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Sunday, December 23, 2007

Two tribes go to war

The tit-for-tat sleaze-fest that is continuing to develop over individual donations to Labour and the Conservatives is threatening to once more bring politics into disrepute.

After seeking to capitalise on Labour's problems, the Tory leader faced some embarrassment after it emerged that his local party received £7,000 in invalid donations. This now looks like it will escalate into a full blown war as Labour MP Kevan Jones, writes to the Electoral Commission to request more information regarding a £500,000 donation from the son of a controversial Guernsey-based donor.

Like the Standards Board before it, the Commission is in danger of becoming just another big stick to be used by various party apparatchiks to beat each other with. In truth the present rules are largely unworkable, whilst the continuing dependence of political parties on big donors makes further controversy inevitable. There needs to be some cross-party agreement on the way forward soon or even more people will have tuned out from the political process.
The answer must be a limit on individual contributions to political parties, outside of election campaigns in addition to the existing rules.

The government has allowed cross-party discussion on such a cap to founder over the matter of funding via trade unions.

My cynical view is that Labour is not too unhappy about this, as Tory campaign funding is most prominent in LibDem-held marginals where a Tory was in second place in 2005. In other words, they see the Tories as increasing their representation, but not predominantly at the expense of Labour.
Frank Little
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