It sets out some (very) outline proposals. Hayden's done his bit and has passed the buck to the main parties. On many levels, the principal proposals of the Party Funding Review are craven. Lots of minutiae bothers me such as his use of the term "pence per vote funding" when pound per vote funding would be more accurate, or his utterly amateurish ideas on enforcement of donation limits, or his manifold proposed exceptions in the rules for Labour, his wishy-washy ideas on spending... I could go on.
But, let's go big picture. Conservative estimates place the current amount of state funding of political parties at about £20m. In December 2006 a Communications Research survey found that just 9% of all respondents thought that more money should be given to political parties to fund their activities. What does Hayden think?
Worryingly, the words stability/instability appear eight times in his report. For example, in the section "Why Public Funding?" we have this delight
"Financial instability is the enemy of healthy politics, and an injection of funds is merited if we are able to maintain public confidence in our democracy".
Allow me to rephrase.
"As a results of profligacy at election times caused by short termism the Labour Party is virtually bankrupt. Public confidence in our democracy has nothing to do with the amount of money spent at election times, but I can't find any other decent arguments for this steal"
Hayden Phillips suggests the additional public cost per annum will be £20 - £25m (see section 2). Hayden states that the future of party funding should be
"built on a broad consensus between the parties"
"an agreement must be fair and sustainable. To that end it must tackle the two issues that remain in contention between the parties:
- the design of limit on donations: and
- controls on party spending"
As taxpayers, we are a party to the agreement (we get the *expletive* bill) and I can assure Hayden that these aren't the only issues that remain in contention.
What Would I Do?
What would I personally do? I would make it illegal for political parties to be in debt (no overdrafts, no private loans, no bank loans). That would eliminate financial instability. If a party hasn't raised enough money from their supporters for a campaign, they have to cut their cloth accordingly. Cap donations and make them more transparent by all means, but the state should otherwise keep their nose out of party business.
In the real world, Hayden Phillips has delivered a dog's breakfast on which the main parties could well struggle to negotiate an agreement. If they do, the only loser will be the taxpayer. Therefore, I want to see Philip Oppenheim's No Public Funding campaign swing into action and 18 Doughty Street and Conservative Home to oppose the stinking pile that has been put on the table. Power to the people. Hat tip anoneumouse at the Anglo-saxon Chronicle for the graphic.