Clegg urged to shame rivals to stop taking ‘dirty money’

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A SENIOR Liberal Democrat has urged Nick Clegg to shame Labour and the Conservatives into reforming party funding.

Lib Dem peer Lord Oakeshott yesterday called on the Deputy Prime Minister and party leader to stop the next election being bought with “dirty money” like previous polls.

Lord Oakeshott said Mr Clegg should not give the Tories a 
veto on the issue, claiming there is a House of Commons majority 
in favour of reforming party funding.

The peer spoke in the wake of the appointment to the Lords of major political donors to all three big parties, among them JCB chairman Sir Anthony Bamford, whose family and firm have given £2.5m to the Conservatives in recent years, and Scottish businessman Sir William Haughey, who has donated £1.3m to Labour.

Lord Oakeshott told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme yesterday he wanted to see a £5,000 cap on political donations and tougher rules around election campaign spending.

“I am now saying: Nick – you are in charge, show some leadership, don’t bottle out. You, Nick, are in charge of party funding and frankly we do not need agreement from all three parties to do it.

“There’s a long history of this, we’ve been quite close to agreement, and the Conservatives 
have vetoed it. The reason is the Conservatives have the big money.

“Labour at last are facing up to it, Ed MIliband is actually being brave taking on the unions.

“There is a majority in this House of Commons, I’m sure, for party funding reform but we cannot afford to give the Conservatives a veto on it, as indeed with the House of Lords reforms.

“Nick Clegg has been very firm in the past and the recent past on it so now, Nick, this is your chance.”

A source close to Mr Clegg, the MP for Sheffield Hallam, said: “Lord Oakeshott is quite right to say that the whole way political parties are funded needs top-to-bottom reform.

“Nobody has tried harder than Liberal Democrats in Government to make this happen but, as so often before, the vested interests in both the Labour and Conservative parties have scuppered reform.

“A cross-party deal has always proved impossible because Labour would not give up their union funding; and the Tories would not give up big donations.

“If Labour and the Conservatives are serious about reform, we would be the first round the table because we remain convinced that all parties, including our own, need to change the way that they are paid for in order to restore public faith in politics.”

David Cameron has recruited a key member of Barack Obama’s campaign team to advise the Conservatives on their battle for the 2015 general election.

Jim Messina will advise the Tories on strategic communications, including use of social media like Facebook and Twitter, but will have no input into policy.