Trade Unions and politics


           The Unions have been much in the news this week. There has been debate in the Commons about the government’s proposal that there should be some independent check on the accuracy of their membership lists used when balloting members on industrial action and other matters. There has been discussion of Mr Miliband’s  attempts to negotiate a new settlement with the Unions for the Labour  party.

           I welcome Mr Miliband’s proposal that Trade Union members should have to opt in to the Labour party political levy if they wish to do so. It will give everyone a clearer view of the true level of individual member support for Labour. It is a pity members cannot choose to opt into membership of other parties if they prefer, if the movement stays with a political levy at all. It should be up to the members to decide this matter.

            If a large number of people currently paying the political levy to Labour no longer opt to do so, the Unions will be richer and the Labour  party poorer as a result. The one advantage of the old system of the levy was it gave Labour money direct without the Union leadership deciding on the gift. Under the new system Mr Miliband will have to negotiate with or at least talk to the Union leaderships about sending him larger lump sums from the Unions themselves.

            I would be interested in your views on whether  you prefer the new system to the old, and what you think should happen about large grants from Unions to Labour. In the interests of fairness it is also important to discuss the receipt of money from rich individuals and companies, something which all 3 main parties enjoy.  Money these days mainly comes from entrepreneurial companies where the owner/Director is in effect giving his own money. Large quoted companies tend to be international, avoid making UK political donations, and understand if they wished to they would need wider shareholder support.

               I strongly favour private money from volunteers rather than state money from taxpayers to fund political parties. Clearly there have to be rules, and each party has to ensure it cannot be said to have traded policy for money. If a rich person gives money because they like a policy you have adopted and generally agree with your stance, that is fine. If a rich person says I will give the party money if it changes its policy in a way which clearly benefits the donor that is wrong and probably illegal.



  1. lifelogic
    September 13, 2013

    Clearly we do not want state funding as that will make politicians even less responsive to voters and subverts what little is left of democracy. We also do not want people to buy laws and regulations that profit them at the expense of other tax payers.

    We already have some state funding and indeed subsidies for Unions who get paid by the state while on union business – this should all go. We also clearly have many laws, subsidies etc. that could surely only be due to “lobbying” and influence by interested parties. “Renewables” as they are incorrectly called being a prime example. Why are 4000% APR payday loan companies not restricted rather more one wonders too.

    We need honest MPs with some understanding of science, engineering and real economics not dim, dishonest, career seeking taxis for hire with arts degrees and a chip on their shoulders, as is alas so very common.

    1. lifelogic
      September 13, 2013

      A sensible BBC would help to set the tone rather than the lefty, fake green, arty, pro EU, over paid loons currently running it.

      1. Edward2
        September 13, 2013

        Another excellent post LL.

      2. Richard1
        September 13, 2013

        The solution to the BBC is very simple – replace the license fee with a subscription and establish it like a proper company with an accountable board of directors and CEO.

        1. Iain Gill
          September 13, 2013

          apparently one in ten court cases at the moment are licence fee prosecutions.

          get rid of licence fees and you drop court cases by a tenth.

          sounds like another compelling reason to split up and sell off the bbc and get rid of the licence fee.

        2. lifelogic
          September 13, 2013

          But what will happen to all those overpaid, lefty, arty, fake green, right on, enforced equality is all Guardian reading types the BBC seem to employ exclusively?

          1. Richard1
            September 14, 2013

            True, they will still be there. But if people are paying voluntarily I think public tolerance with them would be much lower, and they would face more pressure to change.

        3. Bazman
          September 13, 2013

          Another SKY in effect. What will anyone watch who does not superscribe? ITV and channel 4 or Germanic levels of TV quality mixed in with FOX News?

          1. Edward2
            September 14, 2013

            Perhaps you are in a minority Baz, because I and many millions of others enjoy watching the many non BBC channels available via Freeview

          2. Richard1
            September 14, 2013

            All the hundreds of other programmes. In a few years time it will be possible for all manner of TV programmes to be distributed via the internet. We don’t need a poll tax funded state broadcaster.

          3. Bazman
            September 14, 2013

            Where the BBC is going is a good point, but where is the film music and news industry going as technology advances? Copyright may also become irrelevant, buy part of the BBC’s agenda is to educate and not be Fox News. Many on this site need some education. Starting with CBeebies in some cases.

      3. EddyH
        September 13, 2013

        Hear Hear LL

    2. Hope
      September 13, 2013

      The lack of standards at Westminster is appalling. This is especially so when the Nolan standards are imposed on the rest of the public sector. We had the Cameron promise to clean up politics, we had the undertaking that the dinners for donors at N0.10 would be investigated. Given Cameron was present why has it taken so long? Cameron ought to know whether the taxpayer has paid for the utility bills and food for those present at his Tory donor dinners.

      I have a novel idea, how about introducing proper standards and rules for MPs truly governed by an independent body which only has members of the public on the panel, not former MPs, cronies or associates of MPs like IPSA. No family member should be employed by MPs they could be centrally appointed and paid like other public sector bodies.

      The lack of standards is not a single party issue, it concerns all parties. Te Labour propaganda is just one of many issues that have not been resolved since the expense scandal. Look at the appalling Lords appointments and the unnecessary large number, again a Cameron promise to cut the cost of politics. Cameron is useless, totally useless.

      Reply I think there are strong rules ensuring any party political function remains unsubsidised by taxpayers.

      1. Hope
        September 13, 2013

        JR, The result of the Tory inquiry of dinners for donors please. Lords who were sent to jail not dismissed or prevented from claiming again. Where else could this happen? Allowing (someone censured for his expenses ed) in cabinet, what message does this send to the public and what does it do for public confidence in parliament, politics or in the two party leaders who claimed they were going to stamp it out? Clegg was going to shut the gates of Westminster until the problem was resolved. He opened the gates and let allowed him to rejoin cabinet!

    3. Denis Cooper
      September 13, 2013

      “We already have some state funding”

      I was appalled that a TV news programme ignorantly included Short money in a pie chart breaking down the sources of funds for the Labour party.

      It has always been perfectly clear that Short money is intended to assist MPs in the performance of their parliamentary duties and should not be used for party political purposes.

      As Geoff Hoon, Theresa May, Frank Field, Lembit Opik and others all agreed during this Commons debate about the Sinn Fein MPs in February 2006:

      Hoon: “Crucially, certain activities will specifically not attract financial assistance. Those include political campaigning and fundraising, membership campaigns, advertising, personal or private business and constituency business.”

      May: “Short money is not available to Members who have not sworn the oath because it is designed to offer assistance with parliamentary duties, specifically to assist an Opposition party in carrying out its parliamentary business”.

      Field: “Short money is specifically paid to support functions carried out in the Chamber by members of parties when representing major policies.”

      Opik: “This is a key point, because we need clarity. We understand that Short money relates to activities conducted within the House.”

      Reply: Indeed, but the definition of Parliamentary purposes for an Opposition spokesman planning an attack on the government in the Commons (qualifying for Short money) and planning an attack in a political speech needs careful watching.

    4. Bazman
      September 13, 2013

      Still happy with massive subsidies for nuclear? Lets leave that as you cannot see that nuclear is subsidised or lobbied for. Privately owned and run is it? As for payday loan companies have a think why they are so successful and who uses them if you can. Well paid members of society choosing their flexible way of borrowing or bedroom tariff payers in low paid zero hour contracts. Hmmm! How intriguing..
      Unions who get paid by the state while on union business? Sorry to spoil your fantasies again, but would this also apply to the British Bankers’ Association who most of their members would in fact be out of a job had they not received billion in taxpayers money and still do propping up their industry after their incompetence and in some cases criminality. Makes the union reps claiming and sometimes fiddling his petrol and food expenses whilst looking out for the rights and pay of cleaners look like what it is.
      Are you able to understand that?

      1. Edward2
        September 14, 2013

        Yes I can understand that Baz, but it comes under the heading of…”two wrongs don’t make a right”..
        This post concerns the money Unions transfer from their members subscriptions and give to a particular political party.
        You may have points to make about what may appear to you as other unfairnesses but is it really relevant?

        1. Bazman
          September 14, 2013

          The two wrong do do make a right argument does not apply when talking about multi millionaires funding a political party for their own ends and thousands of cleaners trying to feed their children and keep a roof over their heads giving a few pence to a political party via a union to improve their lot. What many in fact hate is organised labour trying to improve conditions as a group. Who is going to take one cleaner seriously? Since the unions have lost a lot of their power the wages for the average person have plummeted and the top few have become even more fantastically rich by a large factor. This is not relevant? Part of the Tory parties secret agenda on leaving Europe is to end such things as paid holidays and other employment benefits.

          Reply I can assure many of us Conservatives are in politics because we want the many to benefit from rising living standards and better conditions at work. We are not against the rise of the workers, and had the party been so positioned it would have perished as a serious political force a long time ago.

          1. Edward2
            September 15, 2013

            So Baz, you believe your poor cleaner should be forced to give part of their subscription to the Labour party whether they want to or not.
            I don’t think giving the poor cleaner a choice in the matter is a very right wing thing.
            But then I recall how the left strongly opposed secret ballots for their poor members before strike action was taken.

          2. Bazman
            September 15, 2013

            The cleaner with intelligence will decide whether or not to opt out, but lets think why he is a cleaner? Have a think of why there are Tories in council houses and get back to us.

      2. libertarian
        September 14, 2013


        As I asked you on another thread please show us the evidence and breakdown of the funding of the 8 nuclear sites in the UK Versus the public funding of Green/renewables.

        If you aren’t able to do that I suggest in your own words you ram your argument

  2. Brain Taylor
    September 13, 2013

    Keep things as they are,if the party’s are worried about supporters,why allow not voters to become online supporters in some way at no cost,as a way to keep in touch directly with there own voters.
    But keep it simple.
    And any messages even via Twitter,in fact all MPs should try this locally!!!?

  3. Andyvan
    September 13, 2013

    State funding would be an absolute disaster. It totally removes the need for political party to even pretend to represent the views of it’s members and raises the bar for any new more representative party to develop. Democracy is already a sham and state funding would reduce it to a joke.

    1. Narrow shoulders
      September 13, 2013

      Have to disagree with you tbere.

      If all parties get the same amount from public coffers (a reasonable but small amount) it surely becomes more about the doorstep than the poster and the campaign. Especially if private donations are no longer allowed.

      Small state subsidies would make politicing a voluntary not a paying vocation.

      1. Denis Cooper
        September 14, 2013

        Basically you’re proposing to nationalise political parties, turning them from being voluntary associations of (supposedly) like-minded private citizens into state institutions. Have you no idea of the dangers that are inherent in that?

  4. Mike Stallard
    September 13, 2013

    Nowadays everyone who works must join a union. Otherwise they are at the mercy of the management.

    This extends to professionals too. Even in Independent Schools and especially in Academies, the management has a lot of power which can easily be abused. Doctors desperately need their medical associations. Architects have to look to their insurance through the RIBA. Bureaucrats need protection too: I met one very unhappy bunny last evening. Politicians, even, need the protection of their party.

    That is a million miles from their joining Ed Miliband and the Union Barons though, don’t you think?

    1. roger
      September 13, 2013

      Why do you say that employees should join a union. Millions quite happily don’t.
      I know many SMEs that are not unionised, have very happy work forces and a very low rate of staff turn over. A lot of people understand the immense damage that unions do, and have done, to this country and their members wellbeing.


    2. Bazman
      September 13, 2013

      Middle class unions are OK but unions for cleaners are not?

  5. margaret brandreth-j
    September 13, 2013

    Paying to ‘clubs’ automatically due to an age old affiliation is wrong. If individuals need support from work issues in any way , it should not matter what the politics are, the only thing that should be important is the fairness of working conditions for each and all equally. It seems hypocritical to pay to the unions in name ,then to have a free vote for one of the other parties ( not that any vote should be taken for granted in anything,)
    Richer persons donating to parties we will never be able to stop , the parties would not exist without them and why should we disallow anyone from donating. We know that favours are tacitly bought ( of course that being vigorously denied), but unfortunately that is the way of the world , money talks. I would like some more of the stuff myself to tell a few micro despots where to go.

  6. Richard1
    September 13, 2013

    Miliband’s tactic here presumably is to reach a situation where state funding of parties becomes inevitable – that’s why he proposes a very low limit of £5,000 per donation. I don’t see why union members should have to opt in or opt out. What business is it of unions to ask their members to disclose how they vote? If union members wish to support political parties, let them do so privately like anyone else. If unions as organizations want to support the Labour party then fine, but let’s have the same cap for them as for any other donors – £50,000 eg

  7. alan jutson
    September 13, 2013

    No one should have to opt out of a political levy because it should not exist in the first place.

    And yes I have been a Union member, and indeed a Shop Steward many decades ago when in the Engineering Industry.

    Political thoughts are and shopuld be completely personal.

    A Unions job is to try and get the best working conditions and wages for their members, and that means negotiation with the employer.

    The fairest way is to limit donations by sum, and by individuals only, that way Political Parties would be only supported by individuals.

    What should be the maximum sum, probably not too large, say £2,000 maximum per annum which has to show the National Insurance number of the individual concerned, to prove they are individuals not corporations or any other form of organisation.

    Political Parties would then need support from a large number of people just to exist.
    It may also help new Parties to evolve because finance would not be such a huge requirement.

    1. Narrow shoulders
      September 13, 2013

      Surely the fairest way is to give all parties the same amount to spend and see what they do with it.

      No additional income allowed just what is allocated. Then ideas may win not presentation

      Reply How do you decide who is a party? How do new parties get formed and supported?

  8. Douglas Carter
    September 13, 2013

    To be fair to Labour, this Union link – albeit heavily modified in recent years – is representative that the Party in being is an electoral device borne of the Union movement itself.

    I’m more suspicious that the funding row which has echoed throughout the summer (long after it’s natural expiry date in attention-span terms for the press) seems to be kept going by both party leaderships. I can see a three-party stitch-up which roughly says …’reluctantly… we have to proceed to full taxpayer funding….’…

    In my opinion, at this stage in the funding debate\row, taxpayer funding should be ruled out in specific terms, or if not, and remains on the table, is presented to the electorate as a referendum matter. I don’t feel compelled – under comparisons frequently made – to permit taxpayer funding ‘because they do in other countries’. ‘Other countries’ will usually have quite a different political culture and relationship between electorate and state.

    Neither does the excuse from others I hear on the basis of the current system leading to abuses and even criminal activity. The rules are fairly clear and if they are broken, it’s difficult to do so inadvertently. The …’we wuz forced to Guv’… defence won’t wash.

    I believe more that there should be a concerted and sincere effort by all parties to identify the stay-at-home vote. The concomitant divergence of the political tribe from the electorate from whom they derive legitimacy and authority I suspect would highlight one of the main reasons the parties themselves are suffering a crisis in that funding.

    Neither Labour nor Conservatives nor LibDems have an entitlement to exist. Taxpayer funding would further demotivate parties to seek legitimate mandate from the voter and continue the divorce from electoral authority. Voters should be under no obligation to fund policy and political process they may genuinely believe does not represent them satisfactorily.

  9. Stewart Knight
    September 13, 2013

    State funding of parties i obviously not a good road to travel, and let’s not forget there is now state funding of individuals.

    As to the unions, there should be no opt out but an opt in, and I agree with your idea of an opt in to any party, but the problem is that that would just mean the union barons will have more power, and cash, to influence policy which is not good. Until the link to state funding of UNIONS is broken, I see no point in quibbling over relatively piffling amounts of state funding to political parties.

    No state funding of politics OR unions, and they can both survive on donations, or fall without them.

    The problem is that state funding is an industry with vested interests, corrupted by Labour from 1995, and needs dismantling. So it is state funding that needs looking into in its entirety, including the use of consultants etc. not just the state funding of politics and unions, otherwise this is a navel gazing exercise in futility.

  10. frank salmon
    September 13, 2013

    Labour gave the unions £18 million over their tenure for ‘training’ and such. The unions gave them £10 million back in ‘donations’. Where is the justice in this?

    1. Bob
      September 13, 2013

      @frank salmon
      “Labour gave the unions £18 million over their tenure for ‘training’ and such. The unions gave them £10 million back in ‘donations’. “

      A text book case of (a money go round ed).

    2. Narrow shoulders
      September 13, 2013

      Tories give tax cuts donor give procedes where is the justice?

      Fixed income provided by the state with no donations alleviates your scenario and mine. It also does away with much of the honours system

      Reply There is nothing wrong with donors giving money to a party that supports tax cuts. it would only be wrong if the party did not support tax cuts and then changed policy following a donation as part of the deal for that donation.

  11. Anonymous
    September 13, 2013

    Most members of trade unions pay their subscriptions for:

    – expert representation during disciplinary hearings
    – better wages and conditions
    – health and safety

    They do not think politically. If a person wants to contribute to a political party then they should join that party or pay donations to them directly.

    Having to opt in is a good idea but I don’t see why that should be an option either.

    1. Anonymous
      September 13, 2013

      “Having to opt in is a good idea but I don’t see why that should be an option either.”

      A good idea in that it is better than the present arrangement.

  12. JM
    September 13, 2013



    Otherwise, I don’t care where political parties get their money from. I think that any person or organisation should be free to give what they want to a political party. They important thing is that the money is clearly declared; so it is possible to see who is giving what to whom. If the donor is receiving a benefit, that will be apparent from the decision taken by the party concerned. The key is complete and total transparency.

    1. Narrow shoulders
      September 13, 2013

      You are extremely naive to think you are not already paying for the funding of political parties indirectly.

      Tax funded funding limits your exposure and make the work for you..

  13. oldtimer
    September 13, 2013

    There should be no additional funding of political parties beyond that which is already permitted, such as the grant to opposition parties. Otherwise the existing party structure will become entrenched, making it next to impossible for new political movements to emerge.

    Maybe I have misread Mr Miliband`s intentions about TU members having to opt in rather than opt out of the political levy. I assumed this was part of a power struggle between the Labour party and TU leaders whereby opting in would shift power from the TU leaders to the Labour leadership, or at least give that impression. Have I got this wrong?

    Political parties should depend on their ability to persuade people to support them. That should apply as much to TU members as to anyone else; opting in should be the rule.

  14. Bert Young
    September 13, 2013

    It is wrong for individual members to be told by their Union that they must pay part of their salary to a political party . In my early twenties I was approached by a senior member of staff to pay a subscription to a Union who made a contribution to the Labour Party , I refused . Since then I have never made a subscription to any Party , although , from time to time , I have participated in some fund raising events . I agree that public companies should not make contributions , I also think that such companies should not attract Board members with advertised Party leanings ( eg Standard Life ) . All contributions should be left to the whim of the individual and should be restricted to an agreed amount per annum .

    Reply Surely Board members have hidden party affiliations is worse than having well known one?

    1. Leslie Singleton
      September 13, 2013

      Bert–I do not see as much symmetry as you and some others apparently do. I’ll worry about companies when they start to insist on shareholders (via a charge on dividends maybe?) contributing to a party or parties. I see no reason why a company should nor donate in its own name and likewise (here would be the symmetry) I haven’t the first idea why a trade union should not simply do the same. The claptrap about opting in and out (especially in anything resembling a closed shop) is really hard to understand. For once I think Miliband has the right of it from any angle you care to name. Let’s face it present members of the Labour Party who have in practice even if not in theory been forced to pay are not exactly likely to feel terribly dedicated to say the least. And I am in the camp that doesn’t follow why Parties need anything like so much money in the first place.

  15. sm
    September 13, 2013

    I recall reading that Unions get an annual grant from Government, and this grant more or less matches what the Unions donate to the Labour Party (in a surprise move!).

    Which means that the taxpayer is funding a Political Party already.

    1. Bob
      September 13, 2013

      “the taxpayer is funding a Political Party already”

      And the TV License is funding a continuous and massive party political broadcast.

  16. Brian Tomkinson
    September 13, 2013

    Why do political parties want so much money? For what is it used? If you can’t raise as much as you would like -tough. We do not want taxpayers to pay for political parties – not even UKIP!

  17. Dan H.
    September 13, 2013

    Unions only really exist as a sort of employment equivalent of a hard hat; if you as a worker think that your management may act in an arbitrary and unpleasantly unfair way towards you, then joining a union so that you can use their legal and negotiation skills is a good idea. This was why I joined the UCU many years ago; I had a useless (word removed ed)manager whom I did not trust at all, and wanted some legal muscle on my side.

    The way to reduce the power of unions is by reducing the need for them. If you have a mandated means by which employees can negotiate with employers and obtain legal help in such matters relatively cheaply, then you remove the need that unions were filling. This seems to have happened in most private businesses; union membership in private business employees is low, simply because it isn’t needed. Union membership is high in public service roles, which is not a good thing, not least because this argues that public employers are arbitrary, irrational and that their employees feel a need for blunt negotiating power that legal rights do not give them.

    Perhaps we ought to privatise much more of what Government does?

    1. uanime5
      September 13, 2013

      The private sector doesn’t have a unionised workforce because many companies refuse to hire anyone who belongs to a union. The last thing a company wants is their low paid staff demanding a fair wage.

      1. Edward2
        September 14, 2013

        A ridiculous post Uni which is not born out by the huge numbers of union members in companies in the non State sector.
        Not long ago you were moaning that State employees were poorly paid.

      2. libertarian
        September 14, 2013


        Drivel, from start to finish.

      3. libertarian
        September 14, 2013


        65% of employees in the private sector work for companies with less than 10 employees. Unionisation and collective bargaining isn’t likely to be very necessary, thats why so few people now choose to belong to a union.

  18. English Pensioner
    September 13, 2013

    One thing that I am strongly opposed to is the idea of giving state (ie taxpayers’) money to political parties. Any such scheme that one might think will always tend to favour the big parties and any new, or up and coming, parties would be at a severe disadvantage. That is of course why the big parties are in favour of the idea!

    1. Bob
      September 13, 2013

      Well spotted EP!

    2. lifeligic
      September 13, 2013

      Indeed and it is why it will probably happen eventually alas.

    3. Credible
      September 13, 2013

      But taxpayers money is going to underwrite a housing boom and bust.
      Taxpayers money is going to rail company directors.
      Taxpayers money is going into landlords pockets.
      Taxpayers money is going to private health companies.
      Taxpayers money is going to energy companies.
      Taxpayers money was used to save private banks.
      Taxpayers money is used to subsidise water companies.

      On the flip side, our local school is underfunded.

  19. peter davies
    September 13, 2013

    I was a Unite member some years ago until I found out that part of the monthly subscription was for the Labour party and extremely well buried in their literature to which I quickly terminated my membership so I agree that the move to opt in is a positive step by Mr Milliband.

    I don’t forget though during the Later part of the Labour years the taxpayer used to contribute to a ‘union modernisation fund’ which went to the unions and much of that money went to the Labour Party which I would argue is state funding by the back door and was quietly dropped before the last election I believe.

    What we have now on balance is probably the best of solution as long as the contributors are not buying govt policy – though the big policies appear to be driven from the EU anyway – HS2, Royal Mail, Equal Marriage etc.

  20. Max Dunbar
    September 13, 2013

    Who cares whether the Unions continue with the political levy or donate large lump sums to Labour. Labour is the Unions and the Unions are Labour. The vast majority of Union members never attend a meeting or even bother to read the Union newsletters that are sent to them, so they can hardly complain if their union is not truly representative of them. The door is wide open to political extremists of the far left, (etc ed).
    The Unions support the (word left out ed) immigration policies of Labour which is certainly not in the interests of their members. However, to be fair to members, many of them are afraid to challenge the orthodoxies and power of the (left wing ed) leadership and simply bury their heads in the sand. They know what the consequences of such activity will be.
    The (left wing? ed) dominate the Unions, the Unions run Labour, Labour introduces legislation against dissension and deviation from doctrine; we end up living in a police state.

  21. Alan Wheatley
    September 13, 2013

    Donations to political parties should be restricted to individuals on the Electoral Register at the time of their donation. Gifts in any one year should be capped, say to £10,000.

    The notation that very large donations do not have an influence is a joke! While they are not “conditional” they do facilitate access to key party people who can have their ears bent over dinner.

    If the restrictions above result in insufficient funds for the practical running of a political party then, being the least worst option, I would allow CONDITIONAL state funding on a matching basis, which means the money a party receives from the State is proportional to the money it receives from electors.

    Some state support could be provided “in kind” rather than cash. For instance television air time; the BBC has more air time than it knows what to do with and some could be given over to Parties for their OWN programs (i.e. the Party has editorial control). Of course, the cynical among us might ask who would bother to watch, but if parties make programmes electors don’t watch that is their own silly fault.

    Reply Senior politicians are being lobbied the whole time, meeting many people each day. This is part of healthy democracy. What would be unacceptable is for a large donor over dinner to say Do this or else no money, and the party then changes its policy simply to get the money.

    1. Alan Wheatley
      September 16, 2013

      I agree with the reply, but my point is somewhat different.

      As to lobbying, it is, presumably, within the gift of the senior politician whether or not to meet with a lobbyist, and in what circumstances and for how long.

      On the other hand, a sufficiently large donation buys membership to a select donor group which is entitle to certainly benefits, such as dinner with senior politicians – or have I misunderstood what is on the web site. Dinner (and the like) is an opportunity for persuasion, not threats.

      I do not know what is said on such occasions, but I have noted that one of the people on the Conservatives large donor list is (when I checked this out a couple of years ago) a champion of gay rights, and given that the gay marriage bill seemed to come out of the blue one can not help but wonder as to their being a link.

      It seems all parties offer special privileges to large donors, so this is not just about the Conservatives.

      Reply Mr Cameron was keen on gay rights before this dinner. You should not wish to stop people and UK companies giving to parties, and cannot stop party leaders talking to donors. What we need to stop is a blatant abuse where someone offers a large donation on condition of a change of policy which is then arranged. The larger the donor the more scrutiny there is and should be over what happens.

  22. A.Sedgwick
    September 13, 2013

    If Miliband carries through this change to voluntary rather enforced membership it will have an electoral benefit. Blair shied away from this break and undermined the political honesty of the New Labour concept, not difficult I agree. Most current contributors will probably choose not to remain donors, mirroring the decline in the current main political party memberships.

    Perhaps some Labour Party heavies are realising that TU can only be militant with the public sector and ultimately that is an own political goal and financially unsustainable. Fred Kite has gone and TU within industry have become an integral part of management understanding the reality that manufacturing jobs can be exported.

    There does not appear to be any desire by the taxpayer to fund political parties, quite the reverse. Donations should be capped at a level which removes any hint of favour. It is up to the political parties to attract members and donations and cut their election expenses accordingly e.g. gurus of various activities should not be necessary, tell it as it is as Lynton Crosby appears to have been contracted to do.

    Martin Callanan and Nigel Farage had a friendly exchange on the Daily Politics for some reason yesterday, possibly because there are 243 days to the European Elections. UKIP’s General Election impact and Miliband’s electoral prospects led me to the BBC 2010 seat calculator, which is revealing:

    Labour 30% 324 seats
    Cons. 30% 226 seats
    LD 20% 71 seats
    Others 20% 29 seats

    Labour 30% 332 seats
    Cons. 30% 237 seats
    LD 15% 52 seats
    Others 25% 29 seats

    Ed and Nick look a shoe in for another fixed five year term (thanks Dave) and UKIP will be lucky to win a couple of seats. The chances of a 2017 referendum are virtually nil. For the Conservatives it is back to the 2010 dilemma, pledge an immediate EU referendum(2015) and kill UKIP or disintegration. My reading says Miliband has the better hand than Cameron, TU problems or not.

  23. Neil Craig
    September 13, 2013

    I don’t like public funding of parties but then I don’t like rich donors doing it but then I don’t like zero funding either which doesn’t provide a satisfactory option.

    I like the idea of unions having to allow donations to anybody but I think it is a non-starter.

    Off the top of my head right now how about people being able to choose which party they want to donate to and 0.01p of their income tax be given to it (I think that would total about £30 million/year). Those who don’t would have a 1/20,000 chance of getting 10,000 times their money back – small enough to be administrable (this 50% return is twice what the lottery gives) and not enough to disincentivise any but the most unconcerned. This would also be useful if the parties started selecting candidates through primaries since supporters would be identified.

  24. uanime5
    September 13, 2013

    Perhaps political parties should only be able to receive funding from their members. That would make them more responsive to the wishes of their members.

    1. Credible
      September 14, 2013

      Good idea.

    2. libertarian
      September 14, 2013

      For once I totally agree. Political parties should be funded by member subscription alone

  25. Denis Cooper
    September 13, 2013

    It’s a little-known fact outside Northern Ireland that the unions there already operate an “opt-in” system.

    The reason being that in 1927 the Conservative government had “opt-out” changed to “opt-in” for the whole of the UK, but then in 1946 the Labour government had it changed back to “opt-out”, but for some reason not for Northern Ireland.

    Those fascinating details are gleaned from this article:

    which has other interesting historical information, right back to 1909 when one Walter Osborne took the railway union to court over its decision to introduce a political levy and donate most of the funds to the Labour Party.

  26. Atlas
    September 13, 2013

    As a small shareholder I don’t remember being asked as to whether the companies in question could make a political donation. I, like others here, think that company directors should not be able to vote to use shareholders money in that way without explicit consent.

    Likewise for Trades Unions.

    Reply Directors of a company can only make a donation if a majority of shareholders wish, as they could always face an AGM motion. Large quoted companies with a public shareholder register do not give money to parties because they do not know the politics of their shareholders. Donations usually come from entrepreneur owned companies, or from rich business people within larger companies who give their own money.

  27. Bryan
    September 13, 2013

    I think Union members should have the option to pay a political levy or not. I also think they should be able to nominate which party they are donating to. If a member decides not to donate then their Union fee should be reduced by the appropriate amount. I do not agree that the Union should get richer as a result.

    Is it still the case that Unions get a ‘reorganization/training/whatever’ grant from the public purse amounting to many millions?

    If so then this should be stopped immediately!

  28. Kenneth
    September 13, 2013

    I think that where trade unions or their members send their money is none our business nor that of the governments. Same for companies and individuals.

    The best way of avoiding buying votes in Parliament is to:

    1. Have a free and plural media so that proper scrutiny can take place
    2. Give constituents the right of recall

  29. Lindsay McDougall
    September 13, 2013

    I think that this must be a matter between Trade Unions and their members. As long as taxpayers are not forced to fund political parties, I am happy.

  30. forthurst
    September 13, 2013

    “I would be interested in your views on whether you prefer the new system to the old”

    This is the only choice we get from politicians: do you want more Blair or more heir to Blair, do you want more (migration ed), or because its “Globalisation, son and there’s nothing that you or I can do to stop it”, do you want more EU or would you prefer a renegotiation by someone who is wholeheartedly in favour of staying in on any terms, do you want another ME war (etc ed), do you want non-selective education or non-selective education except for etonians etc

    The increasing unpopularity of and apathy toward the main political parties is masked by very large donations from trade union barons and people who are not mad swivel-eyed loons. If only 100,000 people are members of the conservative party, why on Earth is it in government at all? The political parties need to operate on far lower maximum contributions than of now based on a fixed annual membership fee. Parties without genuine support in the country need to be cut right down to size, they have failed us in the past and there is no evidence that they have any intention of bringing in genuinely popular policies now.

    In the age of the internet, communication is far cheaper. What a party believes is now a click away thus reducing the need for full time officials and expensive office facilities. The main political parties are very much the equivalent of the MSM which is being replaced by the far more cheaply run websites containing sometimes sincere informed opinions, not the vapourings on any topic under the Sun of Oxbridge Eng Lit grads (etc ed). If websites can do it so can Parties. Parties need to be genuinely popular movements for which people are prepared to give their time gratis.

  31. Handbags
    September 13, 2013

    How about this – for every vote cast in your favour you receive a few quid.

    The more popular you are – the more money you receive.

    Wouldn’t that be good for democracy?

    And if the same measure was used for MP’s salaries – i.e. no standard wage instead remuneration linked to the number of votes received – wouldn’t that be good for democracy too?

    On the wider issue of party funding – there should be no direct payments to any political party – zero, nil.

    All payments should go through an independent body who can then check and assess the legality of the donation. Once checked money can then be passed on to the appropriate party according to the donor’s wishes.

    And of course, all accounts published for public scrutiny.

  32. Bazman
    September 13, 2013

    Milliband is living in a middle class dream world if he believes this and playing into Tory hands. Minimum wage legislation was going to cause Armageddon according to some Tory MP’s and health and safety legislation is fought against by big building companies making donations to the Tories who are also funded by the City. A few pennies from a cleaner looking to a political party to improve his lot is not a bad thing. They are the people who need union support in their low paid no rights jobs who are open to exploitation and bullying from employers. Who but the unions are looking out for them? Not Milliband and the rest of the public school boys in power. The idea that they are sufficiently educated or politically aware to decide to opt into a donation for a political party to improve their lot is straight out of a middle class fantasy. Do they think they took cleaner as a career opportunity and a lifestyle choice. In fact they do and this is where the problem lies. Maybe they also ‘choose’ to be uneducated, smoke and drink and watch mindless TV. In fact lets get rid of the NHS and put instead of 1% into prevention of bad health, but 70% as this is about what lifestyle choices is as cause of disease. The sick can pay for their own treatment as they caused it or take out insurance. Not so keen on that one are we right whingers? Ram it.

    1. Edward2
      September 14, 2013

      Wow what a rant Baz.
      Its also a decent idea to ask your poor cleaner if they want some of the money they pay their union to actually be given to a political party or not.

      1. Bazman
        September 14, 2013

        Like that one? They are and can opt out if they so wish. Not many do. Trying to make this out as some sort of political exploitation of cleaners is disingenuous and laughable from peole who hate organised labour because it makes companies pay a share of the profits to the workforce.

        1. Edward2
          September 15, 2013

          Not many do because its an opt out and the procedure to opt out is not easy nor well publicised.
          It should be an opt in.
          And there should be a shareholders vote before PLC’s can donate any money to political parties too.

    2. libertarian
      September 14, 2013


      Have you ever been to England? I only ask as you don’t seem to know that we have a minimum legal wage in this country ( its due to go up on Oct 1st) We also have full employment rights, working time directives, guaranteed holiday pay, sick pay, maternity leave and paternity leave. The right to ask for training, the right to health and safety . The right to protection from harassment, discrimination or bullying. The right to enrolment in a pension plan.Disability rights, the right to time off for childcare, the right of collective bargaining and the right to join a trade unionEtc etc etc

    3. libertarian
      September 15, 2013

      Dear bazman

      If you knew anything about the world of work at all, if you had even a modicum of awareness and stopped trolling for socialism you would know that the minimum wage HAS caused Armageddon. It caused it for the people who are paid it, they are trapped by it. You see because the employers of unskilled unqualified workers now have a common and uncompetetive base line to pay against. Its distorted the market. Its set below a living wage in some parts of the country and above it in others. It isn’t employers it hurt, it was the workers, as always with the left.

      I don’t know a single building company that has campaigned against health and safety legislation perhaps you’d care to provide some evidence.

      Not sure what all your waffle about cleaners is about. Where I live and work the average hourly rate for cleaners is between £9-£12 per hour .

      1. Bazman
        September 16, 2013

        The British person is supposed to compete on wages with East Europeans who will work for anything and live 5 to a room/car? Explain how and explain how you can be ‘trapped’ on minimum wage? It is of no benefit to anyone other than the employer to have less than six quid an hour as a minimum wage. The poor should be free to under cut each other is what you are saying. They would just stay on benefits and quite rightly too. You work for pennies if you want. 100’s die every year in the building and metal trades with the industry constantly fighting against and the government reducing inspections every year. £12n hour for a cleaner? Who the boss?
        More RWC. Ram it.

        1. Edward2
          September 16, 2013

          Just a point of accuracy on Health and Safety Baz and your claim that hundreds are dying every yea in the building and metal trades alone..
          “The provisional figure for the number of workers fatally injured in 2012/13 is 148, and corresponds to a rate of fatal injury of 0.5 deaths per 100 000 workers.” (Quote from HSE website).
          I would also say that every death in the workplace is one too many but it isn’t as bad as you make out..
          Also, I don’t know of any particular industry “constantly fighting…against inspections every year”

          1. Bazman
            September 16, 2013

            How many workers is this 0.5 deaths per 100 000 workers? You quote from HSE website but do not quote the number of deaths. Weasel words on the deaths of British workers here is the site you quote.
            Its 148 deaths just 52 from hundreds and hundreds if you include members of the public in accidents connected to work. Work in safe job do we where pencil sharpening or coffee is the main hazard and choosing to pretend everyone else does the same? Real Tory stuff. Could use another word and it would be true.

  33. Tony
    September 14, 2013

    Why do political parties need funding? Any funding required for admin etc should come from party members only. Why do we have elected MPs funded by a third party such as unions, associations and the Co-op? How can an MP work for the benefit of his/her electorate when they are under constraints to favour a particular pay lord? As a private individual I have access to my local MP and if I’m feeling particularly concerned about any issue I can take my concern to him/her. No other member of the public should have greater access to policy making than me. All lobbying of parliament should cease forthwith it is as close to fraud as you can possibly get. Oh and whilst I’m on my soapbox when are heads going to roll at the BBC as a result of this overpayment fiasco?

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