Of course those with a stake in the system will explain how this justifies public funding of political parties.
I think this sleaze actually proves just how illegitimate the ‘big’ parties have become. If people are not interested in becoming members or donating to political parties, what’s the point of their very existence?
Francis Maude (Horsham, Conservative) said the other day,
Democracy requires there to be political parties
That’s arguable, but it certainly doesn’t require the ones we have at present, that’s for sure.
“Senior officials in the Labour party, including Gordon Brown, could become personally liable for millions of pounds in debt unless new donors can be found within weeks, the Guardian has learned.”
“The advice from City solicitors Slaughter and May said unequivocally that leading party officials and members of the NEC would be ” jointly and severally” responsible for the party’s debt.”
Talks on funding political parties have effectively broken down after 18 months of negotiations.
The Conservatives and Labour have been unable to agree on setting limits on campaign spending and on donations.
Justice Secretary Jack Straw accused Tory leader David Cameron of being “unwilling to negotiate”.
Shadow Cabinet Office Minister Francis Maude said Labour had refused to move on union funding. The Lib Dems accused the Conservatives of “walking away”.
The Tories said trade union donations should be included within a £50,000 limit on donations from individuals and organisations. …
And then there are a load of recriminations.
The draft agreement
Some key points:
- Eventual £50,000 cap from individuals and organisations (except for unions, see below). Initially set at £500,000 in 2009, £250,000 in 2010, £100,000 in 2011, finally to £50,000 from 1 January 2012.
- Unless it’s a ‘commercial loan’!
- “Affiliation fees paid by trade unions will be treated for the purposes of the cap as individual donations of the members” – in other words (if I understand correctly), a union may in effect donate multiples of up to £50,000, rather than it being treated as a single donation. This is why the Conservatives walked away, but I doubt Labour will budge on this.
- Spending controls – £150m for full term of next Parliament, including £20m premium for general election.
- Tightened controls on targetted direct mail and ‘phone bank activity’, or telesales.
- Matched funding from taxpayer -£10 for every donation of £10 or more from individuals on electoral register, initially capped at £10m.
- 40p each year for every vote cast in most recent general election, and 20p for every vote in the most recent elections for Scottish Parliament, National Assembly of Wales, and European Parliament.
- Policy Development Grant to be abolished.
- Public funding to help meet compliance with new regulations, capped at £1.5m.
Of course, there will also be sanctions against those who don’t follow the rules. And we all know how those end up, don’t we boys and girls?
Let’s have a quick look at what the three main parties could have won just from the General Election 2005, had the 40p per vote rule been in place.
Bear in mind that’s every year until the next General Election. Not too shabby a sum.
No public funding for the minnows
The smaller parties – that is, ones with less than two elected representatives to Parliament, the Scottish Parliament, the National Assembly for Wales, or the European Parliament – won’t receive the 40p/20p per vote, or the £10 matched public funding.
Again, had the rules been in place since the General Election 2005, Independent Kidderminster Hospital and Health Concern, for example, which got its candidate (Richard Taylor) into Parliament with 18,739 votes, but would have not been given £7,495 it might otherwise have enjoyed from the 40p per vote.
I have no idea what the rationale is here. After all, the party fielded a candidate, won fair and square, but won’t be entitled to the same funding as other parties with two or more elected representatives?
Is it just that it’s based on the Short Money rule, whereby at the moment Opposition parties must have two or more elected representatives in order to receive Short Money?
(From 2006, £12,793 for every seat won at the last election plus £25.55 for every 200 votes gained by the party).
On the face of it, it doesn’t seem fair.
What I still fail to understand
Is why the parties don’t live within their means!
I mean, it is possible (see page 37 Interim Assessment): Sinn Féin, the Social Democratic & Labour Party, Plaid Cymru, Respect, the Democratic Unionist Party, and the Scottish Green Party, all had less outgoings than incomings in 2005.
But apparently I am missing “the underlying challenge to party financing”, and certainly missing “the public interest in financially healthy political parties, and what parties can do in the public interest”…
Yes, we really do want financially inept parties running the country, and we do want to keep giving them money even though we don’t support them…