Tuesday, June 17, 2008

 

Labour Moves to Neutralise Conservative Funding Advantage

Labour has moved smartly to block a loophole currently being exploited by Lord Ashcroft and others for the Conservatives. While election spending is limited by law during the campaign up to polling day,it is not curbed during any other part of the political cycle. Ashcroft poured money into marghinal constituencies where the Tories had a chance of winning and generally cashed in in 2005. Since then the money has continued to be channelled into marginals and Labour has feared for dire consequences come 2010.

Spending has focused on swing voter identity, computerisation and candidate publicity so that candidates acquire higher profiles and can hit the ground running as soon as the official campaign starts. Now we learn Jack Straw is to introduce legislation in July which will limit all parties to spening on candidates to £12000 from October to the next general election polling day. It seems this will become law as soon as the bill receives its second reading after the recess in October. Conservatives will also have to reveal the name of donors who currently offer anonymous support.

Tories claim foul play- 'an atrocious abuse of power by the government' accused Francis Maude- as Labour have already moved to level the playing field as they see it with its annual £10,000 to sitting MPs to facilitate 'communicating with constituents'; as Labour has the majority of incumbents, such an allowance naturally benefits them. Labour claims such money can only be spent on 'non political' information but it hardly needs a De Tocqueville to deduce such distinctions are impossible to make from material which publicises an incumbents' constituency work, improves name recognition and generally raises an their profiles.

But what about capping national party spending, and more particularly trade union funding of Labour, as recommended by Sir Hayden Philliups' report last summer? As David Hencke notes: 'The goverrnment has backed away fom new caps on national party spending or any restrictions on trade union funding.' Chris Huhne for the Liberal Democrats condemned the proposals:

"This is a feeble set of flaccid proposals that will do nothing to stop the arms race between the parties, or clean up party funding by capping big
contributions."


It would be hard to refute such an accusation, it has to be said.

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