The last time the three parties sat down in an “adult” fashion to discuss party funding – and how to reform it – the talks broke down in an acrimonious fashion. The Hayden Phillips review ran into the sand in late 2007 (although he believes he was inches away from an agreement).
Tomorrow (Thursday) the can of worms will be reopened by the the Committee on Standards in Public Life, which is interviewing witnesses including Sir Hayden, Jack Straw, Francis Maude and David Heath. The sessions start at 9.30am at Church House in Dean’s Yard.
Reform of party funding is in the coalition agreement (page 21).
Maude, minister for the Cabinet Office, is keen to end the passive way in which millions of pounds are delivered from the unions to Labour via their political funds. In particular the Tories are unhappy – and have been for years – with the fact that members have to “opt out” of the funds rather than “opt in”. That, they argue, is unfair given that many union members are Tory supporters.
The coalition is not prepared to risk acting unilaterally, however. It knows that hitting Labour’s coffers without a wider package of reforms to party funding would leave it open to charges of being partisan. Instead the Tories and Lib Dems will attend the inevitably slow multi-party talks with Labour and others that will follow the committee’s eventual report. Read more
What went wrong with the polls? From the first debate right up until the election, the polls suggested a surge in support for the Lib Dems, taking them up to and often beyond Labour. The talk was of the Lib Dems replacing Labour as the main party of opposition.
In the end, things turned out very differently. The Lib Dems polled 24%, slightly above the last election, but ended up losing seats, and Labour won a much more robust 30% of votes. In their final polls, every single pollster overestimated Lib Dem support and underestimated that for Labour. Angus Reid got it particularly wrong, predicting Labour would poll 24% and the Lib Dems 29%.
Not since 1992 have the polls been so uniformly off so close to an election. After that election, it was judged that “shy Tories”, who voted Tory but didn’t tell pollsters they were going to because it was unfashionable, skewed the figures and made it look like Labour was going to do much better than it did. Read more
Sometimes there is a gap between what politicians say and what they do:
Last month the Cabinet Office said: Read more
When it comes to the inquiry into Britain’s complicity with torture, nothing is ever quite what it seems.
Why, for instance, did David Cameron make the announcement yesterday?
Here’s the spin. Cameron decided to tackle the “stain on Britain’s reputation” and finally draw a line under a costly and debilitating process, in which the government spends years fighting half a dozen cases through the courts.
The truth? The timing, at least, was probably more to do with this ruling from Mr Justice Silber. It is well worth a read.
Silber gives the government until July 9 to publish the highly contentious 2002 and 2004 guidance given to intelligence officers on interrogations.
Funnily enough, that deadline ends on Friday. A remarkable coincidence. Read more
Picture editors always struggle to illustrate stories about Whitehall.
The Times did a decent job this morning with this shot of some bureaucratic types strolling past a Whitehall street-sign. The caption says “thousands of civil servants” may be losing their jobs. Read more
More than 500 MPs voted last night on the finance bill at 2.30am. Some onlookers blamed the lengthy proceedings on the verbosity of Kevan Jones, a former Labour minister who spoke for nearly an hour.
Tory MP David Morris intervened at one point to ask whether MPs had kept debating all night in order to claim free lodgings (presumably he was joking): Read more