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Thursday, November 29, 2007
I have been entertained by further reports of political payment shenanigans and it makes me refer to what I wrote here on 24 October
Individuals would be allowed paid membership of political parties, but there would be a ceiling (say £20 p.a.) on individual membership [fees]. Group membership would not be permitted. Individual donations would be permitted but only to a maximum of £10 p.a. Union members would have their individual 'political contribution' payments treated as being membership fees, but of their nominated party, and they would each be limited to the ten pound donation. Other than that, unions would not be permitted any political contribution.One thing I omitted to make absolutely clear in that piece is that any donation to a political party greater than £10 will be regarded as a criminal offence. Only bona fide UK citizens who are taxpayers would be permitted to make such a donation.
Kenneth Clarke, the former Conservative Chancellor, has been saying similar, although not such restrictive, things. There's a study on at the moment by Haydn Williams and I do hope that he comes to a very similar conclusion. However, capped limits in the thousands are far too high.
As a further limit, groups raising cash for a political party would have to pay that money into a central fund for distribution pro rata to all parties. What's that you say? That would stop group fundraising altogether? So what?
It brings nearer the day of state-funding. People don't like that but they don't like people buying influence, either. On balance, though, it's better to make it impossible (that means illegal) to influence politics with a donation than to keep public money out of politics. I'd rather have clean (and cash-strapped) politics at the expense of a farthing on income tax than tranches of questionable money coming from mysterious sources. However such rules are phrased, unless there's a very low cap, people will find a loophole.
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