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After the Ashcroft affair, Cameron must end the role played by 'big money' in politics

There was a very good line in Matthew d'Ancona's column on Sunday. Voters want a rebel leader. They want a resistance leader who will overturn the status quo. Can Cameron be that leader? The last 48 hours and the whole Ashcroft row has made the task harder. As today's Times declares, "For the most part, the electorate cares little about the finer detail of commitments given by shadowy peers. They do care about their politicians following the same standards that they do. If the Tories are content to veil themselves behind vagueness and grey detail, the electorate will judge them for it, and rightly."

Up until now the Tory strategy on Lord Ashcroft has been to point out (more than fairly) that Labour rely on money from non-doms, too. The other strategy, I would recommend, would be to put our hands up, admit that Conservatives are unhappy with current arrangements and promise to build something very different. The fact that "changing politics" is the sixth of the party's key election pledges is something to build on.

Developing what the party has already promised I would tell voters that:

Conservatives will end political parties getting their money from big unions or big business. No union or rich man will be able to give more than £50,000* to a British political party in any one year. This will be in the Conservative manifesto and we expect the House of Lords to pass it into law.

Conservatives will cut the overall cost of politics. Conservatives will cut the number of MPs by 10%. We'll cut ministers pay by 5%. We'll abolish the Communications Allowance.

Conservatives will give voters the power to sack rotten MPs**. Voters shouldn't have to wait to a general election until they can get rid of an MP who has abused expenses or has been guilty of other misdemeanours. Constituents should be able to trigger a mechanism for 'recalling' their MP at any stage of the parliament if they are censured by parliamentary authorities.

Conservatives will give voters the power to force the Commons to debate issues that matter to them. Using the power of the internet and other forms of public petition, voters will be able to force the Commons to debate issues that they want discussed by MPs.

Conservatives will give taxpayers a right to inspect everything government spends that costs more than £10,000***.  The public has a right to see how its hard-earned money is being spent.

Nearly all of this is existing Tory policy but presented in the right way it can help Cameron become Matt d'Ancona's "rebel leader".

Lord Ashcroft and other rich donors have been generous to politics. We should be grateful for what they have given. But politics can't go on like it has.

Tim Montgomerie

* Tory policy is £50,000. I would make it £10,000.
** This is not current Tory policy.
*** Current Tory policy promises a disclosure threshold of £25,000.


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