Exclusive: Miliband's donation cap will be £5,000

A Labour source says the party's proposed cap on donations from all sources will be set at the lower level of £5,000, not £10,000.

One notable omission from Ed Miliband's speech yesterday was any indication of what level he believes a donation cap should be set at. Miliband had previously used a figure of £5,000 but yesterday a figure of £10,000 was being widely quoted. However, I'm now told by a source close to the Labour leader that the proposed cap will indeed be £5,000. 

The cap would apply to donations from individuals, businesses and, crucially, trade unions. One criticism made of Miliband's plans by the FT's Jim Pickard (and swiftly picked up by the Tories) is that they would actually hand more power and influence to the union general secretaries. While members will have to opt-in to contribute to Labour, they will still automatically pay the political levy, which funds unions' campaigning activites and large one-off donations to Labour at election time. The charge made by the Tories is that Labour could make up for the short-fall in funding caused by the introduction of an opt-in system (the party expects to lose around £5m of the £8m it currently receives in affiliation fees) by simply receiving more in large donations from union leaders. But this ignores Miliband's pledge that any cap will also affect them. 

Despite this promise, and Labour's decision to abandon its opposition to an opt-in system (a major stumbling block in previous negotiations), a deal on party funding still seems unlikely before the election. The Tories and the Lib Dems are demanding that union members should also be required to opt-in to the political levy, a reform that would require a change in the law and that Miliband has ruled out. In response, of course, he will able to frame the Tories' opposition to a low cap on donations as entirely self-interested. As he writes in today's Daily Mirror, "When we had a problem in one of our constituencies, we acted swiftly and thoroughly. A year ago David Cameron faced the dinners for donors scandal where wealthy Tory backers were given access to Downing Street in return for huge sums. He still has done nothing about this. His party still relies on getting half its money from the bankers and the City. We cannot go on like this."

Ed Miliband with Labour's PPC for Birmingham and Yardley Jess Phillips before his speech at The St Bride Foundation in London yesterday. Photograph: Getty Images.

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.

Photo: Getty
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In focusing on the famous few, we risk doing a disservice to all victims of child sexual abuse

There is a danger that we make it harder, not easier, for victims to come forward in future. 

Back in the 1970s when relations between journalists and police were somewhat different to today a simple ritual would be carried out around the country at various times throughout the week.

Reporters, eager for information for their regional newspaper, would take a trip to the local station and there would be met by a desk sergeant who would helpfully skim through details in the crime Incident Book.

Among the entries about petty thefts, burglaries and road accidents there would occasionally be a reference to an allegation of incest. And at this point the sergeant and journalist might well screw-up their faces, shake their heads and swiftly move on to the next log. The subject was basically taboo, seen as something ‘a bit mucky,’ not what was wanted in a family newspaper.

And that’s really the way things stayed until 1986 when ChildLine was set up by Dame Esther Rantzen in the wake of a BBC programme about child abuse. For the first time children felt able to speak out about being sexually assaulted by the very adults whose role in life was to protect them.

And for the first time the picture became clear about what incest really meant in many cases. It wasn’t simply a low level crime to be swept under the carpet in case it scratched people’s sensitivities. It frequently involved children being abused by members of their close family, repeatedly, over many years.

Slowly but surely as the years rolled on the NSPCC continued to press the message about the prevalence of child sexual abuse, while encouraging victims to come forward. During this time the corrosive effects of this most insidious crime have been painfully detailed by many of those whose lives have been derailed by it. And of course the details of the hundreds of opportunistic sexual assaults committed by Jimmy Savile have been indelibly branded onto the nation’s consciousness.

It’s been a long road - particularly for those who were raped or otherwise abused as children and are now well into their later years - to bring society around to accepting that this is not to be treated as a dark secret that we really don’t want to expose to daylight. Many of those who called our helpline during the early days of the Savile investigation had never told anyone about the traumatic events of their childhoods despite the fact they had reached retirement age.

So, having buried the taboo, we seem to be in danger of giving it the kiss of life with the way some cases of alleged abuse are now being perceived.

It’s quite right that all claims of sexual assault should be investigated, tested and, where there is a case, pursued through the judicial system. No one is above the law, whether a ‘celebrity’ or a lord.

But we seem to have lost a sense of perspective when it comes to these crimes with vast resources being allocated to a handful of cases while many thousands of reported incidents are virtually on hold.

The police should never have to apologise for investigating crimes and following leads. However, if allegations are false or cannot be substantiated they should say so. This would be a strength not a weakness.

It is, of course, difficult that in many of the high-profile cases of recent times the identities of those under investigation have not been officially released by the police but have come to light through other means. Yet we have to deal with the world as it is not as we wish it would be and once names are common knowledge the results of the investigations centring on them should be made public.

When it emerges that someone in the public eye is being investigated for non-recent child abuse it obviously stirs the interest of the media whose appetite can be insatiable. This puts pressure on the police who don’t want to repeat the mistakes of the past by allowing offenders to slip through their hands.  And so there is a danger, as has been seen in recent cases, that officers lack confidence in declaring there is a lack of evidence or the allegations are not true. 

The disproportionate weight of media attention given to say, Sir Edward Heath, as opposed to the Bradford grooming gang sentenced this week, shows there is a danger the pendulum is swinging too far the other way. This threatens the painstaking work invested in ensuring the public and our institutions recognise child abuse as a very real danger. 

Whilst high profile cases have helped the cause there is now a real risk that the all-encompassing focus on them does both victims of abuse and those advocating on their behalf a fundamental disservice.

As the public watches high -profile cases collapsing amidst a media fanfare genuine convictions made across the country week in week out go virtually unannounced. If this trend continues they may start to believe that child sexual abuse isn’t the prolific problem we know it to be.

So, while detectives peer into the mists of time, searching for long lost clues, we have to face the unpalatable possibility that offences being committed today will in turn only be investigated fully in years or decades' time because there is not the manpower to deal with them right now.

So, now the Goddard Inquiry is in full swing, taking evidence about allegations of child sex crimes involving ‘well known people’ as well as institutional abuse, how do we ensure we don’t fail today’s victims?

If they start to think their stories are going to be diminished by the continuing furore over how some senior public figures have been treated by the police they will stay silent. Therefore we have to continue to encourage them to come forward, to give them the confidence of knowing they will be listened to.

If we don’t we will find ourselves back in those incestuous days where people conspired to say and do nothing to prevent child abuse.

Peter Wanless is Chief Executive of the NSPCC.