Cruddas case raises the locked and partisan issue of party funding…

Oh dear. It’s hard to know which side of the Irish Sea to start the day’s stories… Hmmm… since it’s a little more pressing (and the Tories don’t wait for the adverse headlines of 15 year long enquiries), let’s start with Murdoch’s sting on Cameron Peter Cruddas, the, erm, very temporary co Treasurer of the Conservative Party.

Not a great start [and end – Ed] to a promising career. Iain Martin has the dope:

“One hundred grand is not Premier League… it’s not bad… But two hundred grand to 250 is premier league… what you would get is, when we talk about your donations the first thing we want to do is get you at the Cameron/Osborne dinners.”

“It’ll be awesome for your business. You’ll be… well pleased. Because your guests will be photographed with David Cameron. We do that, you know.”

Andrew Feldman (not a man to cross, as the outgoing leader of the Ulster Unionists can attest) dispatched the poor man at dawn yesterday… But it’s true that almost all parties are having problems with donations:

“cash-for-access” scandals are by no means a preserve of the Conservative party. All three big parties have been tarnished by such revelations in recent years.

The previous Labour government was hit when three former cabinet ministers – Geoff Hoon, Stephen Byers and Patricia Hewitt – were suspended from the parliamentary party over allegations that they were prepared to take cash to influence government policy.

Another Tory scandal broke last December when Tim Collins, managing director of Bell Pottinger Public Affairs, boasted to undercover reporters of how he had worked with Mr Cameron and George Osborne in the Conservative Research Department.

“I’ve been working with people like Steve Hilton, David Cameron, George Osborne for 20 years-plus. There is not a problem getting messages through,” Mr Collins told the reporter.

In 2005 Michael Brown, a convicted fraudster, donated £2.4m to the Liberal Democrats. The Electoral Commission ruled the donation was permissible but the party has been under pressure to give the money back.

And meanwhile, it seems the PM wants to open negotiations (again) on the vexed issue of party funding… In a stinging editorial today, The Guardian concludes:

…perhaps the real fault – for which Mr Cameron, as prime minister, again bears more responsibility than any other person – lies with the institutionally sleazy system of political funding itself. British politics has failed to sort out a transparent and fair system of party funding which avoids putting parties into the hands of the rich and thus giving rise to the suspicion – perish the thought – that rich donors can get the budget written to suit themselves. Mr Cameron is not alone in this failure. But he is the man at the top. His party is the biggest beneficiary of this system. He either wants to clean up political funding by rich donors or he doesn’t.

Mick is founding editor of Slugger. He has written papers on the impacts of the Internet on politics and the wider media and is a regular guest and speaking events across Ireland, the UK and Europe. Twitter: @MickFealty