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A thought-provoking article, Andrew, but sadly I think no politician would have the guts to support you.

Yet Another Anon

Charities are regulated by the Charities Commission who check that money is not being mispent.

Political parties have a relatively free remit on policy, much more so than a charity. On the other hand a lot of public sector work now is done through charities. I don't think the General Public would appreciate direct funding of political parties.

Donations to a charity or the cats home may affect policy in that one organisation.

Donations to a political party could affect who forms the government and in the case of a major party could influence legislation and awarding of government contracts.

Trade Union funding of political parties and corporate funding of political parties needs to be stopped. I don't think they need more state funding, it might not be a bad idea though if donations over a certain amount to charities are published though - it might both sort out people claiming to have given large amounts who haven't and to those considering giving donations might help give an indication of what sort of organisation it was they were donating to and possible influences of major benefactors.

The Huntsman

Can anyone thrown any light on a 'Regulated Donee' called Progress Ltd. which has received £ 957,173.16 since 2001 from the likes of Jon Mendelsohn, Lord Sainsbury, Pfizer, Network Rail Infrastructure Ltd, Pharmacia Ltd and Sir Frank Lowe? What is its relationship to Labour and why should Network Rail be donating to it?


From what I can see, I either agree with a policy put forward by a government, or I don't. That doesn't change if I find out that the policy has been adopted in response to a donation. Just allow a free for all.

Michele Imperi

I agree completely with the spirit and the essence of the article . AS for money laundering any political organization which receive funds should have a compliance procedure , similar to any FSA registered company which ensures that the funds received have a legal provenance and can be accessed by the authorities should the need arise. Of course any infringement would be sanctioned heavily in the same way that any FSA registered company would , if found to be used funds deriving from money laundering activities , but that does not mean that donations and the names of the donors should made public.
IMHO this issue arises for the reason that increasingly the progressive consensus in the media has painted donations to Political Parties as sort of bribes resulting from murky deals with the Conservative Party as main recipient . It was as also propagated like you rightly say to prevent donations to the Conservatives while keeping the status quo on Union funding and give a competitive advantage to Labour .This view has progressively been accepted by the general public and it will be very difficult to argue your point, though essentially correct , in the current cimate without having your motives tarnished .
In the meantime I have to say I am rather enjoying watching the Labour party being hoisted by its own petard .

Ken Stevens

Focussing on your biblical quotation, if donations were genuinely anonymous then that would sever the public perception of correlation between donor and peerage. It would also eliminate the aspect that one can purchase action in a certain policy direction that a party might not otherwise have adopted.

I favour measures that reduce the overall cost of the political process, with all placed on as near a level playing field as practicable. If parties cannot attract sufficient public support, then there is no God-given right to expect taxpayers to step in with subsidies.

Jim Tague

I'm from a modest background, so I perhaps look at subjects from a different angle.

The Conservative Party, and perhaps others, have the £1,000 club (or something like that) and other clubs and so on and so on, all donating money to the cause, but in a slightly different way. Fine by me, I couldn't afford it, but I don't immediately see any wrong with this approach other than this might not address every level of income or willingness to assist.

How about trying to encourage a £12 club, with subscribers paying £1 a month by direct debit straight to CCHQ. Little and often might be a better way of stabilising your income, than sitting on edge, with bills to pay, waiting for big donors to come along.

Millions of people are supporters, but would never wish to join the party, but they might be persuaded to donate a small amount to help oil the machinery.

I'm not sure how you would promote such a scheme, but it's just a thought.

Andrew Lilico


So, you seem to be saying that we might have a system in which you can choose:

a) Your donation is known to the Party, in which case it must disclose it to everyone.
b) Your donation is not known to the Party, and need not be disclosed.

Now that *is* an interesting thought, and might even be attractive if it could be made to work. I see two problems, though:
1) How could we counter the money-laundering case I mentioned?
2) How could we prevent it "becoming known" who the donor was?

Perhaps these could be got around in the following way: The Parties could appoint an official whose job it was to establish the propriety of otherwise-anonymous donations - he would be the only person that would know where they had come from, and would report any suspicions to the police/FSA/etc.. He would not even inform that Party that major donations had been made. If senior officials come into knowledge that large donations have been made, we could charge them with a duty to register their suspicions or knowledge with some donations ombudsman, who would use his judgement to determine whether and when he should release the information he was given (e.g. it would be normal to release such information if it came to be known that there were professional dealings between the senior officials and the suspected donor). But normally privacy would be respected.

I think a system of this sort might be acceptable to me. I'd have to think about it. What do others reckon?

Yet Another Anon

How about trying to encourage a £12 club, with subscribers paying £1 a month by direct debit straight to CCHQ. Little and often might be a better way of stabilising your income, than sitting on edge, with bills to pay, waiting for big donors to come along.
There are admin costs with managing accounts, is as little as £1 a month really practical?

If you are trying to help people from a poor background donate, most won't have Direct Debits anyway, many people still don't have cheque books or even access to an ATM.

John Strafford

Democratic politics costs £1.3 billion a year (paper published by Andrew Tyrie MP).
During the course of a Parliament an MP receives over £1 million in salary and expenses. (many of the expenses used to be paid by the Parties e.g. research, communication with electors etc.)
The Conservative Party has received over £40 million in direct State funding in the last ten years.
It is time we recognised that State Funding is here to stay. We should concentrate on trying to get it reduced and accountability for the way the money is spent.
John Strafford

Chad Noble

"What do others reckon?"

This is all a complete waste of energy, when all three parties have already decided to support the extension to state funding.


I believe in the strictest possible limits on donations whilst recognising that parties have to fund themselves. The £50,000 cap seems a reasonable place to start but I hope it will become much, much lower as parties become serious retail fundraisers.

Democracies are at their best when power is distributed broadly. One vote per adult citizen. Parties accountable to their members in, for example, leadership ballots. Candidates selected by local people - not imposed. A decentralised state. No party too dependent on the generosity of a few rich people.

I hope, Andrew, the internet will ensure that start-up, break-down-the-barriers parties can flourish in the future. I have no time for Ron Paul but he is largely a grassroots phenomenon. So was Howard Dean before him. Having the deep personal pockets of a Perot, Berlusconi or even Bloomberg may no longer be so necessary.


Sadly I don't think the 'smears' of the 1990's were all smears. Cash for Questions was an absolute disgrace and it is to the shame of the Conservative Party that the MPs concerned did not lose the whip nor where they deselected.
Equally this government is up to it's neck in corruption the events of the last few weeks being only the latest example.
We are certainly not in any position to lecture anyone about financial propity because propity does not exist in modern politics it seems.
Consequently disillusion with party politics is rife which is why more people don't vote than vote for any one political party.
State funding, will in my view make this much worse, as would your proposals Andrew. Transparency is absolutely key.

Chad Noble

A good vision Tim, but it will take a new party with decent initial financial backing to achieve it.

Michele Imperi

May I ask what is the reasoning in a democratic society behind a cap of 50.000 in party funding . I think it could even be dangerous in the future . Take Italy as an example . After the scandals of the late 80ies the centre-right parties were discredited and in tatters , and only someone with the funds and organization of Berlusconi could have set up and given the initial push to the project of a new party to represent the interest of the Centre-Right . Obviously he had spotted a "gap in the market" and pretty quickly Forza Italia has becomem indipendent of Berlusconi's funding. Had there been a cap on spending Italy would have become almost certainly a one party state .

Michele Imperi

correction , I meant to say : Had there been a cap on funding Italy would have become almost certainly a one party state .

Bill Brinsmead

Editor … “I believe in the strictest possible limits on donations … £50,000 … ”

Editor you are WRONG … Limits on individual and corporate donations are an infringement on personal liberty and won’t work.

If I had £100k and wanted to support ‘green issues’ I could give it to one of several [front] campaigning organisations - Greenpeace, Friends of the Earth, Soil Association, New Economics Foundation, and so on – but you would prevent me from giving it to the Green Party. Where's the logic?

No Andy,


Andrew Lilico


You say "No party too dependent on the generosity of a few rich people." But "dependent" for what? No Party can flourish under our system unless it secures millions upon millions of votes. Thus every Party is "dependent" for its success upon the support of millions of people. Why does it matter if those millions are not, also, keen to part with their money?

I see political parties as sets of alternative potential rulers. They ask the voters to choose between them, and we do. Now even if you disagree with me that this is the ideal structure for a political party (and I do think that - I believe that concepts such as one-member-one-vote are deeply misconceived) I hope you do not consider my concept of a party *illegitimate* - in the sense that Parties should be *forbidden* from organizing themselves like this?

If I want to set up a political party that doesn't have open membership, but instead just consists of me and 600-odd mates who put ourselves forward for election, and if each of us wants to front up £60,000 to make it work, why should that be forbidden? Democracy is about voting - it is a technique by which we secure an orderly exchange of rulers. It is *not* a requirement of democracy that political parties have mass membership.


An infringement on personal liberty eh Bill?

What about the liberty of ordinary voters who don't have money to spare and don't want their democracy distorted by the monied special interests (declared or not)?


No political party can be described as "the needy". They are more properly decribed as the "want-y". The point the Bible makes is that the final recipient as well as intermediaries should not know the source of the funding. Is this what you propose? From the remainder of your article, I think not. To levy a tax specifically designed to support the satus quo would lead to an ossification of politics and further increase the divide between the Nomenklatura at Westminster and their life support system known as the media, polling companies, "think tanks" the lobby et al. I do not wish to fund those policies I believe to be inimical to my country and see no need as to why I should.


There are several approaches to this problem.
We could have a free for all as Dave wants and voters can vote on the results of government policy, however it is arrived at. There is a certain libertarian logic to this but it accepts that our politicians can/will be corrupt in areas that don't affect the voters and I don't think many people would be comfortable with that.

We could shift all patronage away from the Prime Minister into a department of the Royal Household, restoring honours to the "fount of honour". HM is rich and grand enough not to be bought by grubby arrivistes. However, the Prime Minister might find life impossible without patronage and i can't see any PM attempting the experiment.

We could continue with the current stupid rules which are postively designed for the employment prospects of little journalists. Someone is going to trip up somewhere and we can then all express disgust and astonishment, adding to the gaiety of the nation.

We could force parties to disclose donations/loans to an official, the standards commissioner, but not to the general public and it would be his job to police cash for honours or cash for policies, making public only those donations which had bought honours or influence. Such an official declaration that a donation was corrupt would have a very salutary effect on ministers. A great idea in theory but without giving the commissioner his own team of detectives how is he going to know that the parties have made full disclosure? I suppose we could up the penalty for corruption so that Ministers would be afraid of whistleblowers in their own departments and offices.

I think we need to separate our easy indignation at failures of process - not reporting a donation from our strange acceptance of corruption - that it is Ok for a PM to sell a policy for a £1m bung to party funds. I never understood why Neil Hamilton got done for taking used fivers to ask questions but Fayed never got done for offering him the fivers.

We have become very tolerant of corruption in the last 15 years having had the cleanest public life in the world. This situation will deteriorate until we have a police force or a government determined to stamp on it or a nation less mired in ennui and cynicism.


You will never find direct evidence of a developer or land owner, unless they are inept, donating money for a favourable planning decision; that would be strictly illegal.
There are however many planning decisions that are difficult to fathom.
We need more openness and transparency

Ken Stevens

Andrew Lilico 10:45 AM

Shouldn't be any problem in principle with a "Chinese-walled" official responsible for anonymity compliance, as the concept is established in the financial world. As to the donor possibly becoming known by other means, how about automatic disbarment for consideration for any sort of honours, unless spotlessly demonstrable as a public benefactor in non-political areas.
-- Or of course what I'd prefer: that the honours system administration went out of political hands to become a department of the Royal Household.



Andrew Lillico is right

You and the leader are wrong on this one

If I win £10,000,000 on the lottery tomorrow and want to give it to the Conservatives why the hell shouldn't I???

And yes, we should have a broader base... and we would if CCHQ was not so determined to centralise, group and draw to itself every vestige of support, funding and talent... and then waste it.

Tony Makara

It is naive to think that policy cannot be bought with money, enough money, given to the right people, can buy anything. The important thing here is the integrity of those accepting the money. A person with enough money can make most people do anything, that is the power of money. Most humans are by nature greedy and self-serving, they can be bought.

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