PRWeek can reveal that the Labour Party is exploring plans for an online rapid rebuttal unit, designed to kill off damaging stories circulating in the blogosphere. Former lobbyist Derek Draper will oversee the initiative, having recently been called in by Labour's general secretary to advise on how the party can communicate its message.The initiative was the idea of Labour Party general secretary Ray Collins. He personally recruited Derek Draper to head it up. All the meetings were held at Labour HQ and were attended by senior Labour Party personnel.
Labour strategists are keen to respond to the growing influence of right-wing blogs. The eventual system could resemble a modern-day version of Labour's famous Excalibur unit, which was successfully used to kill negative stories by Tory-supporting newspapers in the run-up to the 1997 general election.
Draper will meet sympathetic bloggers and web-savvy political campaigners over the next few months to thrash out the details. 'I want to get together an informal group of people to talk about online rebuttal,' he told a fringe event at the Labour Party conference. 'We'll sit round a table and say: what is it we need to do and how can we do it in a practical way?'
Collins is now frantically backpeddling and is keen to throw the spotlight elsewhere - and in particular onto Charlie Whelan and UNITE.
On the Daily Politics in March Derek Draper told Andrew Neil that LabourList was quite open about its finances and funders. Who are they then? asked Neil. "We haven't published them yet," said Draper.
Up to now it has been assumed that UNITE, through Charlie Whelan, was their main funder. But what's this? UNITE have told lobby journalists this afternoon that they emphatically do not fund LabourList.
I have tried to elicit from LabourList who their funders are but have been stonewalled. I am told that other unions are involved.
ConservativeHome is quite open about its funding. Why isn't LabourList?
UPDATE: Tory Bear has some insider gossip on this and suggests that LabourList hasn't actually had any funding