Tax-exiles get a new lease of life as political donors

From today’s Observer:

A much-publicised law designed to stop wealthy tax exiles bankrolling political parties has been quietly dropped until after a general election, the Observer has learned.

The disclosure means that key Labour donors such as Lakshmi Mittal as well as Tory donor Lord Ashcroft will still be able to pump millions of pounds into the forthcoming election campaign, despite promises to curb the influence of wealthy backers. It has prompted accusations that the government has “nobbled” an act of parliament by failing to ask the electoral commission to enforce the rule.

Lord Oakeshott, the Liberal Democrat treasury spokesman, said he suspected Labour had abandoned its principled stand of just a few weeks ago because of concerns that the party cannot fight a cut-price general election against cash-rich Tories. “To support an important piece of legislation stopping this underhand practice and not bring it in before a general election is like banning a drug-taking footballer but allowing him to play in the cup final,” he said.

“I suspect the electoral commission is not being pushed by the government to get on with it. Labour needs to realise that they will never win an arms race with the Tories on dodgy donations.”

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  • Herbert Brown 2nd Aug '09 - 2:55pm

    I think the problem most of us mere mortals have is in understanding why a donation given directly by a non-dom is “dodgy”, but a donation given by a non-dom through a company is perfectly OK. At least a direct donation has the virtue of transparency…

  • Herbert Brown 2nd Aug '09 - 10:45pm

    My point was that while Matthew Oakeshott criticises other parties for receiving “dodgy donations” from non-doms, the Lib Dems have themselves received money from non-doms, donated through their companies.

    In much the same way, Oakeshott previously described donations to the Tory party from short-sellers as “dirty money”, even though the Lib Dems had themselves received donations from short-sellers. And even though Oakeshott’s hypocrisy on this issue had already been pointed out!

    And Oakeshott has also just called for the Conservatives to make Lord Taylor of Warwick pay back money he has wrongly claimed for overnight subsistence, when his main residence was allegedly in London:

    Has Oakeshott called for the Lib Dems to make Lord Rennard pay back the money he claimed for overnight subsistence?

  • So we should jojn the others in the dirty game rather than try to clean up the rules the game is played by? No thanks two parties in the pockets of weathy individuals is more than enough for me.

  • Well I am sure Guido having an Irish passport is giving his millions to the New(old)Force in NI.

  • David Allen 3rd Aug '09 - 5:49pm

    So there we have it. The Tories are steamrollering their way to power on the back of Ashcroft’s dodgy war chest. Labour know they are being screwed by the Tories’ dodgy donors, but they themselves need the relatively small sums they get from dodgy donors, just to survive. So they won’t change anything. Lib Dems know that they are in an even worse position, but they too are desperate for the pittance they can get from dodgy donors, even after having been badly bitten by Mr Michael Brown. So their protests are at best muted. Ashcroft must be laughing himself silly!

    Neale Upstone proposes a Ban the Bung Party. I have considerable sympathy. That’s why I helped Craig Murray’s “Put an Honest Man into Parliament” campaign in Norwich North. Well, we beat the BNP, but we learnt the hard way that enthusiasm is not enough and that you also have to get the strategy right. I thought that “put an honest man” was a great slogan – until I found myself spending all my time explaining why I thought the British Ambassador who resigned on a point of principle had proved himself an honest man. When you’re explaining, you’re losing. Another time, perhaps, a simple “Ban the Bung” slogan will achieve greater success.

    Will it have to be an independent who uses it, or will the Lib Dems get there first?

  • Herbert Brown 3rd Aug '09 - 10:59pm


    “Depressing, all of this, including some of the comments from people who seem to think any large donation is “dodgy”.”

    The term “dodgy” was used by Matthew Oakeshott, with reference to donations from “tax exiles”. That is the only sense in which it has been used on this thread so far. Absolutely nothing to do with the size of the donation.

  • Matthew Huntbach 5th Aug '09 - 3:31pm

    So, political parties, think-tanks, newspapers all largely funded by very rich people who naturally favour the opinion that very rich people should be given lots of favours as they are wealth creators blah-blah-blah. It seems to me the increasing view is that society is run for the benefit of such people with the rest of us just supplicants to them, hoping to pick up the scraps that fall from them. The dear old Observer newspaper, for example, threatened with closure because none of them would subsidise a newspaper which occasionally questions the assumption that we must always kowtow to the super-rich.

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