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James_duddridgeBob Spink, erstwhile Tory and MP for Castle Point, rather upset some of his former Conservative colleagues yesterday during a debate on the Political Parties and Elections Bill, including James Duddridge (right).

MPs were debating raising the threshold for public donations to parties from £200 to £500.

Mr Spink intervened:

"An amount of £200 is not seen as an insignificant sum, and £500 is a considerable sum. Why is he pushing the matter so far? Why is a 250 per cent. increase proposed, which can only reduce transparency for local people? People in Castle Point want to know who is funding the Castle Point Tories and Castle Point Labour party. Those people may be developers or businesses; they may have a vested interest in what goes on in local government and in this place.

I was making a point about the Minister’s attitude towards the Conservative amendments. I would be more sanguine about the amendments if I did not know the Conservative party’s track record in driving a coach and horses through election law and the public test of what is acceptable—for instance, by taking money from people who do not pay tax in this country to fund marginal constituencies by £20,000, £30,000 or £40,000 a year before the election is even declared. I do not want to give the Conservative party any loophole through which it can jump; nor do the public and nor do those in the media, who are watching us carefully in the House."

Rochford & Southend East MP James Duddridge put the boot in:

"For example, I was considering making a £50 donation, having met Rebecca Harris, the Conservative candidate in Castle Point. That would have been below the £200 threshold. I am actually incredibly proud of wanting to make that donation, and I think that I shall increase it to £201, so that it can go on the record, as part of the attempt to bring greater democracy and accountability to Parliament, rather than having to wait until the threshold goes up to £500 to make the same point. That would also be an awful lot more expensive for my pocket. So Castle Point Conservatives can expect a £201 donation from me as a result of this debate.

Mrs. Eleanor Laing (Epping Forest) (Con): We all want to make a donation.

James Duddridge: This seems to be quite popular. Perhaps I will arrange a whip-round after the debate."

There are good arguments on both sides in regard to raising the threshold for donations being made public. But it’s a bit rich for Bob Spink to pour cold water over a party which he was a member of until recently.

What is clear is that any donation to the outstanding Rebecca Harris’s campaign would be money well spent. She is a constant reminder that some people really are motivated to become MPs by a desire to serve the public and, although she’d be the last person to agree, she is fearsomely bright.

Tom Greeves

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