Ed Miliband delivers a speech at the Policy Network Conference held in the Science Museum on July 3, 2014. Photograph: Getty Images.
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How Labour outraised the Tories in 2013

New accounts show the party received more money from a growing membership. 

The parties' annual accounts for 2013 have been published by the Electoral Commission and they contain what to most will be a surprise: Labour outraised the Conservatives by nearly £8m last year. The opposition received £33.4m (spending £27.9m), while the Tories received £25.4m (spending £23.5m). With the Conservatives frequently thought to be rolling in it due to such wheezes as flogging off tennis matches with David Cameron and Boris Johnson to Russian oligarchs, and Labour often described as "on the brink of bankruptcy", the numbers don't fit the narrative. 

So how to explain them? Much of the difference is accounted for by the £6.9m Labour received in "short money", the state funding made available to assist opposition parties with their costs (and named after Edward Short, the Labour politician who first proposed the system). But even if we exclude this revenue source, Labour still raised £1.1m more than the Tories (who themselves received £659,000 from the state).

Of this total, the largest chunk (£8m) came from party affiliates, most notably the trade unions, but Labour also received £5.1m from individual donors (including £1.6m from businessman John Mills), £3.1m from commercial income, £0.6m from fundraising and £5.7m from party members, the number of which increased from 187,537 in 2012 to 189,531. If small donations are included (the Electoral Commission does not record donations below £7,500), the sum raised from members stands at more than £8m, making them the largest source of funding. 

The Conservatives again failed to publish a membership figure, but the number released last year by the party under media pressure put constituency membership at just 134,000. The central party's income from membership (most pay subs to their local association) rose slightly from £747,000 to £749,000. 

After running a dangerously high deficit of £411,000 last year, the Lib Dems moved into the black, achieving a small surplus of £0.2m. The party's membership also increased from 42,501 to 43,451, although this is still well down on the 2010 level of 65,038. 

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.

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Why Angela Merkel's comments about the UK and US shouldn't be given too much weight

The Chancellor's comments are aimed at a domestic and European audience, and she won't be abandoning Anglo-German relationships just yet.

Angela Merkel’s latest remarks do not seem well-judged but should not be given undue significance. Speaking as part of a rally in Munich for her sister party, the CSU, the German Chancellor claimed “we Europeans must really take our own fate into our hands”.

The comments should be read in the context of September's German elections and Merkel’s determination to restrain the fortune of her main political rival, Martin Schulz – obviously a strong Europhile and a committed Trump critic. Sigmar Gabriel - previously seen as a candidate to lead the left-wing SPD - has for some time been pressing for Germany and Europe to have “enough self-confidence” to stand up to Trump. He called for a “self-confident position, not just on behalf of us Germans but all Europeans”. Merkel is in part responding to this pressure.

Her words were well received by her audience. The beer hall crowd erupted into sustained applause. But taking an implicit pop at Donald Trump is hardly likely to be a divisive tactic at such a gathering. Criticising the UK post-Brexit and the US under Trump is the sort of virtue signalling guaranteed to ensure a good clap.

It’s not clear that the comments represent that much of a new departure, as she herself has since claimed. She said something similar earlier this year. In January, after the publication of Donald Trump’s interview with The Times and Bild, she said that “we Europeans have our fate in our own hands”.

At one level what Merkel said is something of a truism: in two year’s time Britain will no longer be directly deciding the fate of the EU. In future no British Prime Minister will attend the European Council, and British MEPs will leave the Parliament at the next round of European elections in 2019. Yet Merkel’s words “we Europeans”, conflate Europe and the EU, something she has previously rejected. Back in July last year, at a joint press conference with Theresa May, she said: “the UK after all remains part of Europe, if not of the Union”.

At the same press conference, Merkel also confirmed that the EU and the UK would need to continue to work together. At that time she even used the first person plural to include Britain, saying “we have certain missions also to fulfil with the rest of the world” – there the ‘we’ meant Britain and the EU, now the 'we' excludes Britain.

Her comments surely also mark a frustration born of difficulties at the G7 summit over climate change, but Britain and Germany agreed at the meeting in Sicily on the Paris Accord. More broadly, the next few months will be crucial for determining the future relationship between Britain and the EU. There will be many difficult negotiations ahead.

Merkel is widely expected to remain the German Chancellor after this autumn’s election. As the single most powerful individual in the EU27, she is the most crucial person in determining future relations between the UK and the EU. Indeed, to some extent, it was her intransigence during Cameron’s ‘renegotiation’ which precipitated Brexit itself. She also needs to watch with care growing irritation across the EU at the (perceived) extent of German influence and control over the institutions and direction of the European project. Recent reports in the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung which suggested a Merkel plan for Jens Weidmann of the Bundesbank to succeed Mario Draghi at the ECB have not gone down well across southern Europe. For those critics, the hands controlling the fate of Europe are Merkel’s.

Brexit remains a crucial challenge for the EU. How the issue is handled will shape the future of the Union. Many across Europe’s capitals are worried that Brussels risks driving Britain further away than Brexit will require; they are worried lest the Channel becomes metaphorically wider and Britain turns its back on the continent. On the UK side, Theresa May has accepted the EU, and particularly Merkel’s, insistence, that there can be no cherry picking, and therefore she has committed to leaving the single market as well as the EU. May has offered a “deep and special” partnership and a comprehensive free trading arrangement. Merkel should welcome Britain’s clarity. She must work with new French President Emmanuel Macron and others to lead the EU towards a new relationship with Britain – a close partnership which protects free trade, security and the other forms of cooperation which benefit all Europeans.

Henry Newman is the director of Open Europe. He tweets @henrynewman.

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