THE best efforts of Yates of the Yard failed to find any grounds for charging anyone in the cash for honours enquiry and the case has been closed. Yesterday we learnt that the best efforts of one of Whitehall's most experienced senior civil servants, Sir Hayden Philips, have failed to bring the three political parties together on the issue of party funding. Tony Blair set up the latter review after the cash for honours affair came into the open and there is an obvious link between them. There was some agreement among the three political parties on reducing the permitted level of expenditure between and at general elections and providing a higher subsidy from public funds, but the sticking point was a proposal to cap donations to the parties at 50'000 pounds. The Conservatives were cool to this idea because they have rich donors like Lord Ashcroft who are ready to give much more than that. Labour wanted none of it because trade unions contribute considerably more and, in fact, supplied about half of Labour's funding for the 2005 election. It is difficult to see how any agreement can be reached unless public funding is substituted for all forms of donation but this would raise difficult questions about how the level of such funding would be set for all parties, even it the principle was generally acceptable.
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