Ann Black published her report of last week’s NEC over the weekend. The account shows how wide the NEC consensus was against the Hayden-Phillips proposals and how members were alarmed at the apparent double dealing from No. 10.
Party Funding: Facts and Rumours
Mike Griffiths and Hazel Blears summarised the story so far. In the wake of the loans affair, Sir Hayden Phillips was charged with reviewing party funding. A working group chaired by Jack Straw oversaw the drafting of Labour’s submission, agreed by the NEC and by conference. On 16 November Hayden Phillips published an interim report posing specific questions, including whether there should be a limit on donations. The Labour party responded in line with conference policy. On 4 December Hayden Phillips issued more detailed proposals.
Some were regarded as acceptable, including increased transparency, better enforcement, national and local spending limits, and state funding for purposes such as training candidates and improving feedback from Partnership in Power.
Others were alarming. All donations, from individuals and from organisations, would be capped. Trade unions would no longer operate a collective system of affiliated membership through their political funds. Instead affiliation would become “individualised”: the party would have to write to over 3 million union members, every year, explaining how their contribution had been spent and reminding them that they could choose to stop paying.
As Hayden Phillips said, in a masterpiece of understatement, “the proposals will be especially demanding for the trade unions. They will need to introduce new systems and new accounting arrangements”. And for the party, the average affiliation payment of £3 a year would be entirely consumed by paperwork. A Thatcherite dream come true.