Clegg: Party funding reforms “cannot go forward in this Parliament”

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 Thursday Editor of Liberal Democrat Voice and blogs here.

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12 Comments

  • If we can’t sort out recall of MPs, lobbying registers, maternity rights for MPs, boundary reform , or Lords reform, hardly likely we’d sort party funding out.. Shame.

  • How come when the Tories get baulked they find a way to bring legislation to the floor of Parliament but we just say “that’s the way it is”?

  • paul barker 4th Jul '13 - 8:51pm

    One of those News Items that is shocking but not surprising. The only real hope of change lies in the break-up of the Labservative duopoly & on that front at least there is good news. Tomorrow The Tories will be showing off their batty obsession with Europe while most of this week & probably next is Labours turn.
    I have to admit to finding aspects of The Falkirk affair puzzling, not that Mccluskey & Watson were working to fix PPC selections but the clumsy way it was done & the way they reacted to being exposed. Both men have decades of political experience & neither are fools so what are they up to ?
    The only explanations that occur to me are either that Mccluskey plans to withdraw Labours funding, something that would probably bankrupt the Party or else he thinks Labour are going bust anyway & wants to protect his Unions funds from any possible sequestration. Worth keeping an eye on.

  • @Paul Barker haven’t Ed’s inner circle basically realliesed that Tom Watson has taken over the party machine and they wanted to take it back.

  • Eddie Sammon 5th Jul '13 - 1:33am

    I disagree with taking the big money out of politics. You don’t have to donate to a party to fund a campaign and to control what someone spends their money on is not only illiberal but also unworkable.

    I also don’t think it is desirable because how is a new party meant to break into the oligopoly if funding is restricted.

    Individuals and organisations should just be free to spend on whatever they like, as long as it’s not harmful to others and I would say that political campaigning isn’t.

  • David Wilkinson 5th Jul '13 - 7:13am

    This statement just shows Clegg’s problem by producing dull and boring waffle. Cleggie should have used this chance to get stuck into the Tories and Labour for failing to change party funding.
    This was a Lib Dem policy and should have been argued for and defended in parliament, Clegg is making Chamberlain look like a man of action.

  • jenny barnes 5th Jul '13 - 8:44am

    Funding could go by the number of votes for whichever party. Thus – if you’re an independent, you would get something for your vote for standing; and if it was enough it would pay for your deposit. And people would feel their votes were worth while, even if in a safe party-I-hate seat. At least some funds would go to the party I like.
    But yes, the constitutional reform agenda has not been a stunning success, has it.

  • David Evans 5th Jul '13 - 11:49am

    If anything Nick Thornsby understates it when he says

    “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.”

    The problem is going into the last election the Lib Dems were the public uprising against the rotten state of so much in British politics. However, since he led us into coalition so that he was in a position to do something about it Nick ‘I believe it is time for promises to be kept’ has totally failed. Even worse, he can’t even make it clear in his statement that it is the other two party’s fault for the failure.

    Time to go Nick, before you make it even worse.

  • paul barker 5th Jul '13 - 12:09pm

    On the day when both Labour & Tories have shown themselves more interested in their own internal disputes than what the public care about, Clegg & Alexander get on with trying to heal the economy. We are the mainstream now.

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