04 April 2007

Party Funding Update

Hayden Philips Has Sent Me An E-Mail

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.

Big Picture

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?

Financial Instability

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"

and suggests

"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.

Real World

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.


Steve_Roberts said...

For me the key points are firstly, that all money for political campaigns should be voluntarily and individually subscribed - no tax-payers cash, no shareholders cash, no trade union members cash. Secondly, there should be a cap on individual donations, to prevent the sale of public policy in order to gain office. I think £1,000 would be a fitting cap, others may wish it to be higher. What the current 'instability' in party finances shows is merely the financial incontinence of office-seekers, it is not a public problem, at least until such behaviour is carried over into office.

malcolm said...

Yup,Praguetory, I agree with every word.

Mark Wadsworth said...

Whatever rules you think up (including your eminently sensible rule that parties can't go overdrawn), they can all be circumvented, wouldn't take five minutes to work out how.

Ergo, there is no point in having any rules at all, it should be a free-for-all (which it is at present, just that things are disguised and covered up). That's the honest approach.

Taxpayer funding is nonsense, it's just adding fuel to the fire.

Praguetory said...

Thanks for these thoughtful contributions. Related to Mark and Steve's posts the costs of enforcing a low cap on donations would be too high and that's why I am not in favour of a cap below £50k and could be persuaded to go higher.

Mr Eugenides said...

I agree. Political parties should have to raise their money, and raise it, and far as possible, from "ordinary people" [sic] - I'm all in favour of a cap on individual donations to prevent a handful of very rich businessmen from bankrolling a party, because we've seen what that can lead to.

But otherwise, sink or swim. If a party can't persuade enough people to support them, then we have a few less billboards with stupid chameleons festooning our streets.

I certainly won't pay for them. Except, of course, that's exactly what I'll end up doing.