James Forsyth

The funding muddle

The funding muddle
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The issue of party funding is going to run and run with the parties still nowhere near an agreement on it. In an interview with the Telegraph today, Francis Maude makes an astonishing charge about the opaqueness of trade union funding for Labour:

"It's a racket, there are two unions which declare more members paying the political levy than they have members."

If Maude is right, then this is a huge scandal.

The Tories, however, will never be on firm political ground on party funding while Lord Ashcroft’s tax status remains unclear. Maude tells the Telegraph he has “no idea” whether Ashcroft does pay tax in the UK and that Ashcroft’s tax status is a “matter for him.” But the public clearly has a right to know whether a member of the House of Lords and a deputy chairman of the Conservative party is paying UK tax in full or not.

If the Tories want to be able to go after Labour for its excessive dependence on the unions, then they will have to resolve the Ashcroft question first.

Written byJames Forsyth

James Forsyth is Political Editor of the Spectator. He is also a columnist in The Sun.

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