This morning I heard that Michael Crick for the BBC is going to produce a programme on the growing taxpayer cost of politics. I am glad they are going to draw attention to this trend, which has gathered huge momentum in the last decade.
Labour is happier with politics as a great nationalised industry. There are new armies of advisers on the payroll, to add to the Councillors. MPs, and regional governments. Like most nationalised indistries, the politics corporation is overmanned, costly and not very efficient. Labour has introduced more elected officials in London, Scotland and Wales, more unelected or indirectly elected officials in England’s bogus regions, and a huge increase in the number of political advisers, spin doctors and researchers across all levels of government.
Labour have consistently tried to prevent private money coming into politics, as they fear other parties will be better at attracting voluntary donations than they are. It is now much more difficult to accept money from outside without falling foul of some sleaze test. Money from overseas is banned altogether, at a time when business is much more global and when Labour wants us to be more European.
Meanwhile the Labour model is for much greater spending. Instead of MPs and Councillors doing their own research and handling their own statements and press conferences, people assume now that politicians need researchers and press people to do all that for them.These people need salaries which need paying for. There are difficult issues about the dividing line between politics and government, between what a Council or government spokesman can say and what a political party wants them to say, but not sufficiently difficult to put the politicians off having the paid officials at their side.
Nationalisation cocnentrates power in the hands of the party machines. People who want a “career” in politics instead of wanting to serve the public and contribute to public debate have to conform more and go along with the “professional” political advice from the army of advisers. It leads to a jejune soundbite culture which stifles proper debate. It leads to a bigger burden on taxpayers. It leads to worse government.
What should be done? We need fewer payers of government, fewer elected officials, and fewer advisers. We need a better spread in sources of funding for what political parties do need to do. We need a lower ceiling on how much a political party can spend for an election. Let the elected officials who remain do more and say more, to earn their salaries.