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Friday, June 20, 2008

Caligula's horse

Methinks that Iain Dale protests just a little bit too much in his Daily Telegraph column this morning.

Mr. Dale believes that Jack Straw's proposals to limit the amount of money a candidate can spend in a constituency prior to an election is a blatant piece of gerrymandering and is designed to provide a built-in advantage to the sitting MP and his or hers £10,000 per annum communications allowance.

Personally, I believe that the communications allowance is an abuse of public money, not because it subsidises political activity but because it does so in a partial and unfair manner. If we are going to have public funding of political parties then let us at least do it in a transparent, fair and accountable manner and in a way that ensures a level playing field in each constituency.

However, Jack Straw's proposals on political funding are the worst of all worlds. Not only does he not tackle the real issue of large donors effectively buying influence but even the changes he makes are ineffectual. The reality is that anybody who wishes to flout these regulations just needs to avoid calling themselves a candidate until the very last minute. In effect Mr. Straw has reverted to the rules as they existed before the last change in the law on this issue.

The problem Iain is not that Jack Straw has sought to penalise opposition parties but that he has dodged the issue of reform altogether.
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