Tag Archives: party funding

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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