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Sunday, 4 August, 2002, 04:10 GMT 05:10 UK
Tories rule out state party funding
Formula 1
F1 boss Bernie Ecclestone's donation caused uproar
Any possibility of the Conservative Party agreeing to further moves towards the state funding of political parties have been ruled out by its new chairman, Theresa May.

In her first policy pronouncement since taking over from David Davis, Mrs May has told the BBC she believes the public will not support the use of taxpayers' money for this purpose.

Her refusal will disappoint a growing band of Labour, Liberal Democrat and even some Conservative MPs who believe state funding is the only way to take allegations of sleaze out of British politics.

Conservative chairman Theresa May
Theresa May is the Conservatives' first woman chairman
The Labour Party's financial difficulties, aggravated by the loss of trade union money and the growing reluctance of the wealthy to make big political donations, have given a new impetus to the campaign to get state funding.

The idea is currently being investigated by the Electoral Commission.

One idea favoured by many Labour and Lib Dem MPs - and a small number of senior Conservatives - is for people making donations to get tax relief.

They also want the money people give to political parties to be matched pound for pound by the government.

But Mrs May has ruled out any chance of the Tories agreeing to use taxpayers' money in this way.

This means that in the run up to the next general election Labour will have to continue relying on funds from the unions and the very rich.

Suspicious

The BBC's political correspondent, Nicholas Jones, said Mrs May seems to have calculated the potential embarrassment, because of possible sleaze allegations, is likely to be far greater for Labour than the Conservatives.

Labour has been dogged by sleaze allegations since, amid public pressure, it decided to return a 1m donation from Formula One boss Bernie Ecclestone, after motor racing gained a stay of execution from a ban on tobacco advertising.

In May a substantial majority of people polled for the BBC said they did not want their taxes to be used to fund political parties.

But the survey, conducted by ICM for Radio 4's Today programme, also found that eight out of ten people think the way political parties currently raise their finances makes people "suspicious of politicians".

See also:

22 Jul 02 | Politics
12 Jun 02 | Politics
16 Apr 02 | Politics
19 Feb 02 | UK
23 Feb 02 | Scotland
29 Jan 02 | Politics
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