The Committee for Standards in Public Life (CSPL), a quango set up in 1994, on 22 November published its long-delayed recommendations for change in political party funding.
It demands that unions require members to opt in to the political levy (as between 1927 and 1945) rather than giving them the chance to opt out. And it would ban union donations to Labour (or any party) bigger than £10,000 in addition to affiliation fees.
The recommendations are dangerous. It looks unlikely that they will be implemented fast. Lib-Dem leader Nick Clegg has said: “It would not be right to ask our hard-pressed taxpayers to pay more to political parties at a time when they are having to deal with so many cuts and savings elsewhere”.
Since the CSPL plans including a limit of £10,000 on all donations, the CSPL's “compensatory” proposal for £3 per vote to be paid by the state to all political parties (or £1.50 per vote in European, Welsh, and Scottish polls), is essential to the package, and Clegg's comment would seem to kibosh the whole plan.
The Tory rep on the CSPL has written a minority report objecting to the £10,000 limit, and the Labour rep one objecting to changes on union money.
However, the CSPL report could lay down a marker for implementation when a government feels more secure than today.
Labour and the unions should clearly reject the report and defend the right for working-class organisations collectively to fund political representation.