More scandals unless Westminster reforms, watchdog warns

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PARTY FUNDING is in “urgent need” of reform and Parliament must tackle the issue “or else the scandals will just keep coming”, a new report published today has warned.

An analysis from the Electoral Reform Society argued the “long line of party funding crises” showed the issue was “too pressing” to be kicked into the long grass.

The report entitled: “Deal or No Deal: How to put an end to party funding scandals” concluded a “clean-up” of party finance was necessary to “restore public confidence” in the Westminster political system.

The study included polling suggesting that three-quarters of the public believed “big donors have too much influence on political parties”, while almost two thirds thought party donors could effectively buy knighthoods and other honours.

The Electoral Reform Society’s deputy chief executive, Darren Hughes, claimed the public were “sick to death” of party funding scandals, and recent revelations had “simply added more fuel to the fire”.

He said: “Whatever the outcome in May, the next government has to get to grips with the way parties are funded. The litany of suspect deals and shady funding practices revealed over the past few years shows that unless serious action is taken, the next scandal will be just around the corner.”

The report also found 61 per cent felt the current system was “corrupt” and needed to be changed.

It said: “This is not a blame game - all the major parties have been tainted by party funding scandals. An open, clean and fair model of financing political parties is long overdue. We need it if we are going to improve transparency and restore integrity to the political system.”

The report contained recommendations for reforms, including capping donations to halt the “big-donor” culture as well as introducing an increased element of public funding for parties and also capping campaign spending.