by MONITOR

THE is nothing illegal or underhand about the £2.5 million donation that Lord Sainsbury has made to the Labour Party - the biggest single gift in the party's history and one that brings his contributions since 1999 to £8.5 million. Labour needs the money and private donors are essential if state funding of parties is to be avoided. The only problem is that Lord Sainsbury is a minister (unpaid) in Tony Blair's government and some people think it's an odd way of running a shop to accept such largesse from someone in your employment. This is another example of how politicians become divorced from the reality that more ordinary people can see very clearly. Lord Salisbury's ministerial work at the Department of Trade covers the highly controversial area of biotechnology policy which is linked to the equally controversial subject of genetically modified foods (handled by a different minister). There are critical decisions to be made by government in both areas in the near future. Before volunteering to join the government Lord Sainsbury was chairman of the Sainsbury supermarkets in Britain and the Giant chain in the United States. No one questions his integrity but there must be a perception of a potential conflict of interest and it is not unreasonable to ask whether he would hold a ministerial post at all if he were not also a large donor.

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