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Steve Richards: Fundraising is humiliating but needed

Here we go again. We have had cash for honours. Now we have cash for influence. We have had that before too, or at least cash for access, which is more or less the same thing.

Each time a leader is caught in the act fresh light is shed. The story is familiar and yet every new eruption is unique. In the case of Cameron, his appetite to raise as much cash as possible tells us something about his approach to the next election.

He and George Osborne could have decided to seek broader electoral appeal by instigating a deal on party funding with the other parties that was so fair there could not even be a suspicion of a stitch-up.

Instead they fell into the old trap, taking risks as they sought to bring in millions for their party.

The risk for Cameron, as it was for his predecessors, was being found out. It raises the question as to why leaders with astute enough antennae to become prime ministers lose some of their judgement when raising money. Cameron has huffed and puffed about being different and there he is having dinner in No 10 with friends who happen to be big donors.

The Labour leadership is enjoying the poorly received Budget and the funding explosion that feeds the narrative about Tories and privilege. But they must know that their link with the unions is as damaging. Big donors to the Tory party might be offered the chance to influence policy and perhaps they do. The unions have more formal influence over Labour, in choosing candidates for winnable seats, and in determining leadership contests. A look at the current Parliamentary Labour Party, not the greatest pool of talent, shows that such influence has consequences.

But Labour needs the money, and the Tories need money too.