David Milliband, in attempting to justify his rather large donations, is trying to pose as the best candidate to beat the Ashcroft millions. This is the wrong line, and doesn’t resonate well with any attempt of his to construct himself as a reformist candidate. Money is too powerful a tool already in politics, and it is wrong for Labour (including D. Milliband) to have spent a whole election campaigning against Ashcroft’s millions to then witness their very own internal election being so profoundly shaped by money.
Whilst Abbott’s criticisms of Milliband may look like sour grapes, given that she has only recorded £1,700, she raises some important questions:
“He’s already had a mail-out – no one else can afford to have a mail-out … So he’s got the money to have people to do the phone rounds, he’s got the money to do the mail-outs, he’s got the money to get those leaflets through, and he’s got the money to roll around even in between the official hustings and make all these unofficial visits. There’s no doubt that money is making a huge difference in the election.”
But there is something fundamentally wrong with political funding in general. Labour themselves have a monopoly over trade union funding. When the LibDems tabelled a vote for political funding, both the Tories and Labour showed as much enthusiasm as turkeys do for Christmas. The fact is, for real reform to take place, both have to give ground. Unions should be given the choice of where their money goes to, and if we are honest, the majority of the time the unions would choose Labour anyway.
Milliband’s line of:
“David makes no apology for being able to raise money which is what the Labour Party needs to be able to do in order to take on the Tories and fight Ashcroft’s millions”
…is outdated and reminiscent of the Blair era. Nostalgia seems to have bitten Labour, as the popularity of Milliband is rather ignorant to how like Blair, Milliband is. Also, it is not even as though Milliband has received lots of smaller donations from across the Labour supporting spectrum – it is simply a few major donations (and his own money) that is peddling the campaign. This is not representative of a ‘new politics’ that Labour should be championing.
However, as already stated, in order for the party to reform political funding, they themselves have to recognise the trade union funding needs to be reformed. There are lots of complexities that would be involved in reforming political funding, something I have commented on in the past (when I was in the LibDems, admittedly):
“At the moment, trade unions count as one individual and so if the donation cap came in then they would fall under this; personally, I see no problem with this only if certain conditions were also in place. For one, I think that as trade unions are collective organisations, companies that proprietors such as Ashcroft own should fall under rules that stop multi company owners directing funds through several companies. Possible solutions would be to only allow Ashcroft (for example) to input donations from one of his companies. Another possible way around this is for those proprietors who own several companies to only be allowed to donate individually. And thus, they would be unable to abuse the donation caps by funneling money through loopholes within the system.”
Political funding reform, is as important as voting reform if we are to make politics fairer and more representative.