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  1. Politics
23 August 2010

How Labour should respond to the Tories’ funding attack

The party must remind voters that union donations are made up of thousands of voluntary contribution

By George Eaton

The latest party donation figures are out and it’s taken the Tories no time to go on the offensive over Labour’s reliance on the trade unions.

The figures are striking: just over half of the £10.9m raised by Labour came from the union movement, £1.67m of that total coming from Unite. But, as ever, it’s worth pointing out that all donations are taken from union political funds to which members contribute voluntarily. In the case of Unite, 1,291,408 members choose to do so. Loose talk about “union barons” too often ignores this democratic funding structure.

Labour, £20m in debt according to the aspirant treasurer John Prescott, will be relieved that the funding gap between itself and the Tories has narrowed somewhat since the election. The Tories managed to raise roughly £1.5m more than Labour in the second quarter of this year (without any help, no doubt to your surprise, from Michael Ashcroft), compared to around £9.5m more in the first quarter.

But perhaps the most eye-catching fact from today’s figures is that the total £26.3m in donations is the highest since records began. The ethical case for state funding remains a persuasive one, but it looks as if fears that parties would go to the wall have been exaggerated.

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