Access, influence and money

 

               The resignation of the Conservative Treasurer has highlighted once again the vexed issue of money and politics. He had to go, as what he said was unacceptable. His departure poses a series of questions for all parties, who need to resume discussions over a reformed regime for party funding.

                I would start with a much tighter limit on how much each party can spend on its national General Election campaign. Strict spending control limits on constituency races works well, and means an individual MP in the UK does not have to spend the five years of each Parliament worrying about how to raise the money to fight the next election. In the USA politicians are much more preoccupied with fund raising for themselves.  It also means in the UK  that it is quite cheap for a serious challenger, allowing good contests. Tougher limits on national expense would cut down the amount a party needs to raise.

               A possible deal which the main parties  will be relucant to strike would  say that shareholders of public companies and Trade Union members should be asked to give any money they wished to give personally. Some think  public companies and Trade Unions could both be banned from sending money on behalf of members. Others simply want a limit on the total size of any donation, whether it comes from an individual or from an organisation.

                    I hope in all this discussion we will not ignore all the other ways people and organisations spend money to gain access . Of course it is wrong for any individual or organisation to think it can send in a party donation and secure a change of policy. A rich individual should no more be able to donate to the Conservatives and  get the Prime Minister to change his stance, than should a large Trade Union be able to send in a donation to the Labour party and then dictate policy to the Labour Leader. However, we should also look into the world of cash for access more widely.

                         Under the last government the public sector increased its lobbying of itself at taxpayers expense. Public sector organisations would invite MPs and Ministers to receptions, lunches, dinners and events to put over their need for more cash, or to explain what they were doing with all the cash they were getting. They sent the bill to the taxpayer. Is this a good way to spend public money?

                         Trade Associations, Trade Unions, large companies, charities all now have budgets to spend on contacting Ministers and MPs, arranging events to meet these decision takers. They  spend on adverts and  email, letter, postcard and web based campaigns. Is this cash for access and cash for influence, or just a necessary part of a flourishing democracy? Where does legitimate spending on getting your point of view across end, and undue influence and purchase of advantage begin? People who give money to political parties have always expected to meet the leaders and hear directly from them. They are not the only ones, as there is a whole industry in seeking access through spending. The beauty of the UK system is that you can secure access without spending a penny. Anyone of us has the right to access through our MP. Like the NHS this is a free service at the point of use.

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99 Comments

  1. norman
    Posted March 28, 2012 at 6:01 am | Permalink

    And like the NHS it’s a lottery. I have written to my MP twice, once it was simply forwarded on to someone else, the second time, at the suggestion of this site, regarding the increase in CGT I was simply ignored, not even a computer generated response so I know not to bother in the future. As it’s a safe seat which had a bag carrier parachuted in there’s not too much to be done about it.

    Open primaries would be a massive step in the right direction, and for that reason, despite being promised by Lib Dems and Conservatives, it will never happen.

    Our democracy is a sham, anyone who thinks grubby deals like the one exposed at the weekend aren’t continually happening across all parties is deluding themself.

    You’re all at it (speaking about parties, I’m sure most individual MPs aren’t corrupt it’s the system that is).

    • norman
      Posted March 28, 2012 at 6:05 am | Permalink

      Maybe I should carry a brown paper bag stuffed with cash if I ever meet my MP, that’s how it was done in the past, is that still the preferred route or is it all done by computers now?
      etc

    • lojolondon
      Posted March 28, 2012 at 9:08 am | Permalink

      Don’t give up so easily! – Request a meeting at his surgery, or if all else fails, get your constituency on the list of activist areas :

      http://www.peoplespledge.org/

    • Disaffected
      Posted March 28, 2012 at 10:18 am | Permalink

      The Treasurer resigned; he was only doing the bidding for Cameron. It needs a lot more action than this to clean up Cameron’s sleaze. He knew about Major’s cash for questions. he knew about cash for honours, Hoon, Byers and Hewitt all caught selling themselves in stings. Cable caught in a sting. Cameron knew all this and still carried on with arrogance and has shelved parliamentary reform to prevent sleaze and corruption. What does this tell you about him, his values and morals? Remember he wanted us all to know what he was like as a person before the election. We now have our answer on his personality failings and all his policy issue failings. A PR man who likes the kudos of his position, a person who talks a lot and achieves nothing. The old boy network is as strong as ever as the sleaze that riddles Westminster and the Tory party.

      Cameron knew when he played with fire with NoW staff what retribution there might be- he still continued. He could not remember riding a horse, then he could not remember riding a police horse, finally he remembered after several days of considering what the consequences might be. So did he give a truthful answer at the outset when asked the direct question whether he rode the horse? If his memory is that bad he is not capable of holding the PM office.

      Cameron highlighted this area to be the next scandal and, one can only consider why he continued in the full knowledge of what the outcome would be if it came into the public domain. Was it through dim-witted arrogance, greed, pompous disregard for the public’s view?

      Let us be clear, he could have used his own house or Conservative headquarters and there would be no case to answer. He chose No10 because of the allure and kudos of his position to flatter and gain funds. This was a commercial venture not private enterprise. Who paid for the meals to be cooked? Who paid for the gas? Who paid for the water? Who paid for the electricity?

      He insults Tory voters with more borrow, spend and taxation. Fails on all key policy issues. Is trying to change British culture and religion by gay marriage, accession to throne, HRA, more Europe, more immigration, soft on crime to show he is reforming the Tory party. I, along with others, say stick it. We don’t view this as conservatism.

      Reply: All agree that the ex Treasurer behaved wrongly and had to go. I am sure Mr Cameron did not ask him to approach his task in that manner. In future more care has to be exercised in choosing and training Treasurers.
      The PM, like anyone else, has the right to entertain friends in his home, which happens to be a tied flat on top of his working office. When he holds a private function he is required to pay the bills.
      The Conservative party cannot hold functions in No 10 for obvious reasons. Party functions are held in party property or in third party non state property which has been hired or lent for the purpose. The main annual event at which leading donors can meet Cabinet members and others is held in a grand tent in Battersea Park.

      • APL
        Posted March 29, 2012 at 8:08 am | Permalink

        Disaffected: ” and has shelved parliamentary reform to prevent sleaze and corruption.”

        To protect sleaze and corruption. Fixed that for you D.

        By the way, how long before this incestuous little club get together and up pops the idea that the political parties need to be completely funded by public money – just to make sure there is no corruption don’t you know?

        Disaffected: “Cameron knew when he played with fire with NoW staff what retribution there might be- he still continued.”

        And by the way, lets remember what phone hacking actually is. It’s the failure of people who have high technology tools to use those tools properly, not changing the default pin on your mobile voice mail account is the same as leaving the door of your house open while you go shopping.

        No one would do that.

        There are unscrupulous people about, we know that, for gods sake there are enough of them in Parliament.

    • Disaffected
      Posted March 28, 2012 at 10:58 am | Permalink

      John, I think you and the Tory have not interpreted this correctly. People want the sleaze cleaned up in Parliament. This is not solely about party funding. The public were promised that politics were going to be cleaned up two years ago. Each party started to vie for position and then kicked the Kelly report in the long grass. Action is required not the normal Cameron hot air blister followed by a u turn and no one still believes a word Mr Clegg says.

      David Laws scandal after a matter of weeks in government- no police investigation to date. Why not? Dr Fox scandal last year after a year in office, Cable sting, Hoon Hewitt and Byers sting etc etc. What does it take for politicians to get it? The standards are woefully low and people want change.

      Once more, look at your own interpretation on voting figures. There is a lack of trust in politicians. They consistently fail to deliver on promises/pledges.

      Tory Back benchers wake up. If you think that based on current policy, failure on all key policy issues to date or the personality failings of Messrs Osborne and Cameron you will get in office in 2015- you are living in cloud cuckoo land. You cannot insult your core voters, act to their detriment and then expect them to vote for you. I do not call this genius, it is madness. All Labour have to do is keep a low profile, watch and wait.

      The Tories could not beat the most loathed politician because no one knew what they stood for. Current policies do not bode well with Tory voters. Even Osborne’s shambles of a budget where he taxing pies but not caviar is a joke. The socialist Coalition is robbing pensioners more than Gordon Brown ever did. Mistake.

      • Susan
        Posted March 28, 2012 at 3:58 pm | Permalink

        Disaffected,

        I think as far as party funding is concerned the public think ” a plague on both their houses” to be honest. They think the Conservatives are run by the rich and Labour are run by the Unions. I don’t think it is an issue that the public care that much about, except if they were asked to pay for it. However what I do believe has done untold damage to the Conservative brand is the budget. One would have thought George Osborne would have been enough of a political animal to have recognised that putting forward a granny tax at the same time as cutting the 50p would not play well with the public. I also do agree that George Osborne and David Cameron are totally out of touch with the voting public. What I cannot fathom is why David Cameron is trying to pick battles over issues such as gay marriage etc and yet ignoring the more important role he needs to play on the big issues. Maybe he thinks that tinkering in this way makes him look more in touch with the public when actually the opposite is true. He just does not seem able to connect with the ordinary public. It is a real problem for him and George Osborne. The funding issue just added one more bad news story to the many that are coming the Conservatives way I believe.

  2. lifelogic
    Posted March 28, 2012 at 6:24 am | Permalink

    Indeed just limit spending there is no need for huge political expenditure at all.

    It is quite clear from the many absurd laws that come about at EU and UK levels that these laws could only have come about due to lobby pressure as they serve no one, but the interested parties who are profiting from them at the expense of the rest. Few are likely to pay £250K without the expectation of influence either they are getting it and the public is being cheated or they are being cheated.

    Indeed if often seems that nearly all laws that come through are done for a sectional interest and against the interest of the voters in general.

    You say “the public sector increased its lobbying of itself at taxpayers expense”. This is clearly another outrage, already the government sounds like actors mouthing the words of their civil servants. It is government by the public sector for the public sector in the main. The input from voters and the private sector is minimal – apart from the large companies “lobbying” for their sectional interest in a further conspiracy against the public interest and those of smaller competitors.

    Is this a good way to spend public money? Clearly not.

    Yesterday I was at Blackfriars where they are putting Photo Voltaic cells over a bridge describes as being the biggest renewable energy bridge or something. Has the government an endless supply of money to waste on this economic nonsense. PV cells make no sense in cloudy UK and certainly not on a bridge over the Thames. One wonders if anyone will even bother to clean the pigeon dropping of them after a month or two in order to keep them working to generate the trivial amount of electricity they actually produce.

    Has the government stopped paying state sector union officials with tax payers money yet while on union business if not why not?

    • Kingbingo
      Posted March 28, 2012 at 8:11 am | Permalink

      Lifelogic: Your quite correct. As it happens the type of finance I do has covered ‘renewables’ several times. These things are wholly unviable without subsidies. They are simply wasting taxpayers money. What’s worse, from what I can see is the heavy subsidies in Northern European nations simply increases the costs of PV cells in more southerly countries like Spain/Turkey etc., where they would actually be perfectly viable. So it’s not like these Northern European subsides are actually reducing worldwide CO2 even than if the market allocated the resources. As ever increased government just lowers the total output for all.

      • lifelogic
        Posted March 29, 2012 at 6:02 am | Permalink

        Even with the subsidies the returns are not great it is a huge waste of money and resources caused by government subsidy and the green religion.

        • lifelogic
          Posted March 29, 2012 at 6:08 am | Permalink

          Doubtless the cash for access is a partial driver of this and much of the other nonsense from government and the EU.

    • outsider
      Posted March 28, 2012 at 9:18 am | Permalink

      Agreed. Whether it is lobbyists in general or Mr Werrity or Mr Cruddas, or indeed Mr McCluskey, the answer always seems to be that politicians should only speak to civil servants (or SPADs) or have a civil servant present to report back to Whitehall. Synthetic outrage by the other party about one kind of access or another is only promoting government by bureaucrats, as in the rest of the EU. The more people who have access to policymakers the better. And since they have only limited time, this must either be rationed by money (trade unions, party donations, expensive lobbyists) or by lottery. If all MPs were as independent-minded and able as Mr Redwood, things might be different but the centralised party system militates against that.

    • stred
      Posted March 28, 2012 at 1:28 pm | Permalink

      This sums up the racket well. JR is right to suggest that compulsary limits to expenditure would make things easier for prospective MPs. State funding has already been suggested by the civil servant advising on the the matter. No thanks.

      I imagine that certain interests in the construction industry must have been lobbying hard, as there are advanced plans to offer cheap loans to house owners to put 8 inches of foam insulation and render on the outside of their property. Apparently, Greg Barker, the climate change minister told a trade conference that putting this stuff on Victorian and Edwardian terraces ‘had drastically improved their appearance’. Contractors approved by the DECC will be the only ones allowed to assess homes for the grants. One of them told the conference that ‘external walls are the next key target and are the second best measure after double gazed windows’.

      Unfortunately, the best measure is roof insulation, lobbies, and draught stripping. And the need for external cladding is because the eight inches would otherwise have to be on the inside and reduce room sizes. However, there is a type of insulation which allows high standards with a loss of only two inches inside. The reason it is little used and not grant supported is that the testing method in the UK results in lower U values. In real use tests in France and the UK it has been confirmed that a value about 5 times the official value is obtained. The brish standard test wraps the insulation tightly around a hot box and in this situation the isolating foils are forced together, causing conduction and making it useless.

      This has been highlighted by conventional insulation manufacturers and the story accepted by some local authorities and apparently the DECC.
      And now they appear to be ignoring sensible conservation and threatening to ruin our Georgian, Victorian and Edwardian housing, all as advised by the trade and their civil servant regulators. Imagine the future with PV cells covering roofs and rendered foam all over narrowed streets.

      • stred
        Posted March 28, 2012 at 1:34 pm | Permalink

        Sorry as usual. British standard. I have used the thin multifoil insulation on my own house and garden shoffice and it works very well. My home energy bill was under £300 last year.

        • alan jutson
          Posted March 28, 2012 at 5:27 pm | Permalink

          Stred

          The foil you mention is I believe also excellent for use in loft conversions, as well as underfloor, as it does not stop ventilation between the rafters, as does normal foam types.

          Not aware as to the problem with British Standard testing, are we not in the EU with a comprehensive common standard, or are we just being British again and over egging the cake.

          Agree with you about external insulation, I wonder what the lifespan is for such a material.

          Bricks last a century or more and still look attractive, even with minimal maintainance.

          • stred
            Posted March 29, 2012 at 8:53 am | Permalink

            Alan. We are the only country, as far as I know, to use the hot box test and ignore real situation tests carried out in certified experiments. Here a real size roof or wall is built in accordance with manufacturer’s recommendations, including reflective cavities, and electric heaters are used to maintain a temperature inside while the outside is controlled near freezing. Then the power consumption is measured accurately.

            I use it together with fibregass between studs or rafters, as it forms a vapour barrier to stop condensation. the fibreglass adds insulation and soundproofing. The cladding has to be vapour permeable. When the chief building inspector found out about it on my project he tried to make me take it out and I had to waste a week proving that it complied with agrement certs.

            Needless to say, the French have been using it successfully for 20 years. They put it above and below rafters and even omit sarking felt, as the multifoil does the job instead. It keeps the baking heat out and has not shown signs of deterioration so far. We now have UK manufacturers with products as good or better and they are being held back from marketing a product which would be invaluable to retro fitting our huge stock of older housing.

      • lifelogic
        Posted March 29, 2012 at 6:08 am | Permalink

        They have already ruined appearance with all the shiny and pointless PVs on the endless roofs and ugly double glazzing. External insulation of 8ins would be absurd on most old houses. It might make sense in Scotland but in warm London? In many cases the energy saved will never be worth the costs of installation. It does not need government intervention at all anyway. Let people make their own judgement on cost/benefits for their individual circumstances.

        Personally I just wear a jumper and do not heat all the house much. It is a large house but the bills are not high enough for it to make sense to double glaze even the payback would be never with added interest at the current high margins, and they would be very ugly. Would the frames and catches even last the 20 years? Would the ugly insulation cause damp and condensation and addition other repair maintenance costs?

        Why pay to do today for what can be sensibly put off for many year or even for ever?

        • stred
          Posted March 29, 2012 at 9:02 am | Permalink

          It could cause condensation unless very carefully sealed. In my experience the words ‘very carefully’ are inapplicable in the builing industry. I recently found out that a house I bought, with cavity insulation under a council grant, had cavities only half filled. My partners house had been insulated with foam sheets between the rafters and I had to fill draughty gaps 20mm wide when I ugraded the room. Building is the biggest area of disorganised crime.

  3. colliemum
    Posted March 28, 2012 at 7:01 am | Permalink

    This is a very hairy subject indeed, because of the huge influence of vested interests which you name.
    As first step any PR and lobbying by the public sector should be severely limited. It is totally unacceptable that our taxes are used for lobbying. It may be naive, but I thought MPs have research assistants (paid by us taxpayers) who can find out relevant information?
    While constituents do have free access to their MPs, the incontrovertible fact is that there are only 24 hours in the day, and a lot of mail/e-mail doesn’t get more than an acknowledgement that it has been received. Glossy leaflets, big cheques will of course catch the eyes of the PAs in preference. It is only human nature.

    A cap on spending for elections would have the welcome side effect that local associations would have to rely on ‘boots on the ground’, on party activists to do the leafletting and talk to local residents. Nothing is as off-putting for residents in an election – local or national – than receiving a glossy mailshot from Central Office, with a generalised, one-size-fits-all statement and that’s it.
    Political apathy can only be turned around by getting people involved. When we see that only donations which are more than some of us will have to live on for ten years! then we see that the divide between us and the political party leaders, MPs and local councillors is so deep that our voices have no chance of being heard, never mind being acted on.

    It is sad that in an age where modern communication methods should encourage a dialogue between politicians and those who elect them, lobbyists of all stripes, private or public service/trade unions/ charities have not just better access and more weight, but increase the undemocratic attitude that people are only good for ticking the desired box every four or five years.
    A cap on donations/PR should alleviate this.
    Oh – and on no account should the tax payer be made to pay for funding political parties!

  4. Paul Danon
    Posted March 28, 2012 at 7:29 am | Permalink

    Let’s make it democratic. Anyone can stand without paying a deposit and without a list of proposers. You can spend as much as you like but laws on corruption apply, as they should when it comes to paid influence on government-policy.

    • outsider
      Posted March 28, 2012 at 2:31 pm | Permalink

      Agreed. The rules are carefully designed to keep out independents. Massive election spending is allowed at national party level but next to nothing by individual candidates.

  5. davidb
    Posted March 28, 2012 at 7:45 am | Permalink

    I donate to a party. When it was trifling amounts I felt happy that I was supporting a platform I broadly agreed with. Now the sums run into a few hundreds I find I am invited to “donor conferences” and sent those kind of circulars charities bombard you with. All parties need money, but if my experience is anything, they solicit donations too, and from there it must surely only be a short step to “selling” influence.

    I dont want state funding. We have a flawed system already when MP’s in safe seats can generally do whatever they like regardless of the voters will. If they are funded involuntarily then they are accountable to nobody save the party machine. The influence of an individual rich donor or trades union cannot be that much anyway. Labour didn’t revoke the union legislation in their 13 years and the tax rate change is a red herring, so how much was bought?

  6. Brian Tomkinson
    Posted March 28, 2012 at 7:46 am | Permalink

    I understand that political parties want to spend more and more at each election; no surprise then that they think spending more and more when in government is what is needed. The Conservative party treasurer resigns and we are expected to believe that no one else in the party knew what was going on – particularly the prime minister who was hosting dinner parties for the donors. Another “single rogue operator” no doubt. We have already heard calls for more taxpayers’ money to be given to pay the political parties. The answer to this form of blackmail (give us your money or we will misbehave) should be a resounding ‘No’. Spending at general elections should be reduced, strictly limited and politicians should stop treating the electorate with contempt.

    • APL
      Posted March 29, 2012 at 8:28 am | Permalink

      Brian Tomkinson: “The answer to this form of blackmail (give us your money or we will misbehave) should be a resounding ‘No’.”

      Agreed.

      The Party, for there is only one although like the mythological Hydra it has more than one head, needs to have its funding tied to its individual membership.

      No party should be permitted any additional funds whatsoever other than that they receive through one member one subscription.

      As Jones in Dads Army used to say, “They don’t like it up em”.

  7. Kingbingo
    Posted March 28, 2012 at 8:00 am | Permalink

    “The resignation of the Conservative Treasurer has highlighted once again the vexed issue of money and politics.”

    Actually Mr Redwood for me it highlights the bias of the BBC. We all know that if this were a Labour PM and Lakshmi Mittal the story would have been very briefly mentioned at best and then dropped and never referred to again.

    Indeed as you allude to trade unions regularly buy (literally buy) policies of the Labour party and yet this is thoroughly ignored. The BBC would never make it lead story bulletin after bulletin.

    The Tory party of which I used to be able to identify will remain hamstrung until such a time as the party recognises that the Labour party are just your opponents, but the BBC is your enemy.

    • Bob
      Posted March 28, 2012 at 6:25 pm | Permalink

      “the BBC is your enemy”

      Cast Iron Dave probably thinks he’s bought off the BBC with gay marriage.

    • Bazman
      Posted March 28, 2012 at 7:15 pm | Permalink

      What do you propose as an alternative to the BBC given the fact that you watch little TV other than the news which you find bias, but still watch for some reason?

      • APL
        Posted March 29, 2012 at 8:21 am | Permalink

        Bazman: “but still watch for some reason?”

        Those who have ‘taken the red pill’ get their news from diverse sources, do their own analysis, as a result the BBC is found utterly lacking in its current affairs, trivial in its business news, and largely witless in its political coverage.

        Why do we still watch it? It reminds us that we are compelled to pay for a sausage machine that produces crap covered with pigskin and sells them as prime cut.

  8. Rebecca Hanson
    Posted March 28, 2012 at 8:05 am | Permalink

    I agree with this because if you limit spending, the only way to generate extra momentum is by engaging with ordinary people who will get out there and phone people, deliver leaflets and knock on doors.

    Our democratic systems seem to have moved a long way away from ordinary people. We need to reconnect them.

  9. Nick
    Posted March 28, 2012 at 8:08 am | Permalink

    2010 bribery act. It’s a crime.

    Time for a prosecution.

    Ditto for any whip offering inducements or otherwise.

    • StevenL
      Posted March 28, 2012 at 6:33 pm | Permalink

      If I was on a jury I’m not sure I would agree that a party fundraiser was being ‘improper’ by offering trinkets to big donors. I’d most likely have found the MP’s house ‘flipping’ tax fiddle to be ‘dishonest’ though.

  10. Nick
    Posted March 28, 2012 at 8:10 am | Permalink

    Brian I agree.

    If they can’t raise the money it shows that they don’t have support from the public. If they don’t have support they shouldn’t be in power.

    It’s just that we are offered a hobson’s choice about which trougher’s get to the trough in Westminster, to booze themselves silly and enrich themselves at our expenses.

    Look at the latest prosecution for violence and drunkeness.

  11. alan jutson
    Posted March 28, 2012 at 8:24 am | Permalink

    The problem with limiting expenditure by Political Party’s, is that money could be diverted from central government, to highlight the existing governments ideas and policies to the public before election time.

    The above was highlighted/reported by the press in years past when Labour were in power, so political advertising/brainwashing was paid for by the taxpayer before the election had even started.

    The problem we have with our democracy is Lobbying by those interested organisations in furthering their cause (and feathering their own nest) as many have already pointed out.
    In addition the whipping MP’s to do as they are told, not as they think, needs a rethink.

    I am not aware of the current situation with regard to Trade unions and the political levy, but many decades ago as a trade union member you had to actually write to your trade union branch or works convener to opt out should you wish to, which then led to much pressure from within, not to do so.
    Perhaps this has changed in recent years, but surely you should choose to opt in not out, if this has not changed.
    But why a political levy at all, surely if want want to make a personal contribution to a political Party of your choice, you can do so.
    You can still be a good trade unionist, without supporting the Labour Party.

    • Winston Smith
      Posted March 28, 2012 at 9:06 am | Permalink

      You have to tick a box onyour membership form to opt-out. It should be changed to tick a box to opt in. This change was forced on private companies because marketeers (and the TU leaders) know few people read the small print.

      • alan jutson
        Posted March 28, 2012 at 10:13 am | Permalink

        Winston

        Thanks for the update.

        The tick box culture has spead to trade unions then !!!

        Guarantee you are not asked every year to re-tick the box.

        Do you still have to write, if you want to change from a decision made perhaps decades earlier ?.

    • A Different Simon
      Posted March 28, 2012 at 9:47 am | Permalink

      It’s not just funding which needs reforming but also access to publicly funded resources .

      It is wrong that LibLabCon leaders had a monopoly over the taxpayer funded BBC televised leaders debate and serious alternatives like UKIP and Farage were excluded .

      Any party which has polled say 7% of the electorate UK wide or countrywide should certainly not be excluded .

      Not sure what you do with regional parties like the SNP and or new parties like NOTA (None of The Above) which are looking to stand in 2015 but these details can be worked out .

      Reply: UKIP has never polled anything like 7% in a UK General Election. The SNP and other nationalist parties do get MPs elected to Westminster, but they were also excluded from the Leader’s debate.

      • A Different Simon
        Posted March 28, 2012 at 11:12 am | Permalink

        The fact that votes are concentrated amongst the three main parties is a function of an electoral system which perpetuates the status quo .

        UKIP do reasonably well in elections to the European Parliament and would presumably do better under P.R. .

        Two of the three main parties will never allow the electorate a referendum on P.R. and the other only favours out of convenience rather than ideological reasons .

        The electorate perceives that a vote for anything other than one of the main parties is a wasted vote .

        The Leaders debates were little more than another Celebrity Britain’s got X-Factor – minus the regional heats and eliminators .

        If we are to continue to have them on a public access channel , shouldn’t the criteria for participation be defined rather than left to the discretion of the BBC ?

        Reply: THe European elections are under PR. UKIP still has never won them. They do do considerably better in them as a share of the vote than in General Elections. We have just had a referendum on a differing voting system, where all who wanted PR were urged to vote for the changed system. The result implies there is no overall support for PR for Westminster.

        • A Different Simon
          Posted March 28, 2012 at 3:19 pm | Permalink

          That’s as disingenuous as saying that the results of a general election in which Europhile parties came 1st , 2nd and 3rd implies that the British people are happy with countries relationship with the EU .

          I don’t hold out much hope that in my lifetime the British people will ever be allowed a proper choice on anything that really matters .

        • Caterpillar
          Posted March 28, 2012 at 9:55 pm | Permalink

          I supported FPP instead of AV because FPP is a better system than AV. If MMP had been an option then I would have supported MMP.

          There are comments on this site that indicate that people are voting for a local MP, such as JR, but in so doing support a party that they do not wish to. (Two vote MMP removes this dilemma, returning proportional parties top-loaded with successful constituency MPs).

          There are people on here who point out the disparity between UKIP polling 16% in the European elections but 3% in the GE, this is such a large gap that one might suspect some is due to the voting system.

          Reply: It might be that more people wish to register their hostility to the EU in a European election, but regard other issues as more important in a national election. For those who want a new relationship with the EU neither level of UKIP support is helpful, as even in an election concentrating on the EU issue UKIP shows a small minority only vote for the full Come Out option.

      • Bob
        Posted March 28, 2012 at 6:46 pm | Permalink

        Spending should be limited.

        Any political party who are contesting say 50% or 60% of the total seats should be given equal airtime on the telly.

        Election manifestos should be irrevocable, otherwise there is a possibility that the politicians will promise one thing and do the opposite.

        Any major constitutional changes or changes to well established cultural norms cannot be effected without being declared in the manfesto, otherwise should be subject to a referendum (gay marriage for example).

        Any donations arising from criminal activity, such as the money donated to the Lib Dems by Michael Brown should be confiscated and returned to the victims of the crime.

        We need to break the current three party system because it has led to stagnation in politics.

    • Electro-Kevin
      Posted March 28, 2012 at 3:35 pm | Permalink

      I’ve had no problem opting out of my Union’s political fund.

  12. Winston Smith
    Posted March 28, 2012 at 9:03 am | Permalink

    Off topic, but did you see the reports about Damien McBride (ex-Brown spin chief) tweeting during Osbourne’s Budget speech? He recogised many of the changes as proposals that were continually pushed by the civil service mandarins (and rejected) during the last Govt’s reign. This adds weight to the growing opinion that the change in Govt is little more than a sideshow to a continuity civil service led administration. Douglas Carswell firmly believes this to be the case. It also makes me think that all these rich, public schooled, PPE posh boys sound better than they actually are and lack the business acumen and nous to deal with the mandarins. Perhaps with your experience as a Cabinet Minister you could offer us an insight.

    Reply: I suggest you read the occasional leaked letters from Dr Spendlove and Dame Doolittle on this site.

    • Winston Smith
      Posted March 28, 2012 at 10:41 am | Permalink

      Will you confirm that the current Planning Bill is also a civil service creation and that labour would have introduced the same legislation if they had retained power? The Sustainable Development criteria uses the exact same legal blurb as that introduced by the Blair Govt. The sooner people realise we have the same political elite controlling the Country, the better.

      Reply: I will confirm that the government has changed its original proposals in response to extensive lobbying/consultation responses wanting more protection for the countryside. The civil service gave Ministers the easiest way to hand to achieve that alteration.

  13. backofanenvelope
    Posted March 28, 2012 at 9:28 am | Permalink

    This just leaves a nasty taste in my mouth. Someone can afford to give a quarter of a million pounds to a political party – just like that. I was in full time employment from the age of 17 till I retired at age 58. My life savings are far short of a quarter of a million pounds.

    We should cap donations – say £100 per head. I rather liked a suggestion I read the other day. When you vote you hand in a voucher to go to the party of your choice.

    • alan jutson
      Posted March 28, 2012 at 2:38 pm | Permalink

      backofanenvelope

      In my experience no one gives £250,000 to anyone without expecting to gain something for it, otherwise it is a very, very expensive meal out.

      Indeed the first law of money lending:

      Never lend to family or friends (unless the agreement is in writing) if you want to remain friends, with friends and family.

      • stred
        Posted March 28, 2012 at 6:29 pm | Permalink

        And never work for friends or family.

        • alan jutson
          Posted March 29, 2012 at 8:29 am | Permalink

          Stred

          Agreed, unless the contract is in writing and agreed by both sides.

  14. Brian Tomkinson
    Posted March 28, 2012 at 9:29 am | Permalink

    I see Cameron is now turning the tanker drivers dispute into a crisis and encouraging panic buying – there are already long queues outside petrol stations. Does he know what he is doing or has he some political death wish or both?

    • stred
      Posted March 28, 2012 at 6:30 pm | Permalink

      It diverts attention from Premieshipgate.

    • uanime5
      Posted March 28, 2012 at 7:10 pm | Permalink

      Maybe he wants a new crisis to distract people from an existing crisis or one that’s about to emerge.

  15. Cliff. Wokingham.
    Posted March 28, 2012 at 9:39 am | Permalink

    I think it is the party system that is killing our democracy.
    Over the last couple of decades or so, we have seen the party leaders grab power from their parties. They act more like presidents and when PM, this is even more true.
    The party leader, be he in opposition or Number Ten, appears to dictate policy and backbenchers need his patronage to “get on in politics” so are more likely, out of self-interest, to not rock the boat. Those that rock the boat tend to stay on the back benches whereas, yes men and yes women, tend to be rewarded for their faithfulness to their party leader.
    Having spoken with and read many political blog contributions, it appears that more and more grass root supporters are upset by the way their leader is taking their parties away from their core beliefs and principles.
    Modern British politics is more about image and presentation rather than principles.

    I think it is nieve to think that anybody giving £250,000, or more, to a party doesn’t expect some influence over policy.

    I do not want to see public funding of political parties, but I accept something needs to be done to stop the appearance of being able to buy influence.

    It is nieve to think that trade unions do not expect influence for their donations, just as it is to think large PLCs give cash to parties out of the goodness of their hearts.

    Regarding Norman’s point about interaction with his MP; I have found that our host, who is also my MP, usually reponds very quickly to communications although, to be honest, he has not replied to an Email which I sent last Friday, but I am sure that now Parliament is in recess, he will have time to reply. Whether an MP chooses to ignore his electorate or not, gives an indication as to whether he deserves to be there or not.
    Wokingham is a very safe Conservative seat, but Mr Redwood still takes time to reply to constituents which, in my opinion, tells you everything you need to know about the integrity of our host. If your MP doesn’t respond in a similar manner, then perhaps you should look at other candidates and outline your concerns in the local press with a letter to the editor.

    One of the questions I raised to Mr Redwood in my Email was about how an ordinary supporter of Mr Redwood’s, could vote for him without by default, endorsing Mr Cameron. This highlights another problem with our democracy and the party system.

    Reply: In a General Election you are only asked to choose between your local candidates, but you may also want to choose between the main parties on offer nationally which influences local choice. The choice of party leader is of course a matter for party members, where the MPs have a special role as they can force a contest if they think it necessary. I will check past emails, as I thought I was up to date.

    • alan jutson
      Posted March 28, 2012 at 2:49 pm | Permalink

      Cliff

      I am in the same boat (constituancy) as you.

      I have voted for our host ever since he was first elected as our MP, (and I will vote for him again) simply because I believe he stands for values and ideas which in the majority agree closely with my own thoughts.
      He is also an excellent local MP.

      Like you, I have to say I do so on occassion with a heavy heart, given the way the National Conservative Party behaves from time -time, thus I find your E mail subject a very interesting one.

      I wonder how many locals feel the same ?.

      We have a Conservative MP, but not really a traditional Conservative party in action.

      • Alan Wheatley
        Posted March 28, 2012 at 7:58 pm | Permalink

        I too found the email subject a very interesting one.

        I think that we can be sure that the party leadership (all parties, all leaders) will count every vote for the party as endorsing the leadership’s stance, irrespective of the views of of their MPs.

        Looking at it another way, does the size of an MP’s majority affect the influence an MP has with the party leadership? Could it be proportional, or even inversely proportional?

        Perhaps we could get The Moral Maze (BBC Radio 4) to tackle this one and bring some enlightenment to us all!!!!!

    • Cliff. Wokingham.
      Posted March 28, 2012 at 7:13 pm | Permalink

      John,

      What you say is indeed true however, when an election is won, the leader of the victorious party takes that victory as an endorsement of his leadership and his policies. When a party is ahead or behind in the polls, the leaders tend to take that lead as an edorsement of their leadership and they mock the party leader whose party is behind, saying that deficit is a judgement on that leader’s ability or lack thereof. Mr Cameron does this as did Messers Brown and Blair when they were ahead.

      Perhaps someone should look at whether the party leader at an election, is the popular candidate for PM. If the electorate vote that party in but the leader is unpopular, then perhaps a new leader should be chosen. I wonder if any of the current party leaders would get a majority endorsement amongst their own party supporters.

  16. Neil Craig
    Posted March 28, 2012 at 9:40 am | Permalink

    These government organisations which, I also think improperly, spend taxpayers’ money on lobbying government for more taxpayers’ money for government, also tend to use our money for advertising to the taxpayers, which I thi9nk is at least equally improper. This is particularly so when this government money is being used to promote party policies.

    For example NERC is a quango that gets £450 million for advertising (or as the PC brigade call it “raising awareness”) about catastrophic global warming. It is only 1 & not the most prominent, of many such quangos who must in total spend billions on this scam. Yet, while all the approved parties support this fraud, UKIP and the BNP say that it is a fraud. Thus every penny of these billions is being spent promoting party policy for the LabConDemGreen monolith.

    Let no member of any of these “separate” parties ever pretend that they do not already receive billions from the taxpayer.

    • Cliff. Wokingham
      Posted March 28, 2012 at 10:43 am | Permalink

      Yes Neil, I too get fed up with messages from Dot Gov.

      I spoke to Mr Redwood (my MP) a couple of years ago about the amount of government advertising on TV and radio. He stated, if I recall, that this advertising would be reigned in if they got into power and, indeed it was. However, the national radio station which I listen to, which specializes in golden oldies, has again began to have atleast one message from the state in every ad break. It must cost a fortune.
      There are two types of adverts; one telling you to do this or that or we’ll have you and another that tell you what to do but with no threats.
      I feel, sat in my own home, that the state is intruding every quarter of an hour they get in to threaten me with fines or prison if I don’t obey them.
      Is it just me that feels like this?

      Reply: I did win this argument some time ago, but as you say it looks as if we need to do it again. The governemnt should not be spending much on adverts. I will take it up.

      • Alan Wheatley
        Posted March 28, 2012 at 8:06 pm | Permalink

        I agree with the point, but would say that some “advertising” is legitimate if in the form of public information. This would be reasonable where, say, long standing and familiar rules have changed and the general public needs to know.

        I would question what benefit NS&I get from advertising on Classic FM. They are not even advertising a product, only themselves.

    • wab
      Posted March 28, 2012 at 9:45 pm | Permalink

      According to the NERC website:

      http://www.nerc.ac.uk/about/work/budget/

      their entire budget for 2010-2011 was around £480 million. I think it is pretty obvious that they are not spending £450 million on advertising, unless you count scientific research as “advertising”. No doubt they are spending some of their money on glossy brochures promoting what a good job they are doing, like all organisations (private and public), but it will be small beer.

  17. outsider
    Posted March 28, 2012 at 10:22 am | Permalink

    The underlying issue, Mr Redwood, is that most people in this country no longer have any interest in supporting one party or another financially unless they seek some kind of office themselves. There is little real difference in foreign or defence policy, welfare policy, economic policy, health policy, environmental policy, EU policy, food policy, individual freedom policy, transport policy, industrial policy, law and order policy, immigration policy, social engineering or whatever, despite all the hysterical rhetoric to the contrary. And in many areas, that consensus excludes large sections of the public.

    No wonder there is general disgust at the party system itself, which is designed to keep power within a very small circle, narrower even than the Cabinet, and stifle alternative voices, let alone dissent, as best it can. I have the privilege, through circumstance, of having two MPs to “access” Both decent and conscientious but one has turned out to be an office-seeker asking patsy questions and the other is threatened by big boundary changes and understandably desperate to keep his nose clean with party bosses. The idea that national parties are essential to democracy is ever less convincing. If there were more independents, like the
    Lords crossbenchers that Mr Clegg wants to abolish, the general quality of MPs would be higher. At present there are only a handful of members on either side (including yourself) that have the quality needed to run the country.

    Individual party membership now carries few benefits, partly thanks to the rundown of Conservative and Labour clubs. No wonder that there is no longer mass membership and parties therefore have to rely on big donations. If parties are essentially brands (toxic or not) , they need to spend money on marketing their policies. The more money the better if interest is not to fade even more into indifference. That means offering some benefit from membership. How about saying that everyone who subscribes £240 a year goes into a lottery to have dinner the the PM/party leader. Or anyone who pays £1,000 goes into a lottery to choose a motion for debate at party conference. And you could have lesser prizes, ranging down to breakfast with a front bencher (I am rsisting the temptation to name names).

    All attempts to limit party funding lead to more scandals, as you can see in France, Germany, Japan or the US. As in life, the fewer the laws, the fewer the crimes. The fewer the rules, the fewer the scandals. And the freer the market, the greater the vitality. Money does not buy votes, as Sir James Goldsmith showed, but it does stimulate interest.

  18. Denis Cooper
    Posted March 28, 2012 at 10:45 am | Permalink

    “A possible deal which the main parties will be relucant to strike would say that shareholders of public companies and Trade Union members should be asked to give any money they wished to give personally. Some think public companies and Trade Unions could both be banned from sending money on behalf of members. Others simply want a limit on the total size of any donation, whether it comes from an individual or from an organisation.”

    My preferred solution is:

    A. Completely ban donations from organisations, only allowing personal donations from named individual UK citizens out of their own personal resources.

    B. But have no limit on the amount of his own money a person may donate.

    C. Insist that the party publish details of larger donations within a few days of receipt.

    The personal details of those individuals who made smaller donations would not need to be published, an aggregated total being sufficient; and there would be some “de minimus” exemptions, so that eg it would be legal for a foreigner to put a fiver in the collection at a party’s public meeting, and it would be legal for a businessman to allow his premises to be used for a party committee meeting free of charge.

    Reply: Parties do already have to publish larger donations. If a businessman or woman gives the use of facilities or other services, these can be legal gifts but their cash value has to be included as an election expense for obvious reasons.

    • Denis Cooper
      Posted March 28, 2012 at 2:40 pm | Permalink

      As I understand from this:

      http://www.electoralcommission.org.uk/__data/assets/pdf_file/0014/102263/to-donations-rp.pdf

      the party has to report details of donations to the Electoral Commission each quarter, except during a general election when it’s each week, whereas I was thinking that the party should be required to publish details of donations on its own website within days of receipt.

      It also says there that:

      “anything with a value of £500 or less is not a donation”.

      Does that mean that the same person or body could give £499 each week during a year, and none of those weekly payments would count as being a donation, and the aggregate of £25948 would not have to be reported even though it would be well above the usual reporting threshold for donations, which is £7,500?

      Reply: No it does n ot mean that – there are rules about multiple donations from the same source.

    • sm
      Posted March 28, 2012 at 3:08 pm | Permalink

      Agree with Denis but with a few tweaks.

      1) Ban all contributions or loans or benefits in kind by limited companies or other corporate vehicles, public bodies,quango,councils etc, basically any non individuals.
      2) Only citizens resident & domiciled should be allowed to donate up to low limit. Volunteering should be allowed.

      How about the rights of recall of errant MP’s
      1)if they err in conduct
      2)if they fail to represent their local electorate.
      3)if the integrity of parliament and public governance requires it.For example, if they can be reasonably held to have intentionally or unintentionally misled or cause the public to be misled by action or omission of an action therein.

      Then lots of sunlight into these dark corners of publicly funded political advisors. And especially in local government where appointment is specific to a party or group which mandate membership of said party as a criteria of the role.

  19. Susan
    Posted March 28, 2012 at 10:45 am | Permalink

    I don’t think funding is the Conservatives real problem actually. The public have known for years how the political parties raise money. No matter what is done about funding the Conservatives are now never going to shake off the label that they are the party of the rich. The public had already started to believe Mr. Cameron and Mr. Osborne were out of touch with the realities of ordinary life for most working people long before this recent funding issue. The budget just confirmed the publics suspicions, rightly or wrongly. Acutally it is their lack of experience of real life which is causing them to make such poor decisions and alienating their cure voters.

    When times are hard the public want know they have a leader who understands their diffiuclties and needs. They want to know that no matter how hard things become with the economy the PM will see them through to better times ahead. Mr. Cameron cannot provide this kind of leadership because he does not understand the problems of the ordinary working people in the first place. You can be well off and still have the common touch, Mr Cameron does not have this ability either.

    • Bob
      Posted March 28, 2012 at 7:30 pm | Permalink

      “When times are hard the public want know they have a leader who understands their difficulties and needs.”

      – He is changing the rules on same sex marriage isn’t he?
      – He increased the foreign aid budget didn’t he?
      – He is working on a scheme to allow us to pay for new roads on a usage basis, while continuing to pay for the old roads that we have already paid for many times over.
      – He has also been laying off soldiers as they return from the front line, and he has reduced the size of our military overall to the point where we could not mount another Falklands campaign.
      – He also been over to the U.S. to show support for the Democrats.

      And that’s just for starters!

      • Susan
        Posted March 29, 2012 at 2:43 pm | Permalink

        Bob

        That does then Bob, it just shows how wrong a person can be.

  20. oldtimer
    Posted March 28, 2012 at 10:48 am | Permalink

    I am totally opposed to the idea of yet more taxpayer funded grants to political parties. They should continue to be required to raise cash themselves. It would help if there were tougher limits on the national amounts that can be spent at general elections, as you suggest. This, possibly, would be the most important change that could be made.

    I frequently lobby my MP by letter. I even get acknowlegements and sometimes answers to the points I raise. These relate to issues where I believe the government is wrong, notably on taxation and its obsession with its Carbon Plan. The cost to me is the cost of the letter and its stamp and quite a lot of my time to research the issues which concern me.

    I see no reason why private organisations should not lobby Parliament provided these interests are clearly declared. Indeed any business that failed to lobby on behalf of its interests would, sooner or later, find itself put out of business by those that did. That is why most business and industry associations find it necessary to maintain a presence in brussels, where so much regulation is determined. Transparency and declaration of interests on the part of the lobbyists and the recipients is the key.

    It is wrong, in my view, for public organisations to spend taxpayers money on persauading Ministers to spend yet more taxpayers money on their activities. It is wrong, in my view, for government itself to pay other orgainsations to propagandise policies which government itself wants to promote. This definitely occurred under the last Labour government, with funding provided to a variety of organisations to support its propaganda. The EU does the same thing on a massive scale as the evidence of its intervention in a past Irish referendum demonstrates.

    Reply: I am against taxpayer funding of parties, other than Short money for the Opposition in Parliament.

  21. Atlas
    Posted March 28, 2012 at 10:54 am | Permalink

    A week is a long time in Politics – as I think both George Osborne and David Cameron have learnt yet again. One for his sly budget moves (G. Brown MK II ? ), the other for having banged on about buying influence and then caught with his trousers down on that self same issue. Politics seems to corrupt.

    One way ahead is to stop corporate ( Company and Union) Political donations and limit the size of personal donations.

  22. Caterpillar
    Posted March 28, 2012 at 11:48 am | Permalink

    Personally I wouldn’t have worried too much about the recent money for access scandal if there appeared to be logical consistency within the Coalition’s policies, but given that I perceive (it may not really be present) a politics of patronage then I am worried.

    In terms exchanging cash for policies, if this going to be pursued (!!!!) then it ought to be done at least one General Election ahead and the policy put in the manifesto with its sponsors noted. For example if an airline were sponsoring a third runway policy (I am not saying one is) then put it in the manifesto and declare it – voters’ reactions will be different.

    In terms of General Election spend, well as I have said before firstly I would prefer a change of system to MMP with one party and one constituency candidate vote. Within this I would want several streamed local hustings to which all (healthy) constituency (not party list) candidates must attend. I would also want one centrally funded constituency document circulated with a couple of sides of A4 included by each candidate (written without seeing the other candidates contributions). If a candidate belonged to a party then this would be declared. I would wish to see a limit to party expenditure (however funded), my reasons for this are the coke-pepsi effect. In blind tastes (product A) outperforms (Product B), but in non-blind tastings (A) wins. With fMRI brain studies this result is repeated, brand association kicks in. The brain does prefer (A) with all the associations, but in blind tastings the brain prefers (B). Party GE spending (and newspapers coming out) acts to create the party brand effect, in a blind taste of policy the electorate may vote differently to a branded policy vote. If it is now too late to limit the ‘brand value’ of major parties, then perhaps a party vote could be done blind – this is party A’s polices, B’s policies etc. Hmmmm …. MMP + blind party vote + local husting constituency vote…perhaps that’s a suggestion for the Deputy Prime Minister.

    • Caterpillar
      Posted March 28, 2012 at 9:44 pm | Permalink

      Sorry slight typo:-

      In blind tastes (product B) outperforms (Product A), but in non-blind tastings (A) wins.

  23. forthurst
    Posted March 28, 2012 at 12:10 pm | Permalink

    We are very rapidly following in the footsteps of the USA where lobbyists and the small number of MSM players (a situation whose legality was achieved through the very same lobbying for a change in the law) control the flow of information, the election of ‘representatives’ and the laws that allow corporations free reign whilst the lives and liberties of the people come under ever more dictatorial constraint. Ron Paul has been testing a new paradym, one in which the internet and individual subcriptions have been the focus, offering policies which resonate across the political spectrum, not only on the libertarian right. As expected he has been ignored by the MSM. However, what might have been less expected is the extent to which officials within the Republican Party have been prepared to go to prevent him obtaining delegates, despite his grass-roots popularity.

    MPs do not represent corporations; they represent people. They certainly do not represent foreign powers. Nor do they represent the interests of those who wish to destroy European civilisation through massive unlimited third world immigration or an unrelenting assault on our culture. Yet so many MPs unashamedly promote third world immigration, multiculturalism, political correctness, the interests of foreign powers and the promotion of laws which are designed to favour the objectives of corporate (both private and public) lobbying.

    It is time to pull the plug on the BBC and its self-appointed right to set the political discourse in this country. Furthermore, MPs who do not represent their constituents exclusively should be subject to the criminal law. In both cases they are taking our money and using it for their own ends and against the public interest.

    • Bazman
      Posted March 28, 2012 at 7:11 pm | Permalink

      What about channel 4 and other news sources that have the same anti government stance on many of their policies. What do you propose to do about them? The licence fee red herring? You will have to do better than that.

    • Bob
      Posted March 28, 2012 at 7:39 pm | Permalink

      “It is time to pull the plug on the BBC and its self-appointed right to set the political discourse in this country”

      Yes, I understand that the BBC’s Charter is up for renewal in 2016. We should start the ball rolling on privatisation. We’ve done it to the railways, BT, gas, electricity and water. Looks like the Royal Mail is next, so what’s so different about a TV broadcasting company???

      • sm
        Posted March 29, 2012 at 10:11 am | Permalink

        Such a well made obvious point, why is the BBC not privatised?
        There are limited downsides to the public.

        In short it is not a natural monopoly?

        If you could sell it for 5 times its earning, thats £15bn-£20bn.

    • zorro
      Posted March 28, 2012 at 7:53 pm | Permalink

      Good points made.

      zorro

  24. MajorFrustration
    Posted March 28, 2012 at 12:22 pm | Permalink

    JR – I do hope its coming across that voters are getting rather p….d off with you/your lot. Your expenses, your subsidized bars etc., party funding, tranparancy indeed, yeah right, no balls to deal with the EU, soft on terrorists and associated benefits, reduction in red tape – where o where, and supposedly we are all in this together.

    • Winston Smith
      Posted March 28, 2012 at 2:05 pm | Permalink

      Don’t forget soft on crime. Those 3 thugs who paralysed that 5yr old girl when they fired into a shop all were free to roam the streets despite convictions for serious crimes. One even got off murder on a technicality, 3 yrs earlier. Let’s hope their next victim is the offspring of one of the political elite.

  25. AJAX
    Posted March 28, 2012 at 12:27 pm | Permalink

    Establish a max legal limit on national election spending & keep it low = problem solved, otherwise the campaign funding war will continue escalating & England will end up with the situation they have over on Capitol Hill, a political class that’s owned by the Corporate Sector.

    Whether the Westminster political class wants to do this, or whether they look across the ocean to Washington in envy for what their peers have there & desire a similar system to try to enrich themselves with, is another matter.

  26. javelin
    Posted March 28, 2012 at 1:31 pm | Permalink

    Off topic but an excellent article – explaining why the ECB lost control of short term interest rates (and this will become apparent only when inflation takes off).

    http://voxeu.org/index.php?q=node/7789

    “Should the inflation outlook worsen, we would immediately take preventive steps”. So said Mario Draghi, President of the European Central Bank. This column argues that these are brave words given that the ECB has hit a limit in its ability to prevent an acceleration of inflation.

  27. Mike Stallard
    Posted March 28, 2012 at 2:35 pm | Permalink

    As a rather cynical activist, I wonder if there are any Eurosceptics who can afford £250,000 for a cosy meal with the PM?

    Reply: One of the absurdities about the idea that donations and meals can get you the policy you want is that the various donors doubtless want differing things, and sometimes contradictory things. I am sure the Conservative party already has donors who would like a referendum on the EU, but they haven’t been given one.

    • stred
      Posted March 28, 2012 at 6:55 pm | Permalink

      But at least they would be heard at length, unlike any ordinary voter. The fact that Mr Cameron is using this wheeze to extort money from the rich and powerful for Party purposes is equally disgraceful. The man has been rumbled and should be replaced.

    • Alan Wheatley
      Posted March 28, 2012 at 8:24 pm | Permalink

      Perhaps the £250k donors could, in this hour of need, come to the Party’s aid and tells us why they gave their donations. We may all have been getting hold of the wrong end of the stick and donations were entirely altruistic.

  28. Barbara Stevens
    Posted March 28, 2012 at 3:56 pm | Permalink

    After the expenses fiasco, I would have thought MPs would have learnt something, it appears some haven’t.What we saw and heard over the weekend was awful and a disgrace; and for it to have been a Tory MP is disgusting behaviour. What the rest of the world thinks of this country I dread to think.
    The Tory party as got many things wrong in the past three years, the first was it’s deputy chair woman, appointed to the Lords and to the cabinet without portfolio, and unelected; did not go down well with the grass roots of the party. Secondly, its leaving behind it’s traditional beliefs and ways of doing things resulting in many giving up their membership. If this carries on they will have no members to call upon to face the hustings. Activists too, are falling by the wayside. Perhaps now is the time to take an internal look at what’s going on before it’s to late.
    Mr Cameron’s Tory party is not one I favour at all. He as failed to keep promises made, not tackled the EU head on, and changes his mind like the wind. We can discuss what’s already happened but it changes nothing; we still demand action and want to be heard. The budget was a failure, and the so called ‘granny and grandad tax’ was a right bloomer, like the Labour parties ’10p’ tax. While we waste millions on foreign aid, the EU, and Whitehall waste, all arguements are flawed. Its our money and it should be spent here not abroad. I hope Mr Redwood you can explain to all your fellow MPs that waffle and not listening is failing us all.

    Reply: The ex Conservative Treasurer was not an MP, I am relieved to tell you.

    • Martyn
      Posted March 28, 2012 at 5:38 pm | Permalink

      I see also that Mr Osborne is considering setting an upper limit on cahritable donations, presumably on the basis that giving money to a charity is tax avoidance, which he has declared he is sternly against. The next step, no doubt, will be for legitmate tax avoidance to become declared a crime equal to illlegal tax evasion.

      I despair of ever seeing true conservatism again at government level and am sick to death of the endless spin and falsehoods being spouted by our alleged leaders. Like others on this site, I have an excellent and hard-working Conservative MP and it will be a great shame to see him go down the pan with Mr Cameron and his compatriots.

  29. uanime5
    Posted March 28, 2012 at 4:52 pm | Permalink

    The solution to this problem is simple.

    1) A mandatory cap of £5,000 for donations from any person or organisation.

    2) Only an organisation or person that belong to a political party can donate to this political party.

    3) People and organisations can only belong to a maximum of one party.

    This way the political parties can only raise money from the supporters of this political party and if MPs acts in a way which their party disapproves of then the party can respond by refusing to fund their campaign at the next election. This will ensure that MPs are accountable to their party, not their own interests.

    “Like the NHS this is a free service at the point of use.”

    The reforms the Government introduced will soon change this. Now the NHS will only be free if a private healthcare companies decided your treatment should be provided on the NHS. If they refuse to treat you then you’ll have to go private.

    Reply: Do stop scare mongering. The same range of treatments will be available on the NHS after reform as before.

    • uanime5
      Posted March 28, 2012 at 5:53 pm | Permalink

      It’s also an affront to democracy when donors are able to recommend policies that benefit them but are detrimental to most people simply because they gave the party in power a large donation.

      http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/david-cameron-wanted-to-wave-through-donors-policy-to-destroy-rights-of-workers-7593585.html

    • Cliff. Wokingham
      Posted March 29, 2012 at 10:04 am | Permalink

      Quote;

      “”This way the political parties can only raise money from the supporters of this political party and if MPs acts in a way which their party disapproves of then the party can respond by refusing to fund their campaign at the next election. This will ensure that MPs are accountable to their party, not their own interests.””

      Surely this would take the MP even further away from representing his local people……..Who is the party?……In the current set up, it is the leader who assumes a kind of presidetial role within that party and dictates direction. Look at recent leaders such as Messers Clegg, Blair, Brown and Cameron; how happy are the grassroots in relation to where the aforementioned took their parties?

      I think we need to find ways to make MPs more accountable to their constituency and less so to their party and its leader.
      As John points out, we elect a local MP not a party but, in reality we elect someone that a party throws at us unless we vote for an independent which, all too often, amounts to a wasted vote.

      • uanime5
        Posted March 29, 2012 at 3:08 pm | Permalink

        How about each MP can only get funding from people in their constituency and donations to political parties are forbidden? This would ensure that MPs had to be acceptable to their constituents how it may result in a lot of very small parties being elected.

        • Cliff. Wokingham
          Posted March 29, 2012 at 6:22 pm | Permalink

          Yes, at one level that does sound more sensible however, I would worry that one very rich local benefactor could well effectively buy his own MP.

          It is a minefield, but it is important in a healthy democracy, that not only must there be no actual corruption, but also no appearance or possibility of corruption.

          I think the current funding situation could be tweaked to eliminate many of the perceived problems highlighted on this very interesting topic on John’s blog.
          One obvious tweak might be for a list of doners to exist, with their business interests also listed, in much the same way as MPs have a list of interests. The MP or constituency that recieves money or money’s worth from a doner, would then be prevented from voting on matters that could affect that doner’s business. For example; if the CEO of a major developer donated to an MP’s fighting fund, then if elected, that MP would be barred from voting on matters relating to development. He should still be allowed to take part in the debate, just not vote.

          The problem is that two of the main parties that dominate politics, perhaps due to their ready access to funds, would be reluctant to change the status quo. Only a major outcry from the public could perhaps make the main parties change the current situation.

          Reply The Electoral Commission does require registration of donations.

    • uanime5
      Posted March 29, 2012 at 3:12 pm | Permalink

      This isn’t scaremonger John. Even under the current laws the NHS can refuse to offer any treatment. This is why there is a postcode lottery regarding how many free cycles of IVF women can receive. Expect GP consotias run by private companies to no longer offer NHS treatment that’s provided by these companies.

      reply: they will have a statutory duty to provide health care, and NICE will continue to authorise drugs and treatments.

    • Bazman
      Posted March 31, 2012 at 5:59 pm | Permalink

      Just like dentistry John?

  30. REPay
    Posted March 28, 2012 at 5:32 pm | Permalink

    A masterly exposition. I had not thought of the public sector lobby – surely a lot more effective than business which is so feared and loathed by commentators with regard to

    I agree we need to avoid getting to the stage where the US is where hundreds of millions are raised and spent in elections. Political discourse is often centred on who has how much money – rather than policies. It makes politicans much more vulnerable to the charge that they are bought.

  31. Derek Emery
    Posted March 28, 2012 at 6:03 pm | Permalink

    Lobbying companies both in the UK and EU could not exist if money could not buy influence. There’s no such thing as a free lunch. Its smelly but an inherent part of politics see wiki http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lobbying
    It would be better if there was transparency as it would protect the public from the worst excesses.
    Government could never have signed up to such one-sided contracts as PFIs if these were subject to transparency before contracts are signed as there would be an uproar from the public at the terms government were agreeing to. That is exactly why they were kept secret.

  32. Alan Wheatley
    Posted March 28, 2012 at 7:22 pm | Permalink

    I propose the following.

    Annual cap of £10k per donor; I will listen to anyone who thinks it should be more and is prepared to argue the case.

    Donors can only be electors.

    If a case can be made for state support of political parties then it should be on the basis of “matched funding”; i.e. for every pound a party receives the state will give the party a pound, or a fraction or multiple of that pound depending on the case made and when there is more information readily available in the public domain as to what funds are spent on and why parties say they need to make that spending.

    Matched funding mitigates the argument of why should an individual tax payer help fund a party with which they do not agreed. The fact that some people do support a party with donations demonstrates a measure of public approval. In any event, the whole political process needs a lot of tax-payer’s money to work.

    State funding must NOT be on the basis of the number of votes cast at the last general election.

    Some of the State support to parties should be “in kind”. Particularly by making time available on National TV (e.g. BBC 4) for parties to broadcast their message directly to the electorate without a media editorial filter. Programme production facilities to be available free, editorial control to be totally under the control of the party.

    Of course, this raised the obvious question as to who will watch. If programmes are a succession of party political broadcasts as we get at election time then no one will watch: but more fool the party for wasting the opportunity of communicating its message to the whole nation. Those interested in a particular subject would be interested to hear a party’s analysis of the issues and their policy to make things better; that is they would be interested if the programme is interesting.

    If there is to be state support for parties then it has to be for all parties; i.e. if a group qualify as being a political party then they are entitle to their share of state support, no matter what a load of loonies many of the rest of use think them to be.

    What we can not have is the main parties giving themselves the power to write themselves a blank cheque.

  33. Adam5x5
    Posted March 28, 2012 at 8:18 pm | Permalink

    Ban large donations altogether, but still allow from anyone eligble or companies. Say a cap of 5000.

    Then watch the parties collapse under their own weight as membership has dropped due to parties not representing their member’s views.

    New parties can then develop or grow to fill the void and we may actually end up with a democracy…

    A paradigm shift is needed in politics as a whole – from the highest levels to the local councils. A shift to less spending, less nannying and more representation for the people. If this shift is not forthcoming soon then I fear for the future as the state will collapse under its’ own weight.

    People are becoming fed up with the political parties Mr. Redwood, as they constantly do one thing and say another.

  34. Alan Wheatley
    Posted March 28, 2012 at 8:37 pm | Permalink

    The Guardian gave a foretaste on 30th September 2011 in an article entitled “City’s influence over Conservatives laid bare by research into donations”. See link

    The basis for the article came from the “Bureau of Investigative Journalism”.

  35. libertarian
    Posted March 28, 2012 at 9:04 pm | Permalink

    As businesses, Trade Unions and other organisation do not get a vote, no organisation should be allowed to donate to a political party. All party donations must be from individuals, and fully declared ( i.e. no anonymous donations). The current election spending rules are grossly unfair and undemocratic, standing as an independent everything I spent counted towards my election limits, my opponents in the 3 major parties spent vast sums on PARTY advertising.

    Our major political parties are all completely detached from the electorate all of them representing organisations, pressure groups and lobbyists. This is highlighted by the complete collapse in party membership with now less than a half a million members of ALL 3 political parties combined. This is less than 2% of eligible voters

  36. BobE
    Posted March 28, 2012 at 10:14 pm | Permalink

    I watched the dazed expression on the chancellors face when asked about the “Granny Tax”. He had no idea what he hads just said. I think that the budget was constructed by civil servants and mearly handed to him to read out. The same with Cameron, just a PR presentation rep. MPs don’t lead anymore they just front up the line they are told to do.
    We no longer are lead by parliment. Im not sure who is in charge any more.
    Most of the MPs are just marking time whilst aquing pension and salary.
    Sad times when you remember the England we once were.

  37. Bazman
    Posted March 31, 2012 at 6:00 pm | Permalink

    If you allowed one vote for every 100k owned then the problem would go away and why should plebs have the vote?

  • About John Redwood


    John Redwood won a free place at Kent College, Canterbury, and graduated from Magdalen College Oxford. He is a Distinguished fellow of All Souls, Oxford. A businessman by background, he has set up an investment management business, was both executive and non executive chairman of a quoted industrial PLC, and chaired a manufacturing company with factories in Birmingham, Chicago, India and China. He is the MP for Wokingham, first elected in 1987.

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