Miliband has called on the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats to put a £5,000 cap on donations to political parties, stating: ‘At a time when politics is seen as being disconnected from most people's lives, the public need to know that their elected leaders are not just listening to those who can pay.'
The Conservatives have dismissed this as ‘virtually meaningless’ after Miliband refused to change rules that result in around three million union members automatically giving £3 a year to a the Labour Party.
Lexis corporate head James Thellusson said: ‘This stance allows Miliband to look like he is taking a lead. Whether it is sustainable is another matter. Trying to finesse the issue of union donations is a chink in his armour and as long as it is there, the Tories have the chance to accuse him of hypocrisy.’
Mark Adams, boss of The Professional Lobbying Company, said he believed all political parties were ‘vulnerable on donations’ and all had ‘a long way to go’ to reform.
He said: ‘We need reform urgently. I support the recommendations of the Committee on Standards in Public Life, chaired by Sir Christopher Kelly. They call for a £10,000 annual cap, with provision to allow collective organisations, such as unions, to contribute more. Labour seems to be closer to the Kelly proposals than other parties, but all still have a long way to go, especially on reforming the way the unions participate.’
Fleishman-Hillard head of public affairs Nick Williams added that Miliband had ‘a poor hand to play’.
He said: ‘Ed Miliband has tried to pull his only rabbit out of the hat at an early stage by making this offer. He is doing so at a time when the traditional Labour Party/trade union links are at their lowest ebb.'
Miliband’s rallying cry comes after the resignation of Conservative Party co-treasurer Peter Cruddas, who was caught on camera boasting that a £250k donation could gain access to Prime Minister David Cameron and influence policy.
After the revelations the Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg called for all-party talks on political funding. The first meetings were held last week.