Tag Archives: party funding

See the Brexit supporting rich people bankrolling the Conservatives

If you are incredibly rich and want to influence the Government, you can, for a cool £50k per hear join the Conservative Party’s Leaders’ Club.

This buys you some pretty major access to key players in the Government:

The Leader’s Group is the premier supporter Group of the Conservative Party. Members are invited to join Theresa May and other senior figures from the Conservative Party at dinners, post-PMQ lunches, drinks receptions, election result events and important campaign launches.

The Conservatives have now published the list of government ministers who have attended events  with these very rich people, who include key backers of Brexit, associates of Vladimir Putin (him again) and even a partner of Jacob Rees-Mogg, since the 2017 General Election. They were able to dine and chat with Theresa May, You have every great office of state represented – May, Boris, Amber Rudd and Philip Hammond along with Liz Truss, Greg Clark, Jeremy Hunt and others.

What’s interesting is that if you look at the group of guests they are almost all men.

As the campaign group Open Britain said in its analysis of the guest lists:

The publication reveals that super-wealthy donors being wined and dined by Theresa May and senior ministers include a host of speculating hedge funds, Jacob Rees-Mogg’s business partner at Somerset Capital Management, and the wife of Vladimir Putin’s former deputy finance minister.

One dinner guest, Hardy McLain, attended dinners in 2017 and 2018 and previously donated £20,000 to the Vote  Leave campaign. The firm he founded was previously linked to attempts to “profit from Brexit uncertainty”.

Another, Dominic Johnson, who attended two dinners in 2017, is the co-founder of Somerset Capital Management – an investment firm set up by hard Brexiteer and Chairman of the ERG Jacob Rees-Mogg. Somerset was recently reported to be warning their clients about “considerable uncertainty” as a result of Brexit, and set up a new fund in Ireland, which benefits from EU financial passporting rights.

Edmund Truell, who attended dinners in 2017 and 2018, owns a Swiss-listed private equity business called Disruptive Capital which has a mission statement to ‘exploit market uncertainty’ to generate returns.

In total some 81 figures paid a total of £7.4 million to the Conservative Party for access to exclusive dinners with the Prime Minister and senior Cabinet Ministers since the General Election 2017.

Lib Dems have long talked about getting the big money out of politics. Our 2017 manifesto said we would:

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Electoral expenses allegations may have deep and game-changing implications

 

Last week we heard that 12 English police forces have sent papers to the CPS, in response to concerns about electoral expenses matters in up to 20  seats won by the Conservatives at the 2015 General Election. Four other forces, including Kent Police, which is investigating what happened during the election in the Thanet constituency, have yet to say where their investigations have led them.

Thanet was won by the Conservative’s Craig McKinley, much to the disappointment of UKIP’s candidate, Nigel Farage.

So, and allow me to indulge in pure wishful thinking, what would happen if the courts said that some or all of these contests must be re-run? Would that not go straight to the heart of the legitimacy of the Conservative government and any legislation passed since that administration was formed?

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Some progress on party funding reform – comments please!

 

The adage “if you want to keep something secret, say it in the House of Commons” certainly extends to the Lords on Fridays, when Private Members Bills are taken.

However, our team made significant progress last week in pushing the government to take seriously their own manifesto commitment “to continue to seek agreement on a comprehensive package of party funding reform”.  We have been plugging away at this by whatever means possible, including by initiating a special Select Committee on party funding reform last year, and by introducing my Political Parties (Funding and Expenditure) Bill last week.  I opened the debate, and Chris Rennard and Ian Wrigglesworth both spoke too.  We received support also from Labour Peer Larry Whitty, and from the Chairman of the Committee on Standards in Public Life, Paul Bew.

For decades, Lib Dems have sought a cap on individual donations – to limit the auction of influence and access to government and senior political figures which now takes place.  In return, a limited element of public funding – linked to support in the country – would be needed to ensure the parties could continue their campaigning.

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Lord Paul Tyler writes: Party funding is back on the political agenda

On 18th May the 2016-17 Parliamentary session officially started with a somewhat thread-bare Queens Speech. It was well noted by Lord Fowler (Conservative) in the first day of debate that;

The most significant words in the Queen’s Speech yesterday were that, ‘other measures will be laid before you

These are often the most important part of the “Gracious Speech”. One of the GREAT omissions from the gracious Speech is of course the issue of Party Funding. Fortunately for Ministers I am happy to provide them with some private enterprise assistance in this matter. As many of you will remember I sat on the House of Lords Committee on the Trade Union Bill, which focused on the party funding issue across the board.

The recommendations, which were almost all unanimously agreed by the cross-party Committee, were also universally welcomed in the House of Lords. Indeed Ministers in both Houses lauded the noble Lord, Lord Burns, and the rest of us, praising our conclusions. Indeed, the Government backed down when faced with amendments to their Trade Union Bill based on those recommendations. However they have yet to fulfil the most vitally important recommendation of all- to “take a decisive lead” on party funding reform.

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Clegg slams Tories over Trade Union Bill

The Yorkshire Post reports Nick Clegg’s evidence to a parliamentary committee looking at Party funding. He accused the Tories of trying to rig the system in their favour.

Mr Clegg said: “I just think this is fundamentally wrong to do this in such a partisan way.”

The Sheffield Hallam MP said he was no ‘sepia-tinted romantic’ when it came to trade union and Labour links as he had personally suffered from ‘appalling’ use of funds for political purposes in his ‘own Sheffield backyard’.

However he said he was alarmed that Conservative proposals are directed at one party and as Deputy Prime Minister he spent years blocking such measures being introduced.

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Preventing the Tories tilting the political scales (again)

House of Lords

Last week saw the largest Government defeat yet in the Lords during this Parliament, putting a brake on Conservative plans to cut trade union funding to the Labour Party. The move they are attempting to make MUST be coupled with a fair cap on individual donations to get ALL the big money out of politics. Ministers repeatedly allege that their bill is not about party funding, but this is arrant poppycock. Plainly, it IS party funding reform but it is for one party only.

This attempt to tilt the political scales in a Conservative direction is hardly without precedent. In this Parliament alone we have seen up to 1.9 million registered voters unilaterally wiped off the electoral roll, cuts to the funding which enables opposition parties to be effective, and of course boundary changes continue apace. In the year up to the election 57% of Labour funds came from trade unions, while 59% of ALL individual donations to all parties put together went to the Conservatives. To stem one form of funding, without the remotest movement on the other form, is another naked attempt to entrench Conservative undiluted power. It is also a breach of the Conservative manifesto which promised:

In the next Parliament, we will legislate to ensure trade unions use a transparent opt-in process for subscriptions to political parties. AND We will continue to seek agreement on a comprehensive package of party funding reform.

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Government defeated by 93 votes in Lords over party funding element of Trade Union Bill

Good cross-party work in the Lords today as an amendment written by Liberal Democrat Paul Tyler and tabled by Labour won the day. This sets up a select committee to oversee party funding and make a fairer playing field. The vote was won by 327 to 234.

It remains to be seen what the Government will do with this. The Parliamentary ping pong could delay it for a year. That’s an important time in which we should try to have a proper public debate on the issue of party funding.

After the vote, Paul Tyler said:

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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…

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Opinion: Electoral funding reform is vital for the future of our democracy

Election finance reform may not be at the top of many people’s Christmas list, but it is arguably a more important issue right now than even electoral reform. As Liberals we hold the fundamental values of fairness and equality as sacrosanct, while as democrats we believe that power and influence should be derived through the ballot box. The most grotesque feature of this election was the amount of money that the Conservative party spent.  To be absolutely clear, until the Electoral Commission releases the spending stats, all we can work off is declared donation income, which reveals an eye watering income disparity between the parties. In the first two quarters of 2015, the Conservatives received around £24m in donations – nearly 4 times that received by the Liberal Democrats, in fact, the top 20 Tory donors gave more than all Liberal Democrat donors put together. The influence that these rich and powerful donors have over their parties is potentially toxic to our democracy, skewing politics towards special interests, and weakening the power of individual voters. While I am no fan of the Labour party, or the money which comes from the Unions, David Cameron has already announced his intent to weaken this financial association, thus crystallising for his party an insurmountable fundraising advantage, this is a naked attempt at a ‘political kneecapping’, and an outrageous abuse of Government power.

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A few quick thoughts on last night’s Dispatches

Channel 4’s Dispatches programme last night featured the attempts of one business man to give lots of money to Labour, Conservatives and Liberal Democrats. The programme has already led to Liberal Democrat peer Paul Strasburger temporarily resigning from the Liberal Democrat group in the House of Lords pending an investigation from the Electoral Commission. Here are my thoughts on the programme:

Lib Dems should not keep this money – and we aren’t

My instincts on seeing the programme was that the donation that he has procured should be returned because the programme made clear that it didn’t come from the person whose name was on the cheque. That’s not to say that I think there was conclusive evidence of wrong-doing. The Electoral Commission will rule on that and we should let them do their job. What is clear is that the Federal Party had no way of knowing that the donation had come from anyone other than the name on the cheque. I was glad to see Olly Grender confirm on Twitter that we are not keeping the money. It will either go back to the donor or to the Electoral Commission. Guidance is awaited on that point.

Cash for access?

The programme certainly gave an insight into the world of political fund-raising with the businessman concerned Paul Wilmott being invited to events with senior figures from the three parties in fairly short order. This I think is a much bigger deal in the Labour and Conservative parties than it is in the Liberal Democrats. Let’s face it, I’ve had longer conversations with Vince Cable than Paul Wilmott did and I don’t have loads of money. Senior Liberal Democrats are much more accessible than the likes of Cameron and Miliband. Let’s face it, I saw a new member at her first conference in Liverpool last week meet Nick Clegg and chat to him 3 times in the first evening. Our senior figures also spend massive amounts of time supporting local party dinners and campaigning. If you turn up to go canvassing in a key seat, there’s every chance you might be out with one of our senior MPs or Lords. It’s not like the Tories where your position in the room at a dinner depends on how much you have paid for your ticket.

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Landmark report makes powerful case for Lords and party funding reform

The Oxford University Department of Economics have just published a discussion paper entitled “Is there a market for peerages? Can donations buy you a British peerage? A study in the link between party political funding and peerage nominations 2005-14“. The authors are Andrew Mell, Simon Radford and Seth Thévoz

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Opinion: Good co-ops, bad co-ops and the funding of the Labour Party

imageWe Lib Dems do not need persuading of the merits of the Co-operative Movement. Founded in Rochdale in the 1840s, it continues to this day to provide an alternative model for business.

However, it cannot be said that there are many takers for this business approach. Apart from a good number of small co-operatives, there are two dominant players. The John Lewis Partnership, which is owned by its employees, and the Co-operative Group, owned by its members.

John Lewis is a success. It is often cited as an example for others. Not so the Co-operative Group which seems to go from one crisis to the next.

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A few people are talking about party funding…

Yesterday’s Guardian makes a big thing over fairly cautious comments by Tim Farron about party funding in the wake of John Denham’s call for state funding of political parties and a £5000 donation cap.

Senior Liberal Democrats are pressing Nick Clegg to reopen talks withLabour on the funding of political parties after Ed Miliband’s chief negotiator in cross-party talks called for a radical rethink on large scale donations.

They believe that statements by John Denham MP, in which he said Labour could consider imposing a £5,000 cap

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New Statesman staggers over Lib Dem funding

In a staggering piece on the New Statesman website today, blogger George Eaton – writing The Staggers column – claims that the Lib Dem’s “mounting debts” will force the party to end the coalition ahead of the 2015 general election. Really?

The argument is presented that because the party is running a deficit, it cannot fight the election without the Short Money paid to opposition parties. Really?

The source of this idea appears to be “several in Westminster” – not necessarily Lib Dems, or even people who are well informed.

The author seems not to recognise the absurdity – in public …

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Opinion: Ed’s made a bold move, but he absolutely needs to see it through to the end

As a Lib Dem, I obviously write as neither a Labour party member nor supporter, but I was genuinely stirred by Ed Miliband’s speech at the St Bride Foundation yesterday. It was bold, gutsy and liberal minded – qualities the Labour leader’s critics often accuse him of lacking. The announcement that Ed will push forward plans to change the current arrangements in which all union members across the country are automatically affiliated with the Labour party, to one in which union members will have to voluntarily opt in to Labour affiliation, was brave to say the least. It potentially …

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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

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Paul Tyler writes….There can be no party funding consensus without compromise

This week’s revelations about MPs and Peers profiting from their seats in Parliament has been a catalyst to get the political reform agenda going again, though Alexander Ehmann is quite right to say that these stories were not a “lobbying” scandal as such.  No lobbyist worth their salt (or their fee) would seriously approach a parliamentarian offering ready cash.  Only journalists would do that, exposing their targets as greedy and stupid in equal measure.  The parliamentarians concerned – it would appear – have broken the rules which already exist.  And if they have sinned, it looks like a case …

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Labour and Tory MPs have a new twist on an old game. Block democratic reform. Then criticise lack of democratic reform

clegg on levesonLabour and Tory MPs have a new favourite hobby. It’s one they’ve been practising for decades, but they’ve really refined their art in the last three years.

Basically it works like this…

A political scandal happens. Abuse of expenses by MPs or cash-for-questions/honours/favours, that sort of thing. Everyone demands reform. This must never happen again, they say. Cross-party talks are immediately convened. Then re-convened a few months later once the pressure’s off a bit. And finally they’re abandoned once they’re sure people have got bored with it all and …

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Lord (Paul) Tyler writes: Political reform has been lost along the way by the Coalition

Houses of ParliamentI first spoke in a Queen’s Speech debate in March 1974. I recall being mystified by that vital penultimate sentence heard again in this year’s speech: “other measures will be laid before you”. It is these innocent, innocuous words which turn out to be quite important. And they give hope that there will be other vital measures excluded at present from the text of the Speech itself.

There are two commitments in the party manifestos and the Coalition Agreement that seem to have been lost along the …

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We should drop the ban on political advertising on TV

european court of human rightsThis week saw the failure of the attempt by Animal Defenders International to overturn the the UK’s ban political advertising on radio and television. The Guardian reports:

By a narrow majority decision, judges at the European court of human rights in Strasbourg have ruled that preventing the broadcast of a commercial – showing a girl in chains in a chimpanzee’s cage – did not violate freedom of expression. …

The animal rights group lost its appeals in both the high court and the House of Lords before

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“14 out of 15 trades unions fail the transparency test”

News reaches the Voice from Unlock Democracy, who have been carrying out investigations into the practices of the 15 unions currently affiliated to the Labour party. The research shows that 14 out of 15 trade unions affiliated to the Labour Party fail to explain to their prospective new members about affiliation and inform them that they have a legal right to opt out on their membership forms and website.

The top lines from the research are as follows:

  • Just 1 union (UNISON) mentions affiliating to the Labour Party.
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BBC: ‘Political parties’ donations fall by almost £1m’

Here’s the BBC News report:

Donations to political parties fell by almost £1m during the second quarter of this year, official figures show. The Electoral Commission said £7,873,478 in funding had been reported – down £992,312 on the first three months of the year. The Conservatives received £3,785,579, Labour £2,964,471 and the Liberal Democrats £717,797.

The Lib Dem figure of £718k is the party’s lowest second quarter fundraising performance since 2006 (when it was less than half this year’s total, at £334k). This graph from the Electoral Commission which compiles the figures shows the disparity between the parties’ financial muscle, …

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Nick Clegg should say no to any link between state funding and boundary changes

It’s August, so I’m not going to take too seriously kite-flying suggestions by Benedict Brogan in the Telegraph that Nick Clegg might consider rescinding his threat that the Lib Dems will vote against boundary changes (following the Tories’ decision to break the Coalition Agreement over Lords reform) in return for a deal on party funding which would include state aid for political parties:

Here’s how it was presented to me: over the next year or so Mr Clegg will find a way to back the boundary review when it comes up for a vote in the Commons. In exchange, Mr

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Lib Link: How does David Cameron charm the Liberal Democrats?

Over at his day job at MHP Communications, Mark Pack turns his thoughts to how David Cameron should react to , stating that the Prime Minister has ‘two tricky problems to mull over’.

The first, and most talked about, is how to get his party to back some measure of Lords reform else risk seeing Liberal Democrats outside ministerial ranks (and even some inside) see it as open season on future legislation as it goes through Parliament. The sort of effective and tight whipping operations that saw Liberal Democrats in both Houses votes for a range of measures they did

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A striking party funding statistic

From Democratic Audit’s latest, er…, democratic audit:

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Lib Dem donation figures in full (Quarter 1, 2012)

The Electoral Commission has recently published the latest donation and borrowing figures for the political parties, showing that the Lib Dems raised £606,724 between January and March this year.

(At the foot of this post is the full breakdown of donations (excluding public funds) received by quarter since 2005, and annually between 2001 and 2004. I’ve uploaded a public Google spreadsheet of all Lib Dem donations between 2001 and 2011 available here; and a separate one for the first quarter of 2012 available here.)

By comparison, the party raised £698,875 in the first quarter of 2007 (the equivalent …

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Miliband moves on party funding: offers £5k cap including union donations (but what about members’ opt-in?)

Three weeks after the latest funding furore to hit politics — when Tory co-treasurer Peter Cruddas touted influence on government policy for £250k a pop — Ed Miliband has seized the initiative, proposing to limit all donations from individuals, organisations and unions to a maximum of £5,000.

Here’s the BBC report:

Labour leader Ed Miliband has offered to limit donations to his party from trade unions to £5,000, as leaders discuss how to change the system. He told the BBC this would remove the influence of “big money” on politics. The issue has been the subject of an ongoing

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LibLink: Nick Clegg – Don’t dally, I want big money out of politics fast

Writing in yesterday’s Sunday Times (£), Nick Clegg says:

Politics in this country was left in the gutter by the expenses scandal of the last parliament. Even with this government’s ambitious programme of political reform, it will take a long time for us to climb out. Unless we reform our discredited and distrusted system of party funding, we may never restore that public confidence and trust that is the lifeblood of our democracy.

Posted in LibLink | 42 Comments

Opinion: Lib Dems must grasp the nettle of party funding reform

I remember Peter Cruddas, co-treasurer of the No2AV campaign and the No campaign’s single biggest donor. Without him they never could have afforded those sick baby billboards.

Shortly afterwards in June 2011 he was rewarded with a prestigious position as co-treasurer of the Conservative party. Now he lies at the centre of yet another donor scandal, this one leading right to the Prime Minister’s door and is potentially as serious as the cash for peerages scandal under Tony Blair.

The …

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6 essential steps to help clean up the reputation of British politics

We’ve been here before: many times, under many different governments. The latest addition to the lexicon of big money politics scandals is Peter Cruddas’s crude cash-for-access fundraising, with influence on government policy touted for £250,000 a pop. Under Labour, we witnessed the Bernie Ecclestone affair, as well as the cash-for-honours scandal.

To date this shared complicity — the “all parties are as bad as each other” mentality — has served only the interests of senior politicians in justifying the continuing scandal of how big money talks …

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