Amendment written by Paul Tyler may defeat Government on Trade Union Bill

The Independent has an interesting story about the Liberal Democrats and Labour working together to defeat the Government on the party funding aspect of the Trade Union Bill. When you read the story, it’s a real collaboration, with Paul Tyler drafting the amendment now in the name of the Labour leader in the Lords, but the headline makes it look like we are simply supporting the Labour effort.

Liberal Democrat peers are to help Labour water down the Trade Union Bill, which will dramatically reduce the party’s funding, in an amendment on Wednesday.

The support should give Labour enough votes to pass an amendment that would mean parts of the Bill that relate to political funding will be separated out and examined by a cross-party committee of peers. This was originally drafted by Lord Tyler, the Liberal Democrat constitutional reform spokesman, who wants the committee to examine broader political funding…

…Lord Tyler said the amendment is a “one-off opportunity to look at the whole issue of party funding and see if we can’t sort it [out]”. The Select Committee would not have a government majority, which Lord Tyler hopes will mean a range of options for broader party funding, such as making political donations subject to tax relief, could be considered.

I’m not going to hold my breath and predict any big changes in party funding any time soon. That would require the Conservatives and Labour to change their ways when we know that both have been a huge roadblock to reform over many years. Labour had massive majorities for 13 years and did little than inject a small bit of transparency and bureaucracy into the system but did little to stop the financial arms race, beholden to vested interests, that the current system enables. Last year, Shirley Williams warned us where that leads, looking to the US:

Republicans have waged a successful campaign to improve their position at the Congressional level too. In many states, turnout in such elections is low and a well-organised and funded campaign can carry the day. In the US, the boundaries of Congressional districts are determined by state legislatures, not by an independent boundaries commission. In some states, boundaries have been gerrymandered to determine the outcome. For example, concentrating the votes of African Americans or Hispanic Americans in a few districts, to render others marginal. It is an activity in which both major parties engage, but once the boundaries have been agreed by the legislature, changing the political complexion of the state can become very difficult indeed. One political analyst told me that winning a majority in Congress was now close to impossible for the Democrats.

I can’t see us getting any further forward than a few baby steps towards fairer party funding across the piece, but let’s hope it leads to a wider public debate and understanding of the issues involved.

* Caron Lindsay is Editor of Liberal Democrat Voice and blogs at Caron's Musings

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One Comment

  • Tony Greaves 18th Jan '16 - 10:36pm

    The interesting thing will be whether Labour get enough peers to turn up to vote even for something like this. Turnouts by the Tories are at record highs and more or less matching the Liberal Democrats. Labour are having problems getting people there, for whatever reasons. I assume they will succeed on this issue which is so much in their own interest, but we will see.

    Tony Greaves

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