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In June's elections for the European parliament a new political party, "No to EU, Yes to Democracy", made its first appearance, standing on a left-wing, Eurosceptic platform. On its first outing it received more than 150,000 votes.  But who or what is behind it?

The party's leading light is the hard-Left leader of the Rail, Maritime and Transport Union, Bob Crow, the man responsible for London's frequent Tube strikes.  His union, the Electoral Commission's register shows, gave more than £75,000 to "No to EU, Yes to Democracy" during the first half of 2009, with £68,000 coming from the union's head office and the rest from various branches.  The only other declarable donations to the new party came from another political party, the Communist Party of Britain, which gave £15,000 during the first half of this year.

The CPB might seem a rather odd supporter for a party which claims to say "Yes to Democracy". The party is the publisher of the Morning Star and is made up of those old pro-Soviet irreconcilables, nicknamed Tankies, who left the official Communist Party of Great Britain because they thought it had gone soft.

But who might the CPB be getting their money from, now that old communists can no longer rely on stipends from the Soviet Union? Anita and Kevin Halpin, the party's chair and industrial organiser respectively, have made donations to it of close to £20,000 since 2008. Anita Halpin has had a lifelong commitment to communist politics. She has also been a prominent figure in the Stop the War coalition and is Treasurer of the National Union of Journalists.  

Her donations to the CPB should not prove too much of a financial hardship to Ms Halpin. Her grandparents, Alfred and Tekla Hess, owned a shoe factory in Germany and built up a significant collection of German expressionist art.  After the Nazis came to power the Hess family, being Jewish, were forced to "sell" their art collection at artificially low prices. As the sole surviving heir of her grandparents, Anita Halpin made a restitution claim for works from their collection. An Ernst Ludwig Kirchner, Berlin Street Scene, was returned to Ms Halpin and sold by her at Christies in New York for £20.5 million.  The buyer was cosmetics heir Ronald Lauder for the Neue Galerie, his museum of German and Austrian art in New York.  Mr Lauder, a sometime Republican candidate and noted supporter of Israel, is unlikely to be very happy about how Ms Halpin is spending his money. 

 
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