Friday 25 September 2009

An unlikely alliance to end big donor politics

Cleaning up political funding is back on the political agenda.

Charles Clarke called on the government to "legislate in the final session of this Parliament to reform the system of political Party funding along the lines recommended by Sir Hayden Phillips, difficult though some aspects of his proposals are for Labour".

James Purnell, writing for Progress, agrees, but goes much further in wanting much lower donation caps.

We can debate what a cap on annual donations from individuals should be, but it should be in the hundreds of pounds – certainly not the £50,000 that Cameron wants, which would still mean parties chasing donations from wealthy individuals.

It sounds good. But is there any chance of finding consensus. It might appeal to the centre and to non-party opinion. But surely the right will be horrified.

But perhaps we could form an unlikely alliance.

For here is ConservativeHome editor Tim Montgomerie, in the new Fabian Review, when asked for one issue which the Cameron Conservatives haven't talked about much which he would like to see become a priority:

Ending state and big donor financing of political so that all parties had to look to ordinary voters for their funding

It takes a few weeks to produce a quarterly magazine. And, this morning, Montgomerie is excited about the possibilities for ConservativeHome after Michael Ashcroft took out his Bank of Belize credit card to splash his cash on buying the site. And he mentioned his previous support for limits on big donors yesterday, in stressing his confidence in his continued editorial independence. (Does it, however, make the Westminster water cooler rumours that Montgomerie was wary of what the deal would mean for the site's independence more plausible?)

Anyway, I am sure ConservativeHome will be looking for ways to show very publicly in the next few weeks that they have not been muzzled in their robust grassroots independence, as a Times editorial this week feared could be the case.

So here's my modest proposal for the next big ConservativeHome campaign, and a great way to put those resources to good use while showing they remain as independent as ever.

Let's make common cause on what seems to be our shared conviction - that it is time to take the big money donors out of politics.

PS: Tim is not just writing in the Fabian Review but he is appearing on the Fabian fringe at the Labour conference too. And you thought we were the experts in the politics of permeation and entryism ...

Since the Labour party will spend much of next week talking about the Conservatives, we thought that the best way to address the question "Who are the new Conservatives" was to bring Tim Montgomerie, Fraser Nelson and Phillip Blond to Brighton, where they will discuss that question with Polly Toynbee and Fabian Research Director Tim Horton. It takes place on Monday night at 6pm. (Full listings on the Fabian website).

So the Fabian Review sees a tussle between Tim Montgomerie and 'Red Tory' Phillip Blond in the battle for David Cameron's brain and the soul of the right.


Guido Fawkes said...

Great idea. So the unions will be limited to £50,000?

Unknown said...

The unions are a collective of many people - and democratic bodies - not one person.

Robert said...

It's still a donation and not given my people it's given as a block it should be limited to the same amount, of course Labour will scream. no way, but simple cancel the Union Levey's and allow people to give the money to the party they want. so Unions do not give anything.

Richard Gadsden said...

If you made the donations run direct from individual union member to the party with the union just administering the donation - and each member allowed to donate to any party they want, ie not just Labour, then I can't imagine there being any complaint.