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Tuesday, January 03, 2012

Keeping them honest

You have to hand it to Nick Clegg, he is a trier. According to this report in the Daily Mail, the Deputy Prime Minister is to press on with plans to refund the way that political parties are funded, despite the fact that there is no consensus within the coalition, never-mind with the opposition.

The paper says Mr. Clegg plans to get cross-party talks underway within weeks after announcing an aggressive attempt to force all three main parties to accept a donations limit, coupled with new restrictions on spending during elections and more flexible rules on the use of existing state funding of politics:

Radical proposals by sleaze watchdogs late last year have been rejected as politically unacceptable, since they would involve £100million more in taxpayers’ money going to political parties to compensate for a £10,000 donations cap.

Government sources told the Daily Mail that Mr Clegg will now press for a limit to be imposed even if there is no increase in state funding to sweeten the pill. He, David Cameron and Ed Miliband are understood to have agreed in principle to open discussions on such a move.

Reform has been given a new urgency in Tory circles by the reaction to the inclusion of four party donors in the New Year’s honours. Paul Ruddock and Doug Ellis both received knighthoods and James Wates and James Lupton were handed CBEs.
Between them, the four men gave gave almost £1million to the Tories, with Mr Ruddock giving more than £500,000 between 2003 and 2011.

Though they were honoured for their work for the arts and for charity, the controversy has prompted Labour allegations of cronyism and convinced some senior Conservatives that future sleaze allegations are inevitable without radical changes to party funding.

I wish him luck in securing agreement but I am not holding my breath that anything that comes out of these talks will be the sort of radical reappraisal that the system needs.
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