TONY Blair has raised eyebrows by giving a £1000 donation to Labour’s general election campaign in a city seat that party insiders admit they have little chance of winning.
The former prime minister has handed out a total of £106,000 to “battleground” constituencies across the UK, including Edinburgh West, currently held by the Liberal Democrats.
The 106 constituencies being given the cash are billed as ones Labour wants to add to its current 258 seats to win power on May 7.
But far from taking seats from other parties, Scottish Labour leader Jim Murphy has declared his aim is to retain those they won last time – and opinion polls suggest many of them will be lost to the SNP.
Edinburgh West Lib Dem MP Mike Crockart said: “I’m sure that Edinburgh West Labour Party will welcome the cash, even if they’re not so sure about the donor.
“It’s just surprising Tony Blair is six months behind the curve with his donation. Labour may well have been targeting seats in Scotland last year, but they’re not now.”
That he should identify Edinburgh West as a winnable seat is downright mystifying.”Michelle Thomson
SNP candidate Michelle Thomson said: “It is not surprising that Mr Blair should feel it necessary to shell out £106,000 for Labour’s election campaign.
“That he should identify Edinburgh West as a winnable seat is downright mystifying.”
Cammy Day, Labour’s candidate in Edinburgh West, welcomed Mr Blair’s donation, claiming the contest in the seat would be between Labour and the Nationalists.
“I’m really pleased Tony Blair recognises the real opportunity we have of winning Edinburgh West,” he said.
Councillor Day took Labour from third to second place when he fought the seat in 2010, but he was still 3803 votes behind the Lib Dems.
Asked about money being donated to his campaign when it was no longer seen as a target seat, he said: “It’s a target for me. I expect the Lib Dem vote to collapse in Edinburgh West as it has across the UK.
“That means the fight will be between Labour and SNP. Edinburgh West also had biggest No vote in Edinburgh and we are hearing even Conservative supporters saying they will consider voting Labour to stop the SNP.”
Mr Blair is not universally popular among current and former Labour supporters.
But Cllr Day said: “Other parties have worse donations than from Tony Blair. There are people opposed to equality legislation funding the SNP and big multinationals who hide their money in Swiss bank accounts funding the Tories.”
SCOTTISH Labour will hold a special one-day party conference in the Capital tomorrow.
UK leader Ed Miliband and Scottish leader Jim Murphy will be among the speakers at the Edinburgh International Conference Centre.
The conference comes amid claims the party is in crisis in Scotland, with just two months to go until the general election.
The News told yesterday how former chancellor Alistair Darling’s Edinburgh South West seat is set to go to the SNP.