No, no, thrice no.

Sir Christopher said party donations should be capped at £10,000 and state funding increased to remove the taint of corruption.

This after wibble about how large donations are seen to be for preferential access.

Look, maybe donations do buy influence. Maybe the unions\’ money gets them Labour MPs as lapdogs, just as hedge fund money gets the attention of Conservative MPs.

Heck, I\’ve been at a dinner or two where a political party was trying to shake down a couple of rich men (erm, angling for a donation).

But all of that is far better than the idea that the taxpayer be forced, at gunpoint, to pay for politicians and their parties.

16 thoughts on “No, no, thrice no.”

  1. So Much For Subtlety

    The Belgians have already abused this law to prohibit funding for parties the parties in power don’t like. Well, the Fascists to be honest. But still, it is clear it is easily abused. They have also tried to ban private donations.

    Once they vote themselves the power to dip directly into our pockets without even asking us, something fundamentally bad has happened. Hemp time.

  2. I’ve never understood why parties get any public money for anything. Why can’t they be funded by the members of their own political party?

    If they were responsible directly to their low level members for funding, and had to come cap in hand for donations, they wouldn’t be so spendthrift.

  3. Why are donations better than state funding? If a donation of £1m clouds the government’s judgment to the extent that it makes a decision that costs taxpayers £100m, wouldn’t state funding have been the better option?

    It’s possible to imagine a system in which some small group gets vast subsidies from the state, part of which it uses to fund politicians who will continue the subsidies. It’s not wholly absurd to suggest that such a system is already in place in the USA.

  4. @PaulB – it’s reasonable to assume that state funding would have some “entry conditions” – effectively entrenching the 2.5 main parties and excluding access to semi-serious funding for any smaller parties or potential parties. Can you seriously imagine the BNP, for instance, being allowed to receive funding from the state? I despise the BNP, as I do all other left-wing parties, but if a group of people want to form a party to espouse their views why should they be prohibited from persuading some like-minded rube to stump up £50K+ ?

    I’m with Peter Risdon. No large-scale funding whatever its source. If a political party wants to be well-funded it must attract and keep a respectable number of members – might make the bastards a bit more “representative” of their members, unlike the present shower.

  5. @Pogo – these are implementation details. Certainly any state funding should not depend on government approval of a party’s politics. One way to go would be to provide state funding only to parties with some minimum number of MPs, and in exchange to impose restrictions on donations to those parties only. (You’ve gone a long way off the subject, but wikipedia describes the BNP as ” a British far-right political party” and I agree with it.)

    @Peter Risdon – taxation to fund inefficient government expenditure isn’t voluntary. The question is whether the cost of the current funding system in biased decision-making is greater than the cost of an alternative system of state funding. Perhaps you’d care to address it.

  6. PaulB – there’s no way of knowing the cost of biased decision making, because you can’t compare what actually happens with something that didn’t. If they attempt to do this sort of comparison, people generally make up something to support whatever it was they thought in the first place. I’ll pass, thanks.

    No, taxation isn’t voluntary. That means there’s a moral imperative to keep it to the minimum and to limit expenditure to projects that command widespread support.

    While making the case for their spending plans, political parties can use argument, rather than a vast panoply of marketing tools.

  7. “I’ve never understood why parties get any public money for anything.”

    Because us fools vote them into power.

    “It’s possible to imagine a system in which some small group gets vast subsidies from the state, part of which it uses to fund politicians who will continue the subsidies.”

    No need to imagine it. We have it already – the “Trade Union Modernisation Fund” and the “Pilgrims”.

    Millions and millions of pounds of taxpayers money given to fund unions, who then give £17m to the Labour Party.

  8. PaulB: “Why are donations better than state funding?”

    Because state funding is a system where the powerful can decide about money to be given to the powerful. It makes it more difficult to have changes to politics that citizens do not like. State funding is a system by the ???????????? for the ????????????.

    (Where I live, we have a strong state funding for parties, and few people have enough money to donate to parties).

  9. @PaulB… Your suggestion that state funding be given only to parties with a certain number of MPs – said parties then to be subject to restrictions on outside funding – is not totally unreasonable, except that it is still using money, forcibly extracted from taxpayers, to support parties which they must logically not agree with. It also further isolates these parties from any need to engage with or represent their electorate.

    Re the BNP…

    (1) If you think it’s “right wing” you’ve obviously never bothered to read its manifesto, which resembles in many ways that of the Michael Foot headed Labour Party – IIRC described by Dennis Healey as “the longest suicide note in history”.

    (2) Amongst my academic colleagues, citing Wikipedia guarantees an immediate “Fail” for the student in question. 🙂

  10. “@PaulB… Your suggestion that state funding be given only to parties with a certain number of MPs – said parties then to be subject to restrictions on outside funding – is not totally unreasonable,”

    Actually, it is unreasonable as :
    1) it entrenches those already in power, this might be solved by basing on membership instead of # of MPs
    2) it makes it very easy to keep on changing the magic number to keep funding only for those who the majority want

  11. AIUI, one of the reasons Labour haemorrhaged members from ’97 to ’10 is that they did not feel they had a say in the party; the party wanted their subscription and that was the end of the relationship so far as the top brass were concerned. Thus a year-on-year decline, only reversed when the Coalition came to power. The number of members is still only half what it was in ’97.

    I wonder how much taxpayer money people think is fair to give to a party that appeals to less than 1% of registered voters and can’t sufficiently appeal to even its own (former) membership / manage its own finances to stay in the black.

    If only a quarter of registered voters gave a party just a quid a year it would have an income of over £10m.

    (Picking on Labour because Conservatives are more cagey about their membership numbers.)

  12. How about squaring the circle thusly: contributions may be unlimited, but they must derive from individuals, not group entities? So it is legal for any one person to give freely to the political party of his choice, but not for collective bodies. We get rid of the apparently nasty spectacle of companies funding politics and – and this is THE BEST BIT – destroy Labour’s union funding once and for all and consign it to the outer darkness. I think it’s sufficiently spinnable as being fair and above-board as to constitute a neat piece of political ju-jitsu.

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