Dodgy and disreputable: Tories damaged by funding row

The row over party funding has damaged the Conservative party's election hopes, with almost one-in-two saying the party's arrangements are "dodgy and disreputable" according to a new poll.

Forty-seven per cent of voters said the way the party is funded by wealthy donors is dodgy with just 12% saying it is "clean".

Claims over alleged tax avoidance by these donors appear to have 'cut through' with voters more than any other issue in recent months, according to YouGov polling for the Times.

Seventeen per cent of voters said they had noticed the tax avoidance issue in the past couple of days, well above all other issues.

Recent polls have also found the Tories failing to cut Labour's lead with just two and a half months left to go until the election.

The findings follow a week in which details of the party's black and white ball, where meetings with cabinet ministers were auctioned off to wealthy donors, were revealed. This has led to calls by former Conservative chancellor Ken Clarke for the party to sever its reliance on big money donations.

Clarke said the party would continue to be dogged by scandal unless it committed to reform party funding. However, Clarke's suggestion of greater taxpayer funding is unlikely to be taken up, given its deep unpopularity with voters.

The row also appears to have hit Labour, albeit to a lesser extent. Thirty-three per cent told the pollsters that Labour's funding by trade unions was "dodgy" as opposed to 17% saying it was clean. The row has also opened Labour up to attacks about the tax arrangements of their own members and supporters.

However, Labour say the row has put a new spring in Ed Miliband's step after a difficult few months.

Sources close to the Labour leader believe it has 'crystallised' perceptions of the Tories as a party of the rich. Miliband will today seek to move on from the row by setting out his economic plans for the next parliament.