UNISONActive is an unofficial blog produced by UNISON activists for UNISON activists. Bringing news, briefings and events from a progressive left perspective.

Wednesday, 31 August 2011

Party Funding Review - Beware the Tory Scam

The Committee for Standards in Public Life was due to report the findings of its review into party finance in 'early spring', but is now delaying its recommendations until October soonest. Michael Meacher MP responds to media spin ahead of tomorrow's meeting of the Committee which is hinting that it will accept a Tory proposal to cap party political donations (the legal definition of which includes affiliation fees):

Meacher states that this is 'patently a device designed to hurt Labour disproportionately by putting a low limit on donations from the major unions. Research shows that whilst under the present uncapped arrangements the Tories have had a 3:2 funding advantage over Labour, a £50,000 would stretch this almost to a 4:1 advantage, greater even than the 3:1 advantage they would secure from a £10,000 cap.

That explains why the Tories carefully picked on £50,000, just as maximum differential advantage also explains why the Tories are now pushing through the reduction in the number of constituencies from 650 to 600, as opposed to a cut of either 25 or 100. This is political expediency dressed up as somehow a fairer system. But there’s a lot more to these proposals than meets the eye.'

'The most obvious question is whether trade union funding is regarded as a large number of individual donations or one single large donation. Since these affiliation fees have been individually collected by the unions either through the employer check-off system or via direct debits, there are strong grounds for seeing them as individual donations. Even if the Standards Committee took the other view, there would still be nothing to stop the unions acting as agents to pass through these individual payments from the point of collection directly to the Labour Party if they so wished. That would be plan B if the present system were disallowed by administrative diktat.'

Much will depend on whether the Con Dem Government breaks from the past bipartisan approach which has governed reviews of political legislation (which has led to past deadlock in previous inquiries, most recently in the 2007 Hayden Phillips review following the cash for honours scandal).

For UNISONActive background articles on the party funding review read: