Election fever failed to bolster party funds

Donations to the major political parties fell last quarter – despite activists being on alert for a snap general election.

Figures from July to September reveal all major parties collectively received £9.5 million in donations.

But both Labour and the Conservatives saw donation levels fall, despite rumours of an autumn poll beginning as far back as July.

The Labour party received £4,733,536. In one of the first tests of Gordon Brown’s appeal to party activists, this was below the £5,033,344 donated between April and June.

Donations to the Conservatives totalled £3,659,477, also down from the £16,312,050 received in the previous quarter.

The Liberal Democrats attracted just £780,505, appearing to confirm suggestions an autumn general election would have been disastrous for the third party’s finances.

The total amount received by political parties in 2007 is so far £37.2 million, just over £6 million of which came from public funds.

Today’s figures were revealed by the Electoral Commission.

The democratic watchdog criticised parties’ cooperation with reporting rules, with £306,411 of donations reported late.

Peter Wardle, chief executive of the Electoral Commission, said: “The requirement for parties to report donations and loans to the Commission is fundamental in ensuring transparency in our democracy. It puts information about how parties are funded in the hands of the voting public.

“However, we are disappointed that some major parties continue to report donations and loans late, which means that we do not have a complete picture of party funding each quarter. This cannot be acceptable.”

Mr Wardle criticised current party funding law, which does not empower the commission to impose “reasonable and proportionate penalties” against parties that report donations and loans late.

He added: “We are continuing to call on the government and parliament to legislate for more flexible and effective penalties in the current parliamentary session.”

Politicians have currently reached an impasse over attempts to reform party funding laws. The Tories want to limit the amount the unions can give Labour, while Labour MPs want to cap donations from wealthy individuals such as Lord Ashcroft.