reception that they would sponsor.

"They have been given no assurances whatsoever about the attendance of any individual."

'Out of touch'

Labour MP John McDonnell also attacked the deal, saying: "It turns my stomach, I don't know how low we can sink."

"It just shows how out of touch the Labour leadership is with the rank and file of the movement."

John Edmonds, leader of the GMB union, told the Guardian: "I hope this is not a first step towards renaming us the McLabour Party.

"If a company is prepared to pay 15,000 for the privilege of a glass of warm white wine with the prime minister then it can afford to pay decent wages."

A spokesman for McDonald's said: "We have sponsored a reception at the Labour party conference, the Conservative party conference and the Liberal Democrat party conference for the past two years."

'Nothing to do with us'

"We have sponsored the exhibitors' reception for the last two years at the Labour party conference, and this year we will sponsor the chairman's reception, which I understand is a new thing for them."

He added: "The prime minister has attended the past two years at the exhibitors' reception, but that is a reception he always goes to.

"It is nothing to do with us, we are simply the sponsors, and this is a Labour Party event."

Malcolm Wing of Unison
"I think it's a step too far"
See also:

14 Aug 01 | UK Politics
Labour conference faces protests
31 Jul 01 | Education
McDonald's fined for under-age jobs
17 Aug 01 | Business
The art of sponsorship
22 Feb 01 | Education
Schools' sponsorship struggle
27 Aug 01 | Business
McDonalds to sell Aroma
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