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30/08/01 . Unknown . BBC News Online: UK Politics . UK
McDonald's Labour sponsorship sparks row
McDonald's has earned the ire of anti-capitalists
The Labour Party has denied that Tony Blair's presence at a party conference event sponsored by fast food giant McDonald's was secured on the firm's condition that the prime minister attends.
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 has added to unease within the party that Labour is too close to major corporations.
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.
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 hosted by Charles Clarke, the Blair-appointed party chairman, and takes place 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 condemned the sponsorship 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 GM union, told the same paper: "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."
"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."
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