Friday, July 14, 2006

Party Funding.

Those who inhabit the blogosphere can't have missed the various scandals around how parties currently get their funding. Guido Fawkes has been one of the main people writing on the subject, and the issue has come up for discussion on politicalbetting.com.

There is therefore the sticky question of how we fund party campaigns.

Various ideas have been floated around as solutions to these problems, in my view they may well end up causing more problems.

One idea being touted is of state funding. Well there are a number of problems with that:
  1. It is not popular with the tax payer.
  2. What happens when the BNP come asking for funds?
  3. It allows the party leadership to distance itself from its grass roots.
  4. How do you dish the money out?
Some people have suggested that we can come up with wheezes to exclude people like the BNP, but this is dangerous thinking. Firstly the old "No platform" thinking is anti democratic, secondly they can use the wheezes as a political weapon to get more votes.

There is also the problem of how you dish the money out? Is it on seats in parliament? Seems unfair to the Lib Dems, though it is a wheeze to squeeze the BNP. What about vote share? The arguments would be endless, and further more the party in power could well fiddle it to their advantage and their opponents disadvantage.

The thing that concerns me most is that the party leadership can then distance itself from its grass roots. Labour have already done this by loosening the relationship with the Unions, but is that a good thing? Is turnout going down because the grass roots are not being energised? How is a party that has lost its grass roots going to pick a new leader, candidates and policies?

There is currently some state funding of campaigns, which consists of a free mailing to all households in a constituency, but only for the parliamentary seat. The candidate has to pay for the envelope and the contents.

Others have suggested a cap on party spending and a cap on maximum donations. This seems most sensible to me as you still need to have a grass roots base, still need to talk to people and above all the spending cap will mean far less money is wasted in the dreadful ways it normally is during elections.

There are also hybrid suggestions such as giving more than just a free mailing to candiates, but not anything like full funding. Well, that may also be a way forward.

What seems clear to me though, is that what we are doing at the moment can't carry on. We are in a strange arms race of dirty tricks, back room deals and general all round mendacity that is poisoning our democracy.

Any ideas for a solution?

6 comments:

Martin Hoscik said...

The issue of public funding for political parties is vexed at best.

If you've not already can I suggest making a response to the Lyons Inquiry

http://www.lyonsinquiry.org.uk/

Our own submission including possible caps based on membership levels:

http://www.mayorwatch.org.uk/news.php?article_id=268

Dave Hill said...

Hello Benedict. Sorry to be mysterious but could you contact me via the email facility on my blog? I wish to issue you with an invitation. Not a very exciting one, but maybe something that will interest you. Best Wishes, DH.

John Wilkes said...

I'd agree with you that a cap on donations and spending looks like the way forward. This would force the parties to try and build up their membership and end the awful "rallies" that consist only of party drones every election time.

We might see a benefit in higher voting turnout too, if politicians were actually forced to give a shit about what ordinary members of the public thought.

Praguetory said...

I agree with all you say (esp re caps) but I'm a little thrown by your question at the end asking what the solution is. Labour has managed to convince us that there is a problem that needs a state solution. The "problem" is in their own party and they should sort their own mess out. This inquiry was unjustified. Any Tory supporting state funding for political parties needs further schooling.

The only thing that needs to "happen" is for the laws around transparency of funding (only a few years old) to be enforced/strengthened.

Benedict White said...

Thank you for the comments, there seems to be some common ground here. Guido does not approve of state funded parties either, but I think a few mailers would be OK as opposed to the current one.

Praguetory, the reason for the question at the end was to see if anyone had any more ideas.

Personaly I think the problem is that the parties spend money they have not got on things they don't need to do, because the other party is...

A spending cap is the largest single thing that could help that.

It would also help to have hustings and rallies which were not dogged by hecklers from other parties trying to spoil them.

john said...

Two possible solutions:

-Anyone making a financial donation of say over £ 100,000 is automatically excluded from a seat in the House of Lords.

-For GE's put a cap of say £ 3 million on what a party can spend.
With the amount of free TV coverage that is now available at election time,the previous high spends by Labour & the Tories seem to be of little value to anyone.
This might just encourage politicians to get out on the stump and bring back hustings.

Why should a political party be treated any differently to Rover?