Short money: Government may reconsider cuts to state funding for opposition parties

Signs of a growing Tory rebellion as MP questions whether planned 19% cuts have a political 'agenda'

The Government may reconsider controversial cuts to state funding for opposition parties, amid signs of a growing Tory rebellion over the plans. 

Cabinet Office minister John Penrose announced  a “formal consultation” on the planned 19 per cent cuts to funding, known as Short money, which supports the activities of UK opposition parties. 

Opponents have criticised the cuts as an attempt to weaken political opponents. Bernard Jenkin, the Conservative chair of the Public Administration and Constitutional Committee, questioned whether there was a political “agenda” behind the plans. 

Labour condemned what they called the Government’s “shabby” approach, following an urgent question in the House of Commons. Concerns were also raised over the Government’s Trade Union Bill, which is likely to limit the amount of funding Labour receives from its union backers. 

The apparent climb-down on Short money came as Nick Clegg accused the Government of seeking to “Americanise” Westminster politics by seeking “rig every rule” to the detriment of political opponents. 

Appearing before a House of Lords committee, the former deputy prime minister said that cuts to Short money were “spiteful and petty” and that the Trade Union Bill represented a break from a longstanding tradition that “issues to do with money and power are dealt with on a cross party basis.”

“It is a very unwelcome development indeed when a new government in effect Americanises Westminster politics,” he said. “In America you have this very unseemly tradition of new incumbents in power busily trying to rig every rule in sight to the detriment of their opponents.

“We’ve generally avoided that in our country, whether it’s party funding, electoral reform, the House of Lords…we have sought to try and move…across party boundaries. I think that is being grievously damaged here,” he added. He said that, when serving in the Coalition government, he had blocked moves that might have affected Labour’s funding.

A Downing Street spokesperson said the Government was still “committed” to reducing state spending on opposition parties, and pointed out that funding was being reduced across many areas of Government spending.  

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