27 comments on “On the tax funding of political parties

  1. No problem with tax-funding for political parties, except deciding who should get funding, and how much they should get. What we could do is get everyone in the country to vote on it…

    Seriously, though, it would make elections more interesting if you had a fund-allocation vote which was separate from your electing-an-MP vote.

  2. There is a reason that I don’t donate to political parties – because they are lying parasitic scum and the sooner they disappear the better.

    So because of the publics utter contempt for the lot of them meaning they are struggling to fund their frequent, and periodic, episodes of complete dishonesty (elections) they are now talking about stealing from us directly so that they can better lie to us?

    Can they get more dishonest?

  3. @James

    ‘…and the sooner they disappear the better.’

    And that leaves us with what? Dictatorship by you and your pals?

    It’s worth bearing in mind that political parties funded by the public – no massive amounts needed anyway – would be unequivocally accountable to the public, rather than wealthy (individual, corporate, union) donors.

  4. Re Diarmid

    Do you not think that, in this wonderfully modern day and age, we could get rid of people to represent us and instead represent ourselves.

    And politicians aren’t answerable to anybody now and will continue to act solely in their interests, and that of feathering their pockets, regardless of how they are funded.

  5. ‘…we could get rid of people to represent us and instead represent ourselves.’

    Not easily! Although this might be a start.

    And Tim seems to be ignoring his own dictum – ‘Incentives matter’. Improve those, and we should get better politicians.

  6. If the public dislikes party politicians so much, why does it keep electing them?

    Obviously it’s better to pay the political parties directly than to leave them to solicit the money from donors in exchange for influence over vastly more expensive political decisions.

    OK, so you don’t like having to do that. But you have to deal with the world as it is rather than as you’d like it to be.

  7. Paul
    You’ll find that the largest proportion don’t elect them. They simply dishonestly write it off as apathy rather than contempt and pretend that they got a higher percentage of the voters than they did.

  8. If the public dislikes party politicians so much, why does [an ever decreasing proportion of the electorate] keep electing them?

    I corrected your post – now it answers itself.

    Obviously it’s better to pay the political parties directly than to leave them to solicit the money from donors in exchange for influence over vastly more expensive political decisions.

    Party membership has declined, too. Why? Because the parties don’t even do what their members want!

    Ban large donations. Maybe then they will try to become more attractive to ordinary people.

  9. Tim need make no argument. Those that wish forcibly to take from us the fruit of our labour may, however, try.

    But even if they try, it won’t change the fact that they are forcibly taking from us the fruit of our labour.

    No intellectual engagement with such thugs is justified, as it only dignifies the bogus legality with which they cover up their behaviour.

    Forcible, or passive, resistance are the only responses which are both viable and moral.

  10. James. Decisions are taken by those who get involved. Those of us who do vote get to make the decision about who gets in, those who choose not to vote for whatever reason are ignored.

    I may not like who gets elected in any one election but far as I know they get elected honestly. By those who vote.

  11. So the turnout is low. That should make it all the easier for independents to get elected. Why does it seldom happen?

    The fact is that the electorate makes its voting decisions in a way that results in well-funded political parties getting elected. That being the case, we should fund the political parties as cheaply as we can. Does anyone want to make the case that funding by donations-for-influence costs the public purse less than giving the parties money directly? Because argument by swearing isn’t going to convince anyone.

  12. PaulB, “Does anyone want to make the case that funding by donations-for-influence costs the public purse less than giving the parties money directly?”

    I won’t try to make that case because I doubt it’s possible meaningfully to perform any such analysis, but I will advance the case that government power should be so limited that no government should be capable of dispensing influence in return for cash.

  13. I like the idea of making voluntary donations via the annual tax return which should contain a detailed breakdown of expenditure and borrowings

    This makes voters think about politics when they pay their tax

    I also think donations should be capped.

  14. So the turnout is low. That should make it all the easier for independents to get elected

    Seems like a non sequitur to me.

    Does anyone want to make the case that funding by donations-for-influence costs the public purse less than giving the parties money directly?

    I’m arguing against big donations and giving parties money from the public purse.

    Again, if parties want funding let them go door to door.

  15. In the circs, “giving” is a misnomer.

    The problem the parties face is that they are not sufficiently popular to obtain gifts of money in the quantities they want.

    Yes, they get donations from those seeking favours. But those aren’t gifts, they’re bribes.

  16. OK, I’m in favour of forbidding large donations to political parties too.

    Back to reality: to bring in a law to that effect you’d need the support of a majority in the House of Commons. There are 650 MPs, and 620 of them are affiliated to one of the three major parties, all of whom benefit significantly from large donations. They are not going to vote to cut off their own funds.

    However, there is substantial political support for a proposal to replace large donations with a system of state funding. Given the actual choice between that and the status quo, why would you not support it?

  17. I’m not in favour of forbidding large donations to political parties.

    There is, or ought to be, such a thing as the private realm, with private parties (which is, after all, what political parties nominally are) giving and receiving as they wish.

    As to substantial political support for a system of state funding, well, hells bells, this is modern Britain! What doesn’t have substantial political support for state funding?

    And I for one do not accept that the only choice is between the status quo and state funding of political parties. To argue otherwise is both blindly determinist and to dispense with the value of political debate.

  18. One thing I was surprised to learn from this otherwise hatchet-job of an article is that we already have state funding of parties: http://labour-uncut.co.uk/2012/03/27/the-false-debate-over-the-public-funding-of-politics/

    Rather than giving parties more money, I’d be in favour of reforms to the way in which people spend money to contest elections. Currently it’s £500 to stand, which you get back in full if you can obtain 5% of your local vote. Even for the people who have £500 spare and are willing to risk it on getting the vote, this massively rewards parties that can command national attention. Perhaps if money received back were in proportion to the number of votes received – or even better, significantly reduce the cost to enter – then we’d see candidates more in line with what people actually want. It would work horrendously under FPTP, of course, due to the increased number of candidates, but maybe it would get people thinking about what we actually want from our electoral system.

  19. Politicians shouldn’t be paid more than the minimum wage. Their parties can pay them extra to make up the difference if they want to.

    Partly this is economic sense, there is no shortage of would be pols so why pay more than necessary.

    Partly because politics today, and yesterday, is all about patronage. There are always going to be people buying votes, maybe it would be best if this was more in your face.

  20. Surely if incentives matter (and they do) we should never pay the buggers.

    Then, perhaps, they’ll go back to being estate agents.

  21. Re Martin Davies:

    I may not like who gets elected in any one election but far as I know they get elected honestly. By those who vote.

    The UK elections that I could participate in before I left the place in disgust were:
    1997 – election of lying Labour party led by Tony Blair who promised much but reneged on his promises (therefore elected dishonestly)
    2001 – re-election of lying Labour party led by Tony Blair who promised much but reneged on his promises (therefore elected dishonestly)
    2005 – re-election of lying Labour party led by Tony Blair who promised much but reneged on his promises (therefore elected dishonestly)
    2010 – election of coalition between Conservatives and Liberal Democrats 2001 – re-election of lying Labour party led by David Cameron who promised much but reneged on his promises (therefore elected dishonestly).

    Perhaps you have had better luck but in the 4 elections that I have been able to participate in the winners have been liars and charlatans who appear to be in it solely for their own corrupt purposes. Perhaps this is why so few of my generation bother anymore … it certainly is the case for me.

    Incidentally I have come to the conclusion that this is the case for politicians as a class as over here in New Zealand they are also corrupt, but perhaps not quite to the same extent.

  22. Given that state funding withers everything it touches, I’m starting to wonder whether it might not after all be a good thing to apply it to political parties…

  23. But who decides on which parties get state funding and how much? What criteria would be used? Number of seats? Number of votes?

    Will it be the government? A crossbench committee? An independent committee?

    Surely this will lead to smaller parties being killed off as competition…
    Would the BNP for example receive funding? Would UKIP?

    I would object to state funding as I would never want any tax payer money to go to any of the parties at all. It is not the taxpayer’s responsibility to fund a party. That is down to individual choice, and there should be no cap on donation size. What I want to do with my money is my choice.

  24. Adam5x5: The official proposal is for funding per vote received in general elections, European elections, and devolved assembly elections. The funding to be available to any party with two or more members elected by those votes. Donations to any party in receipt of the funding to be capped at £10,000.

    My amendment to that would be to allow a party to opt out of the funding and the cap, in return for renouncing for the time being the possibility of holding political office.

    I disagree that what you do with your money should be your choice, if it’s to buy political influence and use it to alter to your own advantage the law or the awarding of government contracts.

  25. Paul, you must be incredibly naive to think public funding of political parties would stop money being used to “buy political influence and use it to alter to your own advantage the law or the awarding of government contracts.”
    The two things are entirely different issues. The money to influence political decisions is there, by your own definition. If it isn’t used to directly fund parties, it will be used indirectly. If you have willing givers & willing receivers,doesn’t matter what regulations are introduced, a way will be found to circumvent them. At least, at the moment, the process is vaguely transparent. The other side of public funding, it disappears into a convoluted & opaque world of deception & intrigue. But trying to argue that political influence won’t be bought & sold is like saying you can abolish prostitution. Exactly like it.

  26. The ‘official proposal’ is to financially support the incumbents, despite / regardless / because of the declining interest of ordinary people.

    The ‘reality’ is that participation in mainstream politics has been in decline for many years, for various reasons, with mainstream politicians wrongly, perhaps dishonestly, writing it off as apathy.

Leave a Reply

Name and email are required. Your email address will not be published.

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>