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I think tax relief should be allowed on small donations - politics is indeed community minded.

Much though I loathe the big donor system in the US, which also gives disproportionate influence to well funded and polarising 'special interest' groups, which distort facts to scare people into supporting them - everyone from gay rights groups to evangelicals, I can't help feeling a little bit uncomfortable with limiting people....

As I was typing this I realised that nothing could be worse than a descent into US style politics. Spending cap, sign me up.

Now hang on just a second. Stuart Wheeler and Michael Ashcroft are as entitled to voice their opinions as the rest of us.

It's bad enough that every critical utterance on this blog is immediately condemned by the Cameronite thought police and the person who dared criticise the leadership castigated as a latter-day equivalent of the Judean Peoples Front without generous friends of the party being told their opinion isn't welcome either.

Daniel,

I fully agree.


Success breads success no more than in politics. If Cameron can, as he is, move us into a position where we look likely to win elections donors will follow.

DVA: "Now hang on just a second. Stuart Wheeler and Michael Ashcroft are as entitled to voice their opinions as the rest of us."

I don't disagree with that, Daniel, but no-one should be allowed to buy a voice. It would be healthy for politics if parties depended on diverse income streams from many people - rather than cosy relations with a few.

I happen to find the politics of Lord Ashcroft and Stuart Wheeler very agreeable but I hate the way people like George Soros are influencing US politics. There should be limits. I don't think you've addressed my central points - not least the James Goldsmith issue...

Yes, sorry I misread the tone of the article.

I agree that money shouldn't buy influence - I abhor the fact that the financial might of the US oil lobby continues to hold back the fight against untold irreversible damage being wrought upon the world we live in - and I also agree that we should be looking for support from as broad a financial and political base as possible.

However, in reality I feel that it is possibly a tad unrealistic to expect people to invest in something over which they don't have any influence or interest and therefore we should be careful not to alienate people like Stuart Wheeler and Michael Ashcroft.

I don't want to alienate them either... I hope they might still give 'us' £100,00 a year but that should be the top limit.

I forget, how much is Tony selling peerages for at the moment?

On a more serious point; reference is made to Bloomberg and Corzine. Those are just examples of winners with money - remember Michael Huffington, a man who thought his huge wealth could buy him into US politics at about the same time? His campaign fell apart spectacularly.

Or Steve Forbes who ran for the Republican presidential nomination in 1996 and 2000? He was worth something like $450m-$500m, which is enough to make you a popular bloke when it's your turn to get a round in.

Interestingly, one of the reasons he failed was that he couldn't convince the US of the sense of a flat tax - despite promising to exempt himself from it if he got the proposal passed. What a shame, but it is an idea whose time will come again.

I agree that tax relief on political contributions would encourage members of the public to become financially active in politics and would perhaps reduce current dependence the 2.5 major parties have on a select few major donors such as Mr Wheeler and Lord Ashcroft. £100 is probably too low a limit to make it worth the bother. Something like £2000 sounds more reasonable to me.

Having said that, I'm not sure you can completely restrict the capacity of private individuals to give large sums to political campaigns without (a) infringing on the rights of that individual to give their money to a candidate of their choice and (b) setting up some system of public funding for the parties, who would obviously have a huge financial gap to make up. I believe this is what has recently been done in Canada as far as financing their parties go; a very low contribution limit for individuals and businesses coupled with annual public funding based on number of votes received at the previous general election.

Obviously this would have a far-reaching impact on the state of politics in Britain today. Definitely something that needs to be studied a bit more thoroughly.

Putting aside whether donors should have any influence, I think Stuart Wheeler makes an interesting observation:

"I think you should select by ability and earlier on he had said that it was very important to that schools should be allowed to select who they wanted."

If Wheeler is correct (and I *think* he is) then this does indeed mark a "U-Turn" from Cameron, or perhaps even an outright deception of the party faithful?

"If Wheeler is correct (and I *think* he is) then this does indeed mark a "U-Turn" from Cameron, or perhaps even an outright deception of the party faithful?"

SPLITTER!!!

A H Matlock: "annual public funding based on number of votes received at the previous general election."

The problem with this, Alistair, is that it rewards incumbency - which parliamentary allowances etc already advantage. Giving tax relief or even matched funding to current giving is my preferred option.

You might be right about the £100 limit being too modest.

What is it with you, Daniel? For a while you seemed almost reasonable. Now you've regressed back to your head-banging, Cameron-hating, dripping with condescension, morally superior pre-leadership old self. Pity.

At least John Hustings is consistently a nutter all the time.

It beats me why anyone would want to donate money to the Conservative party. You have your motives questioned, your views ignored, your private and business life subjected to hostile scrutiny by the New Labour machine and their media acolytes, and get to see your money wasted on pathetic poster campaigns, embarrassing manifesto launches and armies of useless CCHQ hacks and plotters. What's the point ?

Less of the personal stuff please, 'Interested Observer'. Let's keep on subject.

Any thoughts on the state funding political parties?

In the 1980's and early '90's, one of most successful and damning critiques we made of Labour was that, since they were funded by the unions, they would do the unions' bidding whenin power. The last thing we need to do is allow ourselves to become beholden to a few mega-rich indviduals. Cameron should make it clear that they can give us money or not give us money, but their views on policy matters are of as much value as that of any other party member.

Insofar as the state funds political parties, Andrew - and it already does with short money (and MPs with allowances that have gotten MUCH bigger in recent years) - I think the money should follow the choices of voters/ small donors rather than committees of the great and good.

The same principles that underly stakeholder-directed funding of the voluntary sector are relevant here.

I have just deleted the post I putting together because johnC has said it so much better.

Too often the money we spend is wasted, but on the other hand the time and effort we put in can be priceless.

Andrew, I am instinctively against state funding. Political parties are held in little enough regard at the moment, even before the country realises taxpayer-provided Short Money has just been de facto extended to a party inextricably connected with terrorism.

How about < inserts tongue very firmly in cheek > some sort of hypothecation, so that I can decide that my wagepacket isn't lightened each month to pay for Sinn Fein's paperclip budget?

An opt-in form of state political taxation might produce some very amusing results, but probably not much cash.

Is not the biggest threat the loan approach? Big donors like Lord Ashcroft are not making straight donations but providing interest free loans.

This creates unfair and disproportiate influence. Why unfair and disproportionate? Because £5m in small donations causes no financial threat to the party as they hit the bank account and cannot be reclaimed, whereas one donor "loaning" £2m can call in that loan if partypolicy drifts too far from their own agenda.

I have been thinking about the unfairness of this situation that gives the many small donors no direct influence, but awards the single large donor with too much influence.

If the party wants to stick to this "loan" approach, perhaps small donors should level the playing field and stop giving directly to the party, instead clubbing together in a Tory Donor Club and loan their much bigger amount to the party.

This way, the small donors could become a big donor too, and help to rebalance influence on the party.

Your Coolservative.com advertisement idea, Chad, is exactly the sort of innovative and democratic funding idea that the party should embrace.

Thanks Tim. I was thinking about using the funds raised to start of a Tory Donor Club to help us small donors to at least begin to exert something similar to the influence these loan-donors currently have.

It may be a bit controversial, but money talks, and it would simply to levelling the playing field.

..but it would be a real help if more conservative sites would add the ad box of course.

Ads will starting running on Guido's site next week, so hopefully it will pick up.

I dislike the idea of any public money funding political parties. Why on earth should your tax go towards funding an organisation you despise?

Though I see where you are coming from Ed, and agree with you on the US, I am still apprehensive about government telling people who they can or cannot give their money to.

Chad, I'm unclear how your "Tory Donor Club" loaning money to the party would help balance the influence of (example for the pure sake of argument) Lord Ashcroft's loans? Do I get to ask for my £10 back if DC doesn't repeal the hunting ban? Does James Maskell ask for his £15 back if he does?

The Coolservative idea, though, yes - great. Hat tip.

I doubt state funding of political parties will ever happen. I just thought I'd throw that in as a debating point.

I must say that I'm in pretty much full agreement with the editorial. I've had concerns for a while about donors influence. The effective buying of peerages makes politics look sleazey in the extreme. I think it is important to look at ways forward of encouraging donations without tthe donors wanting anything back personally.

Mr Wheeler lost me when he said that he would withdraw his funding if Ken Clarke became leader. This is just more of the same.

It's unsafe for the party to rely on individual benefactors and undemocratic for policies to be dictated by the highest bidder. A cap would be a bold, democratic step that would be respected by the electorate. I suspect that finances wouldn't be hit that hard, but Conservatives should be the best party to operate on a tight budget!

every critical utterance on this blog is immediately condemned by the Cameronite thought police and the person who dared criticise the leadership castigated as a latter-day equivalent of the Judean Peoples Front

Daniel, that is an un