Of all the websites used by political journalists, one is the endless source of frustration and angst: that of the Electoral Commission. This is the treasure trove with all the donations and loans made to every political party in Britain over the last decade or so. There are updates every three months on all new financial gifts made to the political world.
I have worked out how to navigate the site to find out who has given donations to which party – but only by calling the EC’s press office and asking for guidance some time ago. A member of the public wanting to find out these statistics faces a gruelling journey through the commission’s online maze.
If you go to the Electoral Commission site you can see what looks like an open and transparent breakdown of the Q2 donation figures, published yesterday. “Latest donations and borrowing figures” is up in highlights at the top of the page. So far so good.
That leads you to a summary of trends, total donation numbers and so on. All very useful. But how do you find out which individuals have given money to a certain party, for example Labour?
First you have to go down the right hand column of the main page until you find a tiny heading: “finance of parties”.
That takes you to a different page full of sprawling red and blue text. Click here on “search the PEF online registers”.
This takes you to a new page, which has a blue box on the top left with half a dozen options. One of these – probably “advanced donations search” – is your Holy Grail.
But it is not plain sailing now that you are on the final page. Here you are presented with a drop box of four options. Instead of clicking the one you want (political parties) you have to delete other three; third parties, regulated donee, permitted participant. Frustrated yet?
There is then a similar process for “entity name”. But this time there are hundreds of parties, including the Pensioners Party, the Pirate Party, the Old Read more