Cameron's fury at plan to curb rich backers

 

David Cameron has intervened directly in an independent inquiry into political funding to demand a more favourable outcome for the Conservatives and a severe clampdown on Labour's trade union donations.

The Independent has learnt that the Committee on Standards in Public Life is to propose a £10,000 cap on donations to parties by individuals and organisations to "take the big money out of politics".

The parties would be compensated by a multimillion-pound increase in state funding. There would be stricter controls over the affiliation fees paid by the unions to Labour but they would not be subject to the cap.

Mr Cameron has made a last-minute appeal to the committee to revise its draft proposals. The Tories, who have more rich donors than other parties, favour a £50,000 cap.

Mr Cameron's move has upset some members of the committee, which is chaired by Sir Christopher Kelly and is due to report next month after a 17-month inquiry. It includes a representative from each of the three main parties and six independent members.

"Cameron has thrown his toys out of the pram," one independent source said. "We had a consensus and were ready to publish, and this has delayed it." Labour and the Tories have long disagreed over whether union money should count towards a cap. But the level of the ceiling could now prevent an agreement being reached between the parties.

Lord (Andrew) Feldman of Elstree, the Tories' co-chairman and a friend of Mr Cameron, has sent a strongly worded letter to Sir Christopher, a copy of which has been obtained by The Independent.

"The Prime Minister has asked me to write to you," Lord Feldman wrote. "The Prime Minister and I were very disappointed to learn that you believe that there should be a donations cap that applies to all Conservative and Liberal Democrat party funding, but that specifically excludes a major source of funding to the Labour Party.

"There is a fundamental principle at stake here –the rules on donations should apply equally to all parties and should apply equally to individuals, companies and trade unions alike."

Lord Feldman added: "The argument for introducing a cap on donations is to deal with the perception, accurate or not, that big-money donors buy influence over political parties in a way in which the public would not approve. The trade unions are the clearest example of a donor having policy influence as a result of their donation ... It would be perverse if a cap were to be introduced which did not address this most obvious issue."

The Tories' co-chairman was "disappointed" to learn that the committee's draft report proposes a £10,000 donations cap, claiming that would be the "wrong level". He argued: "A cap of £10,000 would hugely inhibit the ability of political parties to engage with the electorate."

Opposing more state funding for parties, Lord Feldman said: "It seems to me deeply unlikely that the public will accept handing over significant sums of taxpayers' money to political parties at a time when the Government is having to make tough decisions and cut public spending. There is a significant risk that this approach will further undermine the reputation of politics and politicians – in direct contrast to the aims of the process."

He told Sir Christopher: "I appreciate you are advanced in your deliberations on this matter, but hope you will have time to reconsider before publication."

Although the Kelly inquiry has consulted all the parties, the tone of the Feldman letter has angered some committee members. Labour fears that Nick Clegg will side with Mr Cameron when he draws up the Government's response to the proposals. The Liberal Democrats have also backed a £50,000 cap, while Labour told the inquiry a much lower one of £500 would be "more equitable, democratic and less susceptible to avoidance".

However, a Liberal Democrat source said: "Nick Clegg will not take sides. He will do all he can to find a consensus, using the Kelly report as the basis."

A Labour spokesman said last night: "In government, Labour always sought to pursue party funding reform through consensus and that has been our approach to the Kelly inquiry. It is deeply disappointing if the Conservative Party leadership is now intervening at a late stage with the work of an independent committee to secure narrow political advantage."

Labour claimed the move was part of a "pattern of behaviour" in which the Tories were playing "fast and loose" with the political system, citing the shake-up of constituency boundaries and new rules bringing in individual rather than household voter registration.

Sir Christopher said last month that his committee's report would provide a fresh, independent look at party funding to "deal with this issue before another funding scandal forces change."

Reform Proposals

A £10,000 cap on donations to parties by individuals and organisations.

A range of options for increased taxpayer funding, which could be based on between £1 and £3 for every vote received.

One-off trade union donations subject to the cap, but affiliation fees paid by members treated differently.

Unions would have to make clear members have right to opt out of paying political levy and ensure those doing so pay a lower membership fee; unions could not "over-affiliate" by saying they have more members paying the levy than they do.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
  • Get to the point
2015 General Election
May2015

Poll of Polls

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Account Payable Assistant - SW London

£20000 - £25000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Account Payable Assistant - SW Londo...

Recruitment Genius: Bathroom Showroom Customer Service / Sales Assistant

£14560 - £17680 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Even though their premises have...

Recruitment Genius: Finance Manager

£44000 - £48000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Marketing company based in cent...

Recruitment Genius: IT Installation / Commissioning Engineer - North West

£22000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An IT Installation / Commission...

Day In a Page

Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

How a costume drama became a Sunday night staple
Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers as he pushes Tories on housing

Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers

Labour leader pushes Tories on housing
Aviation history is littered with grand failures - from the the Bristol Brabazon to Concorde - but what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?

Aviation history is littered with grand failures

But what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?
Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of Soviet-style 'iron curtains' right across Europe

Fortress Europe?

Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of 'iron curtains'
Never mind what you're wearing, it's what you're reclining on

Never mind what you're wearing

It's what you're reclining on that matters
General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband

Chuka Umunna: A virus of racism runs through Ukip

The shadow business secretary on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
Yemen crisis: This exotic war will soon become Europe's problem

Yemen's exotic war will soon affect Europe

Terrorism and boatloads of desperate migrants will be the outcome of the Saudi air campaign, says Patrick Cockburn
Marginal Streets project aims to document voters in the run-up to the General Election

Marginal Streets project documents voters

Independent photographers Joseph Fox and Orlando Gili are uploading two portraits of constituents to their website for each day of the campaign
Game of Thrones: Visit the real-life kingdom of Westeros to see where violent history ends and telly tourism begins

The real-life kingdom of Westeros

Is there something a little uncomfortable about Game of Thrones shooting in Northern Ireland?
How to survive a social-media mauling, by the tough women of Twitter

How to survive a Twitter mauling

Mary Beard, Caroline Criado-Perez, Louise Mensch, Bunny La Roche and Courtney Barrasford reveal how to trounce the trolls
Gallipoli centenary: At dawn, the young remember the young who perished in one of the First World War's bloodiest battles

At dawn, the young remember the young

A century ago, soldiers of the Empire – many no more than boys – spilt on to Gallipoli’s beaches. On this 100th Anzac Day, there are personal, poetic tributes to their sacrifice
Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves

Follow the money as never before

Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves, reports Rupert Cornwell
Samuel West interview: The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents

Samuel West interview

The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents
General Election 2015: Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, on what the leaders' appearances tell us about them
Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

The architect of the HeForShe movement and head of UN Women on the world's failure to combat domestic violence