Why the Tories are wrong on Labour’s funding

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CashBy Mark Ferguson / @markfergusonuk

The Tories have once again launched an attack on Labour over donations and the union link in the wake of yesterday’s figures on party donations. Over at Conservative Home Tim Montgomerie suggests that “not one private donation was made to central party funds”. That’s a strong assertion, but it doesn’t really stack up.It’s certainly a very narrow definition of “private donation”.

Amongst attempts to scapegoat Miliband once again as “Red Ed” – after the tag was dropped earlier this year – there’s an inconvenient truth for the Tories.

There is another source of funding for Labour.

The party has gained well over 50,000 new members since the general election. Labour, rather than “abandoning the centre ground” as Tory Deputy Chairman Michael Fallon suggests, is a party people are coming towards in huge numbers. This diversifies the funding base for small donations enormously, and brings in a monthly revenue stream of around £100K. It’s a different story for the Tories. Tim’s own website reported back in October that Tory membership has slumped by 1/3 since Cameron became leader.

Similarly Montgomerie tows the Tory line that Labour is reliant upon the unions, as if we were talking about a small number of “union barons” making decisions from an ivory tower. On the contrary, union donations are comprised of individual donations from millions of working people. There are more than 1.2million members of Unite alone, each paying a voluntary levy to a political fund – working people standing up for each other and themselves.

Trade union donations are the most regulated and transparent of any type of political donation. Millions of hard working people from all areas of the country choose to support the Labour Party through their union membership. We should be grateful to those people, and be proud of their support. It’s not just inaccurate, but offensive to downplay the level and breadth of financial support that Labour has across the country. Just because people are giving small donations, rather than vast sums, doesn’t mean that their support should be ignored.

That’s not to suggest that the party doesn’t receive financial support from a wide range of sources, including larger sums from individual donors. Sources within the party assure me that Miliband is working towards expanding all fundraising activity – and he’s aware of the importance of having a diverse funding base. But he should be proud of the hundreds of thousands of party members and millions of hard-working people who already fund out party.

Our base is already broad – it’s millions of people wide.

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