Leading article: Put the Lords to the vote

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The Independent Online

It is that bear-hug again. David Cameron is to meet Tony Blair on Tuesday to talk about the funding of political parties. But while the Conservative leader did an delicate dance in his support for the Prime Minister on the Education Bill, this time the pair look like weary boxers clinging to each other for support.

Mr Blair is the more bruised by the revelation of the secret pre-election loans and their link to peerage nominations, but Mr Cameron had to catch up when Labour published its list of secret lenders. The Tories had borrowed more, and some of their loans came from abroad, dodging the ban on foreign donations. But Mr Cameron has now done what he needed to; he is not responsible for what the party did before he became leader. All he can do now is disclose outstanding loans and promise future transparency. In payingback £5m to lenders who do not want to be named, he has discharged his moral debt.

On Tuesday, therefore, the issue can move on to the next two questions. One is the sudden apparent consensus in favour of greater state-funding for parties. The other is the next stage of the reform of the House of Lords. On the first it is most important that nothing should be done. On the second it is equally important that something - almost anything - be done as quickly as possible.

The case for more taxpayers' money to go to political parties has simply not been made. The parties already receive a lot of public money to support their MPs, and it would be no bad thing if the two main parties were forced to fight a general election on less than the £18m they spent last time. Mr Cameron's plan to cap donations is aimed at trade unions, which are already required to ballot their members on political donations.

Three years ago the Commons came within three votes of backing a second chamber that was four-fifths elected, one-fifth appointed. With members elected in party colours, there would be no need for party-political appointments. Now that the Prime Minister has supposedly changed his mind, let us get to it.

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