Page last updated at 16:56 GMT, Tuesday, 8 July 2008 17:56 UK

Blair tennis match pulls in cash

Tony Blair playing tennis in 2005
The former prime minister has proved a popular draw

The chance of a tennis match with Tony Blair has attracted a bid of at least 10,000 ahead of a fundraising auction for the Labour Party.

A piece of art by Antony Gormley and lunch with Manchester United boss Sir Alex Ferguson have also brought in five-figure offers, the party says.

It calculates it has already raised a six-figure sum from the auction alone.

Figures from the Electoral Commission in May show the Labour is 17.8m in debt and the Tories are 12m in debt.

Campbell novel

The figures also show that Labour received 3m in donations, the Tories 4.2m - while the Lib Dems raised 470,000 - between January and March 2008.

Another popular lot in the Labour auction was the chance to be a character in a novel by former Blair press secretary Alastair Campbell.

The party says a dinner, at Wembley Stadium, will also raise money for a statue of England's 1966 World Cup goalkeeper Gordon Banks.

Mr Campbell, who will help conduct the auction, said: "The Tories are raising a lot of money and Labour has to show that we still have the fight and the capacity to compete and win in argument and campaigning."

Labour's former chief fundraiser Lord Levy - who also partnered Mr Blair at tennis - has expressed surprise at the party's current methods of courting big donors, saying that "desperate times take on desperate measures".

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