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Dark money that undermines our democracy

July 9, 2021 12:37 AM
By Bryan Lewis

Just over twenty years ago a system for regulating the finances of party parties was established. There had to be transparency in the sources of a party's funds and donations can only be accepted from clearly defined 'permissible doners'.

Yet the Conservative Party has accepted £2.6m in donations from 'shadowy' groups with anonymous funders since Boris Johnson became prime minister.

An analysis by openDemocracy also reveals that more than £800,000 of this was given directly to individual Tory MPs and their local parties, mostly in marginal 'Red Wall' seats.

The finding comes after the Committee on Standards in Public Life on 7th July reported that "unincorporated associations" could be used as "a route for foreign money to influence UK elections".

The committee's report said that there is no transparency when these groups donate to individual MPs and the people funding them "are not required to be permissible donors".

Speaking on BBC Radio 4, the committee's chair, Lord Evans, said these groups "can sometimes look slightly shadowy, because you don't know who has given them money but they can then contribute funds to campaigns".

The case for reforming this part of electoral law is unarguable. The voting public must be confident that donations and campaign expenditure are being regulated fairly. Simplicity and clarity Campaign finance laws should be clear and easy to comply with.

But will Tory ministers with a vested interest in the status quo be willing to take the necessary action?