Labour 'scrap plans to block wealthy donors' spending in marginal seats'

by Stephen Tall on February 7, 2009

From today’s Guardian:

Ministers have abandoned plans to block wealthy Tory donors such as Lord Ashcroft from spending huge sums of money in marginal seats between general elections. … The amendment scraps a planned “trigger” which would have meant that would have meant that, the moment a candidate was adopted, their campaign spending would have been subject to restrictions.

The Guardian understands ministers have been warned that the rules would be very difficult to police. In its place, the government has set a date – 55 months after the new parliament first sits – when new restrictions, set at £25,000 per candidate, per constituency, will apply for the remainder of the parliament (up to six months later).

If a general election is held less than 55 months after the last one – as it is often is – the £25,000 limit will kick in only once the election is called. The figure is more than double the present limit of £12,000, which applies from the moment a general election is called, normally around one month before polling day.

If it goes through as the government proposes, the measure will only come in to force if Gordon Brown decides not to call an election until the last moment, June next year, when it would start on New Year’s Day.

Why the change of heart? Has Labour’s Jack Straw really discovered that the law would be unworkable in practice (and since when did that stop this government from legislating)? Or has Labour realised it might hurt some if its seats which benefit from trade union largesse?

One thing’s for sure: democratic politics won’t thrive for as long as money skews the electoral market-place. It’s in interests of the Labour/Tory establishment to further entrench the current skewed system. It’s not in the interests of citizens.