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Did £1m donation ‘pay’ for Tony Blair’s hunting ban?

Keir Starmer’s adviser Lord Mandelson reveals intriguing information about a £1m donation to the party from animal rights campaigners.

Peter Mandelson has claimed former Prime Minister Tony Blair agreed to ban foxhunting “under pressure” because of a £1m donation to the Labour Party from an animal rights organisation.

Lord Mandelson, who is now an adviser to Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer, appears to be referring to the £1m donation given by the late animal rights campaigner Brian Davies, who founded the International Fund for Animal Welfare. Lord Mandelson made these claims during a discussion about political funding on a Times Radio podcast.

Asked about whether donors had ever tried to buy influence, he replied: “I can offer you an example from 1997 when an organisation — it was a fund to do with the welfare of animals — got pretty transactional with us. It was the first and last time I can remember this.

“They wanted a ban on hunting in return for a very sizeable amount of money. And Blair and Co were… reluctant obviously to enter into some sort of trade over this policy.”

Tim Bonner, chief executive of the Countryside Alliance, told ST: “Tony Blair has already admitted that he regrets the hunting ban, and this revelation only emphasises that it was done for all the wrong reasons. Class war, political prejudice and £1m bribes are the worst reasons to make new laws.

“It is, then, no surprise that the Hunting Act has failed at every level and any future Labour government should concentrate on righting the wrongs of the past rather than picking further fights with the rural community.”

In his political memoir, Sir Tony voiced regret about the ban and revealed that he had deliberately left loopholes in the legislation that would allow hunting to continue, provided certain steps were taken to prevent cruelty. He said he had not realised the “primeval” passions that the ban would cause among rural communities.

A source who was working closely with the government during the time of the hunting ban said: “I would be very interested to see if there was any direct link in writing between the £1m donation and the legislation to back up what Lord Mandelson has said. I believe that the momentum within the Labour Party created by the backbenchers was already enough to push through a hunting ban.”