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The real impact of this bill will not be on the next GE, but the GE after that.

That is why it is so important to put in the effort and cash now, so that we win in 2009 or 2010.

Tony Makara

What surprises me most is that the unions even want to be associated with the Labour party anymore. After all, class distinctions have widened under Labour. The poor are denied access to basic health care like dentistry. The unemployed are forced to work for 50pence an hour under the work-experience part of the NewDeal. Unemployment has risen under Labour with youth unemployment up by an astounding 20%. Our inner-city suburbs are crumbling and family life is falling apart.

This Labour government has hit the poorest sections of our society the hardest, while at the same time Labour have looked after their wealthy donors. I was raised in a socialist household and most of my family subscribe to ideas of wealth distribution and making life better for the poor. So I have seen their disgust at this Labour government and can compare that with the hope and optimism they had in may 1997. Most Labour supporters and most rank and file Labour members are disgusted with this 'Animal Farm' Labour government and its attacks on the poor. So why the union barons still continue to back Labour defies all conceivable logic.

steve e

The scandal here is the £10 million modernisation fund going back to the unions. The cap is all about trying to remove the appearance of an obligation by the party to the donor. However the union donation is dressed up, the union can decide not to pay the amount to Labour and this can therefore be used as a threat.

David Boothroyd

The talks broke down when the Conservatives walked out. The size of trade union donations to the Labour Party is fixed by the number of individual members who choose to pay the political levy; they do so in the knowledge that it is probably supporting the Labour Party (a few union branches have affiliated to Respect or Forward Wales in the past). The individual union members can change their union's policy by mandating their delegates to conference, and by voting against having a political fund in the first place.

Union members who pay the political levy do not want to change the system. Their position should be respected. A block donation from a trade union is the full exact equivalent of a large number of individual donations from individual trade unionists.

David Lindsay

Tony Makara is spot on.

The unions should identify 10 “dream” policies and 10 “nightmare” policies, with 10% funding to any candidate (regardless of party, if any) for subscription to each of the former, minus 10% for failure to rule out each of the latter.

Union and other money should also fund the development and delivery of a qualification for “non-graduates” with life and work experience who aspire to become MPs.

Anyone from the unions reading this should also see my blog. As should Tony Makara.

John Strafford

The answer to the problem seems to be straight forward:
Each year the individual member of the Trade Union decides whether he or she wishes to pay the political levy and at the same time to which political Party that levy is paid to. In other words the Union acts as an agent.
All other payments by the Trade Union to a political Party should then be subject to the agreed cap. That would be a fair way of dealing with this. Has this been put to the Labour Party?
John Strafford

Adam in London

If the individual trade union members would have sent their money to Labour anyway, why not just have a system whereby individual trade union members do send their money to Labour individually if they choose to do so? Why wouldn't this work? It would make the system very clear and transparent to the general public - no-one can donate more than £x to a political party.

Of course, everyone inside Labour knows that if it were left to individual members acting on their own initiative nowhere near the same amount of money would be donated. I wonder why...

Alex Swanson

"A block donation from a trade union is the full exact equivalent of a large number of individual donations from individual trade unionists."

Fine, so trade union block donations can be banned and the Labour Party won't suffer because individual trade union members can continue to donate as individuals. So what's your problem?

I strongly suspect that most trade union members whose money is going to Labour DON'T in fact realise it, because trade union leaders don't make it clear to them, and if they did, would prefer to keep it in their pockets. I also suspect - in fact I'm quite sure - that Labour's leaders agree with this, and that's why they daren't risk it.

This topic does show up one serious Conservative weakness, however: it has no mass movement at all, certainly not one comparable to Labour's. Conservative leadership has always been elitist, never more so than now, and at best patronising towards their natural supporters, sometimes much worse. It's well past time this changed - are you listening Theresa? - few of your colleagues seem to.

Malcolm Dunn

That seems a very fair idea John Strafford, unlike those ideas emanating from the Labour Party which only seek to secure them party advantage.

Tony Makara

David Lindsay, I just had a look at your blog. Some very interesting material on there. I like the piece debunking conspiracy theories. All too often these conspiracy mongers believe something is true because they say it is true, with nothing by way of hard evidence to back up their assertions. On the subject of the unions, its clear that union support is more anti-Conservative than pro-Labour. The unions are just like a hungry dog that goes barking to its master for food. The master then chops off the dog's tail and feeds it to the dog, who in turn is grateful for this small mercy.

John Leonard

It does not surprise me that this article focuses on the one point in the Hayden Phillips proposals where the Conservatives will likely lose out to Labour and I agree that in all cases these proposals should be democratic and equitable. Therefore, Union donations should not be treated as 'individual' donations.

However, what is not said in this article is that the proposals (not necessarily the eventual legislation, of course) also identify the following proposals with the following implications:

1) They introduce a literal 'poll surcharge' and a surcharge on donations on the public whether they vote or not that will likely cost £5-10 million a year of taxpayers money. It is important to note that the rates proposed for the poll charge are 25% of what the Conservatives originally proposed. How long will it be before such rates are increased because of 'inflation'?

2) The funding proposals are biased in favour of the UK parties and discriminates against newer parties. It effectively creates and elite club of political parties who have 2 or more representatives in either Parliament, National Assemblies or the European Parliament.

3) The poll charge provides more 'bites of the cherry' for the UK parties than the National parties but in doing so also discriminates against any English parties (if they ever meet the criteria for gaining funding) who would receive less bites than their counteparts in other Home Nations. The reason for this is simple:- England does not have an assembly.

4) These funding proposals will potentially result in taxpayers from England funding parties not available in England.

5) Through the 'Matched Funding Scheme' the outcome could result in those same 'individual' trade union donations being supplemented by a £10 per donation from public funds (along with all other £10 donations to the identified elite party club). It can be argued that the public is being forced to donate to political parties whether they want to or not.

As it stands approximately 25% of the funding proposed will go to the Conservatives. It will also provide the Libdems with around £1 million per year on average as well. So no prizes for realising why they support it.

The irony of these proposals is there is a simple way to avoid these surcharges. DON'T VOTE and DON'T DONATE. Hardly the way to promote democracy, is it?

So the question is will the Conservatives oppose all these insidious undemocratic proposals or just those where they feel they will lose out?

Yet Another Anon

Trade Union and company donations to political parties should be banned. Companies are there to service customers and where they have shareholders have a responsibility to their shareholders and Trade Unions are there to improve the lives of their members directly, not for political campaigning. If political parties want to setup their own companies and use money paid back to them as shareholders to fund their campaigns then that is a different matter, but why should shareholders or Union members pay to political parties they do not support, and charities and other companies arguably providing a public service should be for those purposes, not getting involved in national politics.

This leaves private individuals largely funding parties, there should be no cap on this, although there needs to be regulation of loans to require minimum interest rates, minimum repayment schedules and categorising loans failing to meet these standards as donations, and also seizing for the Treasury money that should have been repaid under any such agreements. Then loans really would be loans and donations really would be donations.

Matt Wright

Anyone looking at this fairly knows that many people join a Union for a variety of reasons, mostly not political reasons. They have to actively opt-out of the political levy. Labour and the unions know this means many who don't actually support Labour won't actually get round to opting out for a range of reasons. Now Gordon Brown said he wanted a new politics, fairness etc etc. Well here's a suggestion change the rules so that unions have to ask members to "opt-in" to paying a political party not opt-out. Come on what are you frightened of? Its about time we had a straight answer Gordon?

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