Ahead of a major Parliamentary showdown on the Trade Union Bill, the Electoral Reform Society has released new polling showing that 77% of the public believe big donors have too much influence on political parties. The findings come ahead of a motion in the House of Lords on Wednesday to make the Trade Union Bill – which is expected to result in a £6m per year cut to Labour’s income – form part of a cross-party deal on party funding reform, rather than just affecting Labour.
The Electoral Reform Society is calling on Peers to back the motion to set up a cross-party committee on the Trade Union Bill, so that it can form part of a new settlement on party finances across the board. The motion is backed by Liberal Democrat and Labour Peers and is likely to be backed by a large number of cross-benchers.
The polling released today also shows that 72% of the public agree or strongly agree that the system of party funding is ‘corrupt and should be changed’ – up from 61%when the same question was asked in 2014.
57% also believe that a ‘state-funded political system would be fairer than the one we currently have’ – up from 41% in 2014.
The ERS and others are concerned that the Trade Union Bill is currently one-sided in its approach to reforming Labour’s funding, undermining the convention that party funding matters be dealt with in a multi-party manner.
Katie Ghose, Chief Executive of the Electoral Reform Society, said “These findings show that the public are deeply concerned with Britain’s broken party funding model. Party finances in the UK are in dire need of reform, following years of scandals and voters’ rising disgust about the role of money in our politics.
“There is growing appetite for reforming the way parties are funded, and you can see this among people from across the political spectrum. Measures in the Trade Union Bill to ensure union members have to ‘opt in’ to pay into political funds could form part of a fresh settlement.
“However, by targeting Labour and not tackling the issue in the round, the Government is risking decades of parties indulging in tit-for-tat raids on each other’s sources of funds. We need all parties to get around the table and deal with this once and for all. There is no other way of finding a sustainable solution and avoiding accusations of constitutional gerrymandering.
“Now is the time for all parties to get to grips with the mess that is Britain’s party funding system. The fact is that Labour is seen by the public to be at the behest of barons, and the Tories at the behest of bankers. All parties need to tackle the big donor culture which makes party funding an arms race rather than an open democratic process.
“We therefore urge Peers to get behind Wednesday’s motion to set up a cross-party committee on the party funding elements of the Trade Union Bill.”