For over a year, David Laws, Lib Dem chief executive Tim Gordon, Francis Maude, Conservative Party co-chairman Lord Andrew Feldman, ex-cabinet minister John Denham and former Labour Party general secretary and current whip Lord Ray Collins have been engaged in cross-party talks to attempt to secure a deal to reform party funding.
Today, Nick Clegg announced in a written ministerial statement (pdf) that those talks have collapsed:
Following the publication of the 13th Report from the Committee on Standards in Public Life (CSPL) in November 2011, I convened discussions between the three main political parties to discuss possible reforms to party funding.
Representatives met seven times during 2012 and 2013. Discussions were based on the principles identified by the CSPL, including reform of donations and spending, how to deal with affiliate bodies and the efficiency and balance of existing state funding.
I am disappointed that, as on previous occasions, there has been no agreement between the three parties on beginning party funding reform.
Although it is now clear that reforms cannot go forward in this Parliament, I hope that the principles explored can inform further discussions on this topic and that the parties will then return to this issue after the next election.
The Government has decided to proceed with sensible and necessary improvements to the controls on third parties which campaign at general elections to ensure that they are fully transparent and not allowed to distort the political process. These proposals will go ahead as part of a package of measures in a Bill which will include provisions for a lobbying register. We will introduce the Bill before the summer recess.
This is disappointing news. Big money continues to exert a malign influence on politics, as we have been seeing in the Labour party over recent days and as we have seen with the Tories over the past year.
It seems to me that until there is a public uprising against the rotten state of party funding, Labour and Tory self-interest and belligerence will continue to stifle any deal.
* Nick Thornsby is a day editor at Lib Dem Voice.