This morning's Times leader makes for interesting reading, well for me at least. They have said that there is a 'strong argument for having one place (probably the Electoral Commission) where contributions or assistance of any kind are recorded' because the current system of duplication between the Register in Parliament and the Electoral Commission is overly complex. Obviously that is not something I disagree with given I wrote as much on Monday.
However, the Times go further to make the point that the system is not the only thing at fault but the character of politicians is too. They suggest that many politicians see the electoral laws they themselves passed as an inconvenience. This may in fact be true in some cases, and when you have that attitutde complacency kicks in. Throw into the mix though how some politicians have the media-savvy political nous of a mentally retarded ant and you have a recipe for disaster.
After all there will be the odd politician that is so universally thick that when they innocently accept assistance they don't even think of the possibilty of it ever becoming a story. The real problem if there is any with the system of declaration is that they rely on the politician or his minions to actively declare it. When the money comes in they have a set period of time to declare it and if they don't they break the rules and the law.
Why not remove that weak link in the chain? Why not, upon becoming an MP, do they not get given a specific bank account to be solely used for political donations? A specific account that requires all financial assistance that the law considers donations, in other words cash, to be deposited into and upon which nightly extractions are made for display in public records? This would remove the possibilty of the 'I forgot because I was so busy' excuse. If this was accompanied by a rule that was clear about the penalty for accepting cash by other means you wouldn't have a fool-proof system but you would have a system that started to remove the human need to remember where and when to register.
Update: Just to add another point here. If there were separate bank accounts created for MPs by the Parliamentary or Electoral authorities for this sort of thing with clear and simple rules, there would be no ifs and no buts if someone was found to using money from another source. Period. Sadly as Guido has pointed out this might be too simple and elegant idea to managing the records of financial donations for MP's to handle.