The domicile status of one of the Conservatives main donors, Lord Ashcroft, has long been a bone of contention. Since David Cameron became leader they have relied increasingly on small numbers of rich donors. In November 2007 the General Secretary of the Labour Party, Peter Watt, had to resign because he had accepted donations amounting to 600,000 from a north-east businessman, channelled through intermediaries to protect his identity. Ed Milibands reforms discussed in this chapter may intensify Labours financial problems. In 2005 Michael Brown donated 2.4 million to the Liberal Democrats. He was subsequently convicted of fraud and the party narrowly escaped having to repay the donation - a course which would have caused it great financial problems; but the refusal puts the party, in the eyes of some critics, close to being a receiver of stolen goods. The issue, though, goes beyond high-profile cases and will recur for a reason central to this chapter. The root cause is that the parties have lost the mass membership which a generation ago raised substantial sums of money and provided the free labour on the doorstep to fight elections.
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