Following Sir Hayden Phillips' announcement this evening that the cross-party talks on party funding which he has been chairing have been suspended, the Director of Unlock Democracy Peter Facey said:
"If the parties cannot now reach agreement, there will be terrible long term consequences for the reputation and state of British politics.
"We should be clear: the collapse of these talks will not mean an end to increases in public funding of political parties. Since Sir Hayden began work on this project, MPs voted themselves an additional £10,000 annual Communications Allowance. What they will mean is that grassroots politics will continue to decline and national politics will continue to be dominated by relatively few 'sugar daddies'.
"On trade union donations, it is hard to see what the Conservatives object to in Sir Hayden's draft proposals - the rules clearly state that donations from trade unions will only be exempt from the cap if they can be clearly linked to an individual and subject to an audit trail. The Conservative objection appears to rest on the idea that trade unionists should be capped more heavily than rich businessmen, which is manifestly not equitable.
"While we do not agree with all the proposals, and in particular are disappointed by the lack of increased spending limits, we recognise Sir Hayden's draft proposals as a sincere attempt to build cross-party agreement on a difficult issue. We call on the government to publish these proposals as a Bill and give Parliament a free vote on the matter.
"By pulling out of these talks following the collapse of the police investigation into the alleged abuse of the honours system earlier this year, the message of the major parties to the public is clear: it is business as usual. This can only lead to greater cynicism and alienation from the political system. So much for Cameron's and Brown's competing claims to embody 'new politics'. It is time for Parliament to try and get them out of this mess."
Unlock Democracy is the joint campaign of Charter 88 and the New Politics Network promoting democratic renewal and active engagement in the political process. For more information on their work on party funding, see here.More Articles by Unlock Democracy ...