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No State Funding for Political Parties

Labour gets ever more mired in the cash for peerages mess. The Tories find themselves funded by obscure trusts in Liechtenstein. Questions continue about the Michael Brown affair amongst the Lib Dems.

Some commentators now believe that political parties should be funded directly by the state. After all, goes the argument, it is necessary for the workings of the political system to have vigorous, well funded parties and it is better to have these openly funded rather than by foreign or other questionable sources.

Bluntly, this is self serving bulls**t.

If the political parties can not manage to fund themselves in a legal or orderly way, then I have no quarrel with the idea that they should go under.

Why should what is, in effect, a private club that seeks to fund a massive advertising campaign every few years get its money from the state, that is to say, from everyone else?

If Labour or Tories can not run themselves without recourse to unsustainable levels of debt, then tough- they will have to scale back what they do. As it is, Labour and the Tories rely on the support of Trade Unions and shareholders of major corporations who may not actually support the ideals of either of the two parties.

As for the Liberal Democrats. I believe we should return the money to the defrauded shareholders in Michael Brown's companies- it will be tough, but at the end of the day it will demonstrate that we are serious about being funded only by our members and supporters.

The party funding scandal will just get murkier- the strange and private groups of business people who are scouting for money for the Conservatives are likely to get Mr. Cameron into just as much trouble as "Lord" Levy and Mr. Blair.

Meanwhile, state funding profoundly disadvantages any new parties- and frankly I think that the current set up could do with more competition. With the current absurd electoral system in place, state funding will make the political system even less responsive- more professionalised, less rooted in the wider community- than it is already.

I do not see why I should pay a penny to the Conservatives or Labour, so the idea of funding tens of millions in advertising for them is totally repellent.

It is up to the electorate to punish political parties that are prepared to bend and break the law, and state funding just rewards politicians who can't stay honest...


HadHalfAPintOfShandy said…
I would agree with you Cicero that it should be up to members to fund a political party - not up to the state. However I would be in favour of severely capping contributions from an individual (at say a maximum donation of £10,000), completely stop donations from companies and organisations (such as the TUC) and ensure that any loan a political party receives must be fully-declared and cannot be converted into a political donation.

Wouldn't fix all the problems with funding of political parties but it'd be a start!
Anonymous said…
My dear Consul I am flattered. The last time you got so worked up was over that Chap Catiline. Not having as much time as you I will have to reply in two parts the first shorter the "low" politics as you quaintly put it and second ly in a later post the loft ideals you go on about. B4 I began though if you have'nt had a look at last week's Economist article I referred to, do so your take would be worth hearing.

It is indisputably the case the Tories are on the up. Their vote share will increase and they will highly likely take votes and seats from the Lib Dems. However barring extraordinary events no one really believes more than 15 Lib Dem MPs at most will seriously be under threat anyway. That leaves a baseline of 47 MPs at the minimum probably a few more.

So why do Tory votes matter well take two case studies. Manchester Withington probably the most extraordinary Lib Dem result of all time. Bigger swings have been achieved but really only in By-Elections. Tory vote drops by a third, John Leech elected. Take two Islington South close marginal, Lib Dem vote rises but so does the Tory vote! result Emily Thornberry MP. That is is why Withington was won and IS not. There are scores of seats up the Country where Labour's machine has atrophied with decent Tory votes but with the Lib Dems having surged into second. The Tory votes in such seats will indisputably be key as to your seat count. I bet Lord Rennard thinks so. Agree do you not.......

More Later.

RK said…
There are only two basic options for political funding either private as now or state as proposed. Obviously there are variations and combinations but essentially that’s it. Each method comes with a basic drawback.

With private funding you have the spectre of money talking, that policy or a peerage can be bought. Every government that ever will or has accepted any private donation be it from an individual or an organisation will be tainted by this prospect. The cash for peerage scandal washes over me because it’s clear that this has always been the case and will always be the case (although practised more subtly than by this lot) as long as parties are privately funded. Any assurance that this or that party would be different in government is na├»ve. Also the more you try and block out big donators (as suggested above) the greater burden you put on the ordinary private member or candidate. Politics already has an exclusionary air today; it would be a great shame if we added a new large financial barrier too. Well done for acknowledging that your own party has skeletons in this particular closet. They remain the cleanest but then you can’t really buy government policy from them in the way you can from the other two.

State funding has its drawbacks too. The principal one being the inbuilt bias to established parties. For this reason any model for state funding would have to allow new parties to be privately funded in their first few years.

I’d like to take this chance to float my favourite idea for party funding. This model, I humbly suggest, would encourage people to vote and invigorate the electoral system, especially for smaller parties. After each general election each party that got more than 1% of the national vote gets one pound for every vote received. It has the beauty of simplicity but also removes the “I refuse to fund that lot with my taxes” argument. You are deciding who to give your one pound to, so you’re never funding anyone else. Should you not vote then your pound remains unallocated. It has the added bonus that there is no longer a wasted vote. If you are a LibDem in a seat where they have no chance of winning you now have an incentive to give them your vote. This should result in more marginal seats as more people vote positively rather than tactically. Smaller parties will need private funding to get themselves into position for that first election but after that they will receive funding commensurate with their success. Knowing this will encourage ideological supporters to vote for them even if they have no hope of winning a seat.
Anonymous said…
I agree, we must not have state funding of political parties.

I am also troubled by caps on donations, although I'm not 100% sure why, but it feels illiberal.

I also don't see them working, people will donate more through family members or friends, parties could even have a list of donors who haven't hit the limit yet and would be willing to take money from others and donate it.

However, donations should come from named individuals. Trusts, companies and unions should not be allowed to contribute, or act as conduits for contributions.

Of course, people will find ways to contribute and obfuscate the origins, its like security, its a constant battle. But we should be alert to such schemes and take action against them.

As for the ludicrous argument that state funding would reduce corruption, it would have the opposite effect, the governing party would basically have a say on how much is spent on them, they can siphon off funds more easily. They will be become beholden to the single interest of the state funder rather than competing interests of the voter and the variety of donors.

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