ConservativeHome has long believed that political parties should not be dependent upon the state or a few big donors for their income.  We support David Cameron’s belief in something like a £50,000 cap on donations.  We’d like to see the Conservative Party fund itself from lots of small donations – ideally backed up with some sort of tax relief.  The Canadian Conservatives have been forced to pursue a retail fundraising strategy and it has helped to make them a party that is much more in tune with real voters’ concerns.  Ideally, the money being pumped into the Conservative Party by Lord Ashcroft would be part of a strategy to diversify the party’s funding base.

Putting all of this on one side for the moment, however, it’s clear that Michael Ashcroft‘s generosity is an essential weapon for Conservative candidates in marginal seats who face very well-funded incumbents.

Robert Halfon, our candidate in Harlow, makes the point very well in a letter he sent to The Guardian:

"Dear Sir

Complaints about Lord Ashcroft funding of marginal seats is really just a Labour red herring.

As a Prospective Parliamentary Candidate fighting to overturn a Labour majority of just 97, I am faced with a huge inbuilt disadvantage.

Not only does the MP have £18,000 of taxpayer funds annually to ‘communicate’ with the electorate (not forgetting the £10,000 bonus recently added), he also has £7,000 postal expenses and a fully staffed office also paid for by the taxpayer. My MP regularly writes unsolicited letters to members of the public. Indeed, he has the third highest postage bill in the country.

So, with a £28,000 annual communications allowance, a huge postage allowance and Trade Union funds, Labour MPs have an automatic head start over any challenger. Support from Lord Ashcroft and others to Conservative Parliamentary Candidates merely levels the playing field.

Yours sincerely

Robert Halfon
Harlow Conservative Prospective MP"

The Guardian have not (yet) published the letter.

PS Today’s World at One discusses Lord Ashcroft’s target seats funding.  Click here and listen from 23 minutes in.

50 comments for: ‘Lord Ashcroft merely levels the playing field’

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