Something happened in 2012 which has never occurred before. While Britain was holding a hugely successful Olympic Games, and Prince William was impregnating the royal body of his wife, and the UK ground its way through a painful double-dip recession, Britain's political parties were quietly filling in their accounting details carefully, on time and, most importantly, correctly.
Any local branch of a political party which receives any donation worth more than £1,500, or any number of donations totalling that over a calendar year, is obliged to report them to the Electoral Commission. In 2012, 53 of these were required to submit their quarterly donations within the watchdog's deadline. You'd expect the mainstream parties to have got their act together. But this would surely be harder for some of the little tiddler parties, which have no real impact. Not in 2012.
This was, I'm told, the first time this has happened since the Electoral Commission was established in 2000. Well done, political parties. You're finally learning to play by the rules.
Crunching the numbers leaves Lib Dems looking crunched
The Liberal Democrats look like they're on track to secure an against-the-odds 'hold' in Eastleigh, where they've been able to concentrate resources in a bid to secure a morale-boosting win. In 2015, when they face challenges across the country and all of their 57 seats will seem very vulnerable, will they have the warchest to pay for a hard-fought campaign?
Figures out today suggest the party has a real problem. In 2011 the Lib Dems received donations totalling £4,161,000. In 2012, that figure dropped to £2,500,000. They will be hoping that number picks up, especially as they borrowed £360,000 in 2012 and have credit facilities of over £1 million. But money matters now, too. Every councillor seat lost in local elections erodes the party's campaigning base, just as important a factor when it comes to the main event, now just two-and-a-quarter years away.
On the face of it, the Scottish Nationalists might feel a bit hard done by, too. Their 2012 donations total was just £551,000, down from £2,821,000 in 2011. But that's because they're going 'back to normal' after a couple of unusual windfalls. Poet Edwin Morgan left them a £918,000 bequest in his will, while euromillions lottery winners Colin and Christine Weir donated a cool £1 million too.
Labour remained steady around the £12 million mark, while the Conservatives saw a slight drop from £14.2 million to £13.8 million. The most striking number is the British National party, which saw its donations increase by 730%. I investigated how on earth that could possibly have happened earlier – here's my story.
- party funding