Sir Jeremy Beecham, Chair of Labour’s NEC, admitted quietly on Friday that donations to Labour had "disappeared" since the cash for peerages scandal was uncovered. He said he was considering requesting the Phillips inquiry to ask for more government money to cover Tony Blair’s security at all Party events.
The Telegraph’s front page features a starker story today:
Labour may not pay September’s wage bill for its 230 employees
- Labour MPs will be asked to cough up £1000 out of their salary
- Unions such as Unison were being leaned onto provide more money
- The Party’s accounts are described as "woefully insolvent" by a senior accountant
- Lord Levy’s fund-raising department is being disbanded, making several of its key employees redundant
- Voluntary redundancies are being sought amongst staff at its northern office in Newcastle
Labour deny the first three points, but it would be politically significant if Labour really is courting the Trade Unions for more money. Like government grants, their funding would not come without strings so we would expect more of a "true Labour" manifesto at the next election rather than a New Labour one.
Considering that the number of Labour Party members has more than halved whilst they have been in power, and the number of its Councillors dramatically reduced at local elections, its ability to put up a decent fight at the next election has got to be seriously questioned.
Conservative Associations were recently urged to raise annual membership subscriptions to at least £25 by January, although this would just bring them closer to the current membership rates of the other parties. Pointing out that the Conservative and LibDem accounts were hardly ship-shape, the Telegraph’s leader warned of renewed calls for full state-funding of political parties:
"This is an idea that must be shouted down at once:
rather than imposing an ethic of good housekeeping on the parties, it
would merely encourage them to waste more of our money instead of their
own. A better and far more popular approach would
be for the leaders to agree that the whole edifice of British party
politics must be scaled down for the general good."
Political parties do of course have a vested interest in funding themselves the easy way, but Conservatives should resist this. It would not only be staying true to our principles, but – assuming we can keep the faith of our own activists – it would stop a dying Labour Party being bailed out by the taxpayers.