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Hear,Hear Tim.It simply amazes me that the PR savvy leadership of our party seem to fail to realise how bad this will look not only to activists like me but to the electorate at large

Oh dear!

Think it's a bit sad to see ConHome forbidding an individual(especially those rich ones!) from spending their money how they see fit.

No limits - just full disclosure. If the public don't like it they can vote with their feet (can't they????)

Political parties should not seek or be given any tax money. It is that simple. Private funding of political parties and the activites of political parties need to be deregulated and set free from state control and administrative intrusion.
Parliament must be the exclusive court and place of judgement of the activities of those parties that seek to sit in Parliament.

This is one where there are lots of differing views. My 'personal view' inclines towards that expressed by Michael Ashcroft. It is very important not to underestimate the strong view that those who are seeking elected office are in for themselves. I lost count of the number of people in my 7 years as the PPC for Eastleigh who were convinced that I was in some way being paid to be a candidate and who were astonished to discover that as a candidate I got no money at all. It is of course right that opposition parties are granted money in order to perform properly in the job of holding the Government to account in Parliament. But what evidence is there that the public would be willing to see their taxes go towards paying for campaigning activities? Very little I suspect. I wonder whether we should look to learn from the US model where lots of individual donations make up a large part of the funding for candidates. Perhaps making donations to a certain limit tax deductable would be a step forward. Then it would be up to candidates on the ground not only to sell their agenda for their local communities but to persuade people to back it with money. We also need to be very careful not to find ourselves in a position where the Union funding of Labour would continue putting us at an enduring disadvantage.

Conor is bang on. Making contributions to political parties tax deductible is a necessity. I fear that George Osborne is opposed to this, judging from a brief discussion I had with him last week.

There should be no state funding for parties and a cap not only on individual donations but also on the total received nationally.

I never liked the cut of Mr Ashcroft's jib, and I do not like the enormous influence he appears to have bought within the party.

Still at least the Tories haven't yet found their top donor in custody - unlike the Lib Dims.

Hopefully the current Labour scandals will end up with a few corrupt slimeballs in jail, but before we crow too loudly glass houses and stones should not be far from our thoughts.

Perhaps those inclined to take a pop at Lord Ashcroft should remember that during some of our bleaker years, the party would probably have gone under was it not for his funding.

It is that simple. Private funding of political parties and the activites of political parties need to be deregulated and set free from state control and administrative intrusion.
And charities and Trade Unions would probably demand the same, there would have to be some rules - supposing overseas terrorist organisations and foreign governments then started donating money to particular political parties - who knows? Robert Mugabe might come up with £20m and impoverish Zimbabwe a bit more and buy some influence in a leading political party in the future, or Al Qaeda perhaps, more opportunity for Rupert Murdoch to get more influence, Al Capone bought his way out of trouble a lot of the time buying police, politicians, judges.

Powers of patronage have to be removed and handled in a different manner, in the past Royal Patronage was used to favour the bastard children of some of the high and mighty or to favour some whore or other, or some other excess - in recent centuries the Prime Minister has wielded these powers on behalf of the monarch and since the 20th century has accepted decisions of leaders of other parties regarding who should be favoured - add a structure and remove it from being Royal Perogative and this will improve things a lot. Capping donations will mean that campaigns will be more dominated by rich media magnates, Trade Unions, people leading their own personal campaigns - all outside the party system; and State Funding will favour the established parties and penalise those frequently poorer less well known parties struggling to make a breakthrough.

Tax relief on political donations IS public funding and is counter to our aspiration for a flatter, simpler tax system.

I can't agree with Lord Ashcroft's laisser faire solution, but I do think that he is right to demand transparency.

Lord Ashcroft knows what he is talking about, and we would do well to at least listen to him.

One of the few areas of disagreement I have with the editor is on the funding of PP’s
I have never had any difficulty with the concept of Short money and indeed it should be more than at present to counter the vast amount of taxpayer’s cash that a party in government spends to promote its policy ideas and for that matter research them.
However where I part company with Tim is on the concept of a cap on donations.
In another context some in this party are now debating the concept of relative poverty- god give me strength. Wealth is also relative and a donation of £1million from a philanthropic multi millionaire is on a par with say a donation of £500 to a fighting fund from the likes of me- we are giving our hard eared cash because we believe in the cause, its stil a free country why the hell shouldn't we spend our money the way we want to? We are still the Conservative party aren't we?
Lord Ashcroft is right, what we need is greater transparency and earlier reporting to generate public confidence. Having been at the sharp end of fundraising for 25 years it has never been my experience that large donors can buy undue influence, quite the reverse. The way in which this party treats its larger donors in practice is often little short of contemptuous. Of course they get access and sometimes a hearing for their particular hobby horses, the few who have them that is, but rarely is any attention paid to what they say. My own view is that donors should be encouraged to fund specifics. Lord Ashcroft’s scheme for key seats in the last election was a text book example of how a successful business man could bring some of his expertise and his wealth to good use and prevent CCHQ from wasting money on crazy ideas at the expense of those in the field who are focused on winning on the ground.
The electorate has contempt enough of politicians, giving them more of our tax pounds to squander on themselves will only serve to worsen their image and bring with it even greater bureaucracy in terms of an even more intrusive Electoral Commission. The main beneficiaries of direct government funding to political parties will be the Lib-dems and other fringe parties, why should we give our opponents succour.
If Labour and the Conservatives have large deficits its time they started to learn some simple business accounting techniques and to cut their cloth.

I'm not sure I agree with your assertion that large donations don't buy influence Huntarian but the rest of your argument is spot on.

Tim you know as well as anyone that only a tiny fraction of the funding of a political party could be raised by grassroots or internet donations of the £10-£50 variety.

The only way for this to work would be if the state matched funds.

I don't know that at all, wasp. If political parties had to fundraise from the grassroots - something they haven't seriously been forced to do for many years, let alone in the internet age - I think they could raise enough money. Not enough, perhaps, to waste money on ridiculous billboard campaigns but enough to run a sensible campaign.

Lord Ashcroft is absolutely right on this.

remember lord ashcroft said that if parties relied on a few big donors then this was a sign of failure of their fundraisers and should expect the consequential criticism. he cant be fairer than that

Put it this way:

How would you like to knock on an elector's door at the next election and tell them that they must pay even more of their £200 per week wages in tax to fund Steve Hilton's salary?

State funding runs totally contrary to Conservative principles and anyone advocating it cannot seriously claim to be a Conservative.

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