Opinion Former Article

Unlock Democracy deplores Lords' failure to cap party donations

Commenting on the House of Lords' decision to vote down proposals to cap party donations, Deputy Director of Unlock Democracy Alexandra Runswick said:

"A week after Gordon Brown's grandiose call to clean up politics, this amounts to a grubby stitch up between Labour and the Conservatives.

"Speaking on behalf of the Conservative Party, Lord Bates insisted that now is not the right time to introduce a cap on individual donations. Over the last few years we have had the cash for honours scandal, ongoing controversy surrounding Lord Ashcroft's donations, trade unions and other donors explicitly using their financial clout to influence party decisions and of course the MPs' expenses debacle. The public has never been more alienated by party politics and the system is held in utter contempt. If now is not the right time for this reform, when is?

"The Lords' actions today have shown themselves and their parties to be completely out of touch with the public mood. This is a decision that is guaranteed to come back to haunt them.

"The Liberal Democrat, crossbench and rebel peers who supported the amendment on caps deserve credit for continuing to push this issue in the face of such implacable complacency. The political class however has today shown itself to be incapable of reforming itself. We must have an independent Citizens Convention to resolve this issue before yet another major scandal breaks."

The Marshalled List of Amendments can be found here.

The State of the Nation polls, conducted every few years on behalf of the Joseph Rowntree Reform Trust Ltd, consistently show that the public support limiting the amounts that can be donated to political parties. The last such poll in 2006 for example found that 64% of the public agreed that donations should be capped.

A cross-party group of MPs are pushing for the Citizens Convention (Accountability and Ethics) Bill to be debated. For more information, see the Unlock Democracy website.



(1) Unlock Democracy's Project Officer Matthew Oliver has written an article on Conservative Home about Party funding and the Conservative position here. He runs Unlock Democracy's purity of elections campaign, promoting the report entitled Purity of Elections in the UK: Causes for Concern and highlighting the weakness in our political system. Lord Campbell Saviours quoted from the report when introducing his amendment.

(2) Unlock Democracy is the UK's leading campaign for democracy, rights and freedoms. It was formed in 2007 and is the successor organisation to Charter 88 and the New Politics Network.

(3) For more information, contact James Graham on 020 7278 4443 / 07966 237550.

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