Dodgy donations: Labour is right, Labour is wrong and the media are too generous

Despite some reforms introduced by Labour in the Political Parties and Elections Act 2009, unincorporated associations continue to offer rather a loophole when it comes to donations to political parties.

Hence I find myself both agreeing with the Labour Party whilst also blaming them when Labour has started complaining about the Conservative Party’s use of the the remaining loopholes.

As The Times reported yesterday:

The Conservatives have received donations of more than £5 million from secretive organisations that allow donors to keep their identities hidden, according to new figures.

Since 2010, the party has accepted £5.6 million from unincorporated associations that are not required to reveal their sources of funding…

Harriet Harman, deputy Labour leader, will use a speech today to claim that the donations are “shady money”.

As with other news outlets, The Times seems to have taken its lead from the Labour Party press release about unincorporated associations being “not required to reveal their sources of funding”. Yet despite that widespread use of that phrase in the media, it’s not quite accurate. As the Electoral Commission summarises the law:

Unincorporated Associations that donate more than £25,000 in a calendar year are required to register with us and report gifts in excess of £7,500.

Count that as a gift from the media to Labour: both uncritically reporting Labour’s exaggeration of the law and also not pointing out that the loopholes were left in legislation introduced by Labour.

Must be the season of goodwill and all that. The weather certainly seems to think it is.

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