It’s time for another political initiative, so Ed Miliband’s advisers seem to have told him.
A follow-up on the NHS to Miliband’s declaration a short while ago that we have “three months to save the Health Service”? No, the sharp-suited wonks have decided that is boring.
So, on 15 April, Miliband called for change on... political party funding.
It looks as if Miliband, or the wonks, think this is “clever”. Labour gains the high ground by calling for a ban on donations above £5,000 (while defending union political levy contributions), the loss in unions’ above-levy donations is manageable, and the Tories won’t take it up anyway.
In fact it is dangerous. The Tories have predictably counter-attacked on union political levies, proposing that the law be changed so that union members have to “opt in” to pay political levies, rather than “opting out” if they don’t want to.
Miliband’s proposal also compromises a principle. Unions should be able to make large political donations: that is one of the few ways in which working-class people, individually unable to fund expensive operations, can act collectively to reduce the advantages of wealth in politics.
On Tuesday 17th, Miliband’s “clever” idea backfired further, with millionaire Labour donor Assem Allam proposing that “parties should be funded by ‘independent’ individuals such as himself who would only gain tax relief if they gave to more than one party” (Financial Times, 17 April).
The FT recalls: “On March 10 Mr Miliband appeared in the chairman’s [Allam’s] box for a [Hull City football] match against Ipswich Town, having said he was too ill to attend a rally against government health reforms in the morning.
“[Miliband] had accepted a lift in Mr Allam’s Rolls Royce Phantom from his Doncaster constituency”.