Do we trust political parties to handle the donations they get with the utmost propriety? Should we have to?
What about this: all contributions of declarable size (£5,000+) should have to go via the Electoral Commission, who would perform any necessary checks before passing the money on to the relevant party.
Putting this responsibility in the hands of an impartial body – rather than party fundraisers who are always under pressure to bring in as much cash as they can – might well slow things down a bit, but it would nip a lot of things in the bud right at the start.
Other reforms are needed as well, including caps on donations and spending, but this could be a handy way of breaking the cosiness of some donor–recipient relationships. Rather than the current set-up, under which parties solicit the money, cash the cheques and then declare them along the line, this would make it clear up front that any large contribution is an essentially public act.