Will the coalition try to impose its party funding plan on Labour?
When the Committee on Standards in Public Life published its report into MPs’ expenses the main party leaders had signed up to it within minutes.
Today’s report on party funding got a very different reception – a pre-emptive strike from Nick Clegg (“no – not now” to state funding) and David Cameron (“no for all time ” to state funding and the donations cap should be £50k not £10k), and no warm embrace for the trade union levy changes from Ed Miliband.
Miliband sounds like a man who is trying to keep the door open to state funding of political parties for a debate in the next parliament. But he’s not greatly sticking his neck out in this one.
The committee thinks that a £50k limit on donations would enormously skew the battlefield to the Tories’ advantage and that they have serried ranks of business people ready to cough up £50k for the next election. The committee also expects the Tories and the Lib Dems to cook up some kind of cosy deal and try to impose it on Labour after the next round of failed party talks about party spending has gone the way of the last one and the one before that.
If that happened it could be lethal to Labour, and Tory strategists like George Osborne have long sniffed a great political opportunity here. Labour would have its trade union funding wings clipped if not amputated. The Tories would have a continued if not strengthened funding advantage over Labour even with a £50k cap.
Lib Dem President Tim Farron just told me that even a £50k limit would be something on the path to reform and could be linked with a promise to look at state funding again when the good times roll. He also said that no one party should be allowed to hold reforms hostage.
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