The politics of donors

Sensible people want to hear from their politicians during an election about the plans and intentions they have for the next five years, if chosen to govern. People are quite interested in examining the record of leading parties in power, so there does have to be some discussion of the past to help form impressions of whether a party in government is broadly helpful, reliable and good at handling crises. The main preoccupation is what will happen next? Will we be better off? Will things that currently annoy us be improved or changed?That requires an intelligent examination of what parties say they wish to do, and probing to make sure they have thought through their plans and are resolved to carry them out.

There is a danger that too much knocking copy and too many fights over Westminster issues distracts from what really matters to individual voters. Labour’s decision to make “dodgy donors” the issue was always going to cause trouble, and may help put more people off politics. Any named Conservative donor was going to deny the dodgy label and maybe sue if Labour pursued the charge. What does dodgy mean? How do you prove dodgy? Is it aggressive tax avoidance, or does it have to be tax evasion? Presumably it’s more than having a large pension fund or a few ISAs. It also meant that some in the press and in other political parties would start the trawl for Labour dodgy donors. If there are dodgy donors, they will not all support the same party.

Relying on private donors has its difficulties for all political parties. They have to show the donors cannot “buy policy”. The donor may give because he or she likes what the party is saying, but should not give to get the party to change what it is saying. They do have to obey the law and turn down donations from people who do not qualify as donors. For the party’s sake, they also need to satisfy themselves that a large donor can withstand any unfriendly enquiries from jealous party rivals.

However, the main alternative, of requiring taxpayers money to finance parties seems to me to be far worse. Why should I as a taxpayer help finance parties I disagree with? How do you prevent taxpayer funding acting as a buttress to old parties who are well established and stifling new or challenger parties? What is a fair way of giving out the money? Should today money be given out based on how many seats parties won in 2010? Or how many votes they won then? Or should modern opinion polls have some role? The difficulty in defining who should join a leaders’ debate would b e mild in comparison to the squabbles over how much state finance each is due.

The donor battles will be damaging to all involved. There can be no winners. The best answer to limit the damage would be to reform the current system in two ways. The first would be to drop the long campaign, and to limit the election campaign to the last month. The second would be to impose a lower limit on how much any party can spend, so limiting the number of rich donors or the amounts parties need to take from any one source. That seems to me to be the least bad control.

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71 Comments

  1. Lifelogic
    Posted February 17, 2015 at 6:36 am | Permalink

    There is surely not the slightest doubt that governments pass laws that are clearly only in the interest of the enrichment of vested interests who lobby and donate to political parties. There are countless laws and regulations that clearly harm the population and the economy at large and benefit only a few vested interests – why else where they passed? This at both EU and UK level. What surely drives the idiotic green grants, odd selective tax laws, OTT health and safely and endless over regulation of almost everything from coffee machines, vacuum cleaners and toilets is clearly mainly vested interests.

    There is no doubt at all that in the UK honours and membership of the Lords are given out in return for political donations. The odds of the clear (and very heavy) correlation being random or due to any other honest cause (than them being sold) must be of the orders one in 100 million or so.

    I agree limit the total spend – silly posters all over the country add nothing to the debate. But also get rid of the absurd endless bias from the lefty/arty/moronic BBC. This is always for more EU, open door un-selective & wage depressing immigration, fake “equality”, no integration, pro the dysfunctional NHS, anti grammar schools, for ever more tax borrow and waste and for endless green crap/catastrophe scare stories.

    Clearly Cameron needs to hide behind silly posters as he has so few sensible policies to defend and ratted or so much of his last manifesto after throwing the sitting duck election. Has he for example decided what to do on his £1M each IHT threshold promise of 6? years ago that he ratted on. Or what he wants to negotiate back from the EU. He seems to have decided that freezing OAPs and exporting jobs is a price worth paying from pretending to be “green”.

    Is he really going to throw another election with his lefty, big government, fake green ineptitude. Miliband is doing all he can for Cameron after all.

    • Gary
      Posted February 17, 2015 at 8:01 am | Permalink

      Don’t worry lifelogic, in time peer-to-peer encrypted networks will break this cozy clique, and most of them will be none the wiser. Their constituency will evaporate, it already is.

      • Bazman
        Posted February 17, 2015 at 7:25 pm | Permalink

        That where you are wrong Gary as David Cameron is going to ban this technology.

        • Edward2
          Posted February 18, 2015 at 11:41 pm | Permalink

          Well only those that steal the copyright of others.
          Minimumnwage for workers eh Baz?
          I could just see you on here seething that some wicked capitalist was pinching your original work and stealing your rightful earnings.
          A good example of Conservatives protecting the rights of individuals against the negative aspects of fully free market and creating a decent mixed economy

          • Bazman
            Posted February 19, 2015 at 5:24 pm | Permalink

            Interesting as to how he is going to do it. Ban the internet is the only answer, so much for rights then.
            As for stealing when files sharing that is open to debate. The entertainment industry have had their finger in the dyke for decades and are still looking for a non existent magic bullet. Its called progress edward and cannot be stopped anymore than the night can be.

    • Jerry
      Posted February 17, 2015 at 9:25 am | Permalink

      @LL; “But also get rid of the absurd endless bias from the lefty/arty/moronic BBC.”

      Not quite sure what you are implying there LL, after all if you have any evidence that the BBC circumvents the rather strict laws on broadcasters during national and local elections in the UK you might wish to stop bleating here about it take your evidence to both the police and regulators…

      Although after last nights “outing of UKIP” via an absurd [1] fictional account of their first 100 days as the UK government I had hoped that those who rant again the BBC would now also turn their attention to the democratic damage being done by any number of other TV stations/channels during the run-up to, and the rest of the MSM during, elections.

      [1] the scenes of fringe civil unrest suggested in last nights Ch4 programme happens under all flavours of governments, for example the Poll Tax and the Stop the War protests, even the violence seen during old style union strikes etc.

    • Vanessa
      Posted February 17, 2015 at 10:25 am | Permalink

      God help us all if the State is allowed to fund itself with our money. Nothing could be more corrupt and unacceptable.

      • Hope
        Posted February 18, 2015 at 1:41 pm | Permalink

        Opposition parties already get state funds! That should stop immediately. Nothing allowed to be placed in a manifesto unless it could be proved that it will be acted upon or there was every effort to do so. Could also be used for a proper right to recall for trying to mislead/ deceive the public.

    • Vanessa
      Posted February 17, 2015 at 10:27 am | Permalink

      Cameron has no “conservative” policies, he just wants more homosexual marriage, that is what “won” him the election last time !!!!!!!!!

    • lifelogic
      Posted February 17, 2015 at 11:27 am | Permalink

      I do not want to see state funding of parties but it certainly must not be on the basis of votes cast as the fptp voting system already gives the two larger parties a huge advantage and forces people to vote to stop a candidate rather than for a candidate they actually want.

      A separate vote for whom they wish to give there £2 of tax to perhaps.

      • lifelogic
        Posted February 17, 2015 at 11:29 am | Permalink

        Of course this will not happen as any new system will be a stich up by the government in power mainly in their parties interests.

    • Hope
      Posted February 17, 2015 at 12:20 pm | Permalink

      Peter Hitchens writes a good article about Tory donors and how this brings into question what the Tories at the moment actually stand for? A good reasoned article. Although I think it is clear Cameron does not stand for anything conservative and only does what he is told to do by the EU and that is why he consistently failed to deliver any of his promises, even to his own MPs. One good idea is that any donor who gives over £500 to a party ought never to be able to be given an award, peerage, title, job or exercise policy of that party. Much tighter rules on conflict of interest and jobs for SPads, and MPs once they leave office.

      Another good piece by Booker on the deceit used by our politicians on the EU project. It really is quite shocking the lengths politicians and civil servants have gone to deceive the public. Time for quangos to be disposed of as most are implementing EU policy and regulation by the back door so politicians can claim or limit the extent of EU rule over the UK.

    • acorn
      Posted February 17, 2015 at 7:57 pm | Permalink

      Crikey Lif’ic, your first two paragraphs are pure Marxist. Then your last three para’s are pure “Redneck”. What’s going on???!!!

      Anyway, I am really enjoying this Greek thingy. Yanis knows his onions alright. He has got the ECB by the short and curlies. The ECB is starting QE so there will be a shortage of interest earning Euro securities in the Euro market. So, if the ECB pulls the plug on Greek banks, Greek bonds will be the only earner in the Euro market, and we could end up with two Euro currencies; a Greek one and a Greater Germany one!!!

      Yanis Varoufakis for EU Chancellor of the Exchequer I say; what a player!

  2. Narrow Shoulders
    Posted February 17, 2015 at 8:16 am | Permalink

    Funding and delivery of message are intrinsically linked. While political parties can rely on souwndbites to deliver their key messages money spent on posters to reinforce those soundbites is money well spent.

    The tribal nature of much of the electorate lends itself to the current vehicles for message delivery, confirming the prejudices of the 60 odd percent who will only ever vote for Labour or only Conservative, they are as likely to change their football team as their vote.

    Preventing any advertising spend for 6 months before an election would be fair to all parties and may force all parties to engage more fully and directly with the electorate. Making life easier for single issue parties to rise locally or nationally would also make campaigning and canvassing by the larger parties a more comprehensive exercise.

    Of course neither of the two larger parties nor the other established parties wish for more competition so, large corporation within the EU-like, current parties will moan about the rules without doing anything about it.

    In the manner of Labour not giving up its Scottish MP’s votes despite it being the moral thing to do, each established party has no real interest in changing the funding other than in ways that directly advantages itself or disadvantages the competition. The life of a politico is too comfortable to put at risk.

  3. nigel
    Posted February 17, 2015 at 8:16 am | Permalink

    The long campaign is caused by the fixed term of Government, which Clegg pushed for, to avoid being ditched as election time approached, and to which Cameron should never have agreed.

  4. DaveM
    Posted February 17, 2015 at 8:28 am | Permalink

    Firstly, taxpayers should never be required to finance political parties. Never mind the mainstream – what about money going to Sinn Fein or whoever steps into the BNP’s shoes? And – in a world where Independents are probably going to become more popular ( in local matters if not nationally) – what funding would they get? That’s got to be a non-starter if the main parties want to retain ANY popularity at all.

    You’ve almost hit the nail on the head in a roundabout sort of way. I don’t condone the “dodgy” behaviour of any of your donors (or any of the other parties for that matter), but I’m much more interested in what you intend to do if you win the election than I am in what Miliband had for breakfast. Farage’s popularity is testament to that kind of attitude from the populace.

    If you had solid policies on things that matter (in addition to the “long term economic plan!), and broadcast them clearly for all to see, all the smear in the world wouldn’t make any difference to your chances of a majority. People are quite selfish at the end of the day – if they get what they want they don’t generally care where it came from.

    Having said all that, I thought I heard what I wanted in 2010. Turned out that none of it happened. So maybe reading the manifestos and listening to the false promises is a stupid way of deciding who to vote for. Maybe we SHOULD just listen to the smear and decide which side is less dirty and dishonest. That might be a close race!

  5. alan jutson
    Posted February 17, 2015 at 8:32 am | Permalink

    I am all for shortening the election campaign, but when you have a fixed term Parliament that does not happen, as everyone knows when the election date will be.

    I would be in favour of limiting the spend, but then you are at the complete mercy of the media and their beliefs.

    Not really in favour of the State funded Party model, but if it ever should happen, then it should be calculated on the number of votes for each party at the previous election, subject to a minimum requirement, Perhaps something like 100,000 votes as a threshold.

    Funding should not be by number of seats, as the first past the post system does not reflect true national overall voter intent/desire.

    Seems to me sone of the worst aspects we have is the present lobby system, where big business seeks to push its own agenda of self interest only.

    Large donors (completely by chance of course) seem to have gained so called honours in the past.

    Completely devalues the so called honours system.

  6. David Murfin
    Posted February 17, 2015 at 8:44 am | Permalink

    A long campaign was an inevitable result of a fixed term parliament.
    “The donor … should not give to get the party to change what it is saying” but all parties contain members who have a range of views. Suppose a large donor to the Conservative party expresses his view that UK would be better outside the EU? Would you prohibit that? How would you know whether a future gift was given to change policy or not?

  7. stred
    Posted February 17, 2015 at 8:50 am | Permalink

    Reported last week, the over 60s are more likely to vote Conservative or UKIP. Does this mean that Ed is a better tactician than Eural, as he realizes that every frozen stiff is likely to be one less vote,helping the electoral advantage from boundaries and postal voting that they have already.

    • Mondeo Man
      Posted February 17, 2015 at 7:44 pm | Permalink

      Stred – It’s likely that a high proportion of emigrees are likely to be Conservative or Ukip voters too – people who can stand on their own two feet and offer real skills to an adoptive economy usually are.

      Recent polls show an upsurge in Tory support. I may be wrong.

  8. Ex-expat Colin
    Posted February 17, 2015 at 8:58 am | Permalink

    That TV licence surely needs to go because what was shown last night on C4 showed direct interference in the political system we have. That kind of thing does influence some people…its a big worry.

    A small number of people in this country are certainly 5th columnists and in positions that weaken us …continually!

    Advertising is too frequent (per 7 mins) and is akin to brain washing in most instances. No quality is there ? Just money and severe annoyance. Parkinson and his stupid free pen ? No shame at all.

    A closer examination at whats happening on the FreeSat channels needs a good look at also. Astra Sats.

    • A different Simon
      Posted February 17, 2015 at 9:52 pm | Permalink

      The supposedly publicly funded and public access channels such as BBC and Channel 4 currently receive funding from the EU .

      The EU always expect something in return .

      Got a feeling they will be wanting their money back after last night’s “Ukip the first 100 days” drivel .

      • stred
        Posted February 18, 2015 at 10:49 am | Permalink

        Channel 4 claim they get no public funding, although they were asking for a bit of the license money a while back. The directors are appointed by Offcom etc ed

  9. A.Sedgwick
    Posted February 17, 2015 at 9:11 am | Permalink

    Your comments about the dangers of the State funding political parties is refreshing, unlike those of K.Clarke, who was promoting the idea yet again. Election campaigns are too long and largely unnecessary and the situation has been made much worse by the undemocratic fixed five year parliaments. The airtime leading politicians have is excesssive already and probably detrimental to encouraging people to vote e.g. PMQs. For the first time I am considering not voting, the outcome in my constituency is largely foregone and I am so disenchanted with FPTP and the way the country has been run in the last 20 years that maybe I should stop deluding myself that it matters.

    • Mondeo Man
      Posted February 17, 2015 at 7:51 pm | Permalink

      Here here, AS.

      It will make little difference to ordinary people whomsoever gets in.

  10. rick hamilton
    Posted February 17, 2015 at 9:14 am | Permalink

    I suggest that voters should be asked (required) to pay a small levy in order to exercise their right to vote. Only a pound or two each would generate significant amounts and possibly enough to run a campaign without outside donors. The funds collected in this way should be given to the parties in proportion to the number of votes they receive. In the absence of proportional representation this would help small parties that are popular among voters but kept out of parliament by FPTP.

    The main parties would never agree to it as it undermines their vested interests and you can be sure the left would rant on endlessly about hitting the poor and needy, but come on – the price of a bag of chips? It might just work.

  11. oldtimer
    Posted February 17, 2015 at 9:35 am | Permalink

    Public funding of the political parties would be the ultimate case of snouts in the trough. By comparison the MPs expenses scandal would seem very small beer.

    By attacking Conservative party donors as dodgy, Mr Miliband runs the risk of being hoist with his own petard, and probably will be.

  12. Alan Wheatley
    Posted February 17, 2015 at 9:39 am | Permalink

    I disagree. For a start, limiting spend does nothing to correct the inequity of a few very large sums donated to a political party. Large donations demonstrably buys access. We can all speculate on how that access is used.

    In the ideal world there would be no need for public money to fund political parties, but SOME public funding is a far least worst option then a few providing the lions share of the funding. And there are ways of limiting the cost to the tax payer.

    For a start, I would use a favourite government method; match funding. Thus public money would match money raised by private donations. Also, I would put an annual cap on private donations of, say, £10,000 per annum. And I would limit donations to people on the electoral register: no companies nor organisations.

    I would also help parties reduce their costs by making available ample TV time for free for parties to get their message across directly to the people. The BBC don’t know what to do with BBC3, so finding a channel is not going to be a problem. This has another big advantage to the electorate in as much as they can hear from parties directly without their message passing through the broadcasters’ editorial filter.

    To those groaning at the thought of a deluge of party political broadcasts, I would say there is plenty else watch. And if a party is stupid enough to make a programme that few will bother to watch, then more fool them to wasting the opportunity made available to them. Who would you rather vote for: a party that uses most of their time slot slagging off their opponents or one that provide well constructed and presented information as to their objectives and the means they intend to use to achieve them?

  13. Jerry
    Posted February 17, 2015 at 9:57 am | Permalink

    “The first would be to drop the long campaign, and to limit the election campaign to the last month. The second would be to impose a lower limit on how much any party can spend”

    Why can’t the political parties be limited to just publishing their manifestos (in multiple forms and platforms), have them delivered to each and ever home in the UK -or devolved nation were applicable, have the broadcast media (TV, radio, internet) interview those who might be PM and their senior people in cabinet/coalition, each separately, or at least party group, by a panel of three experienced journalist, of the right, left and centre and then have a single “Leaders Debate” involving those parties who have officially stood enough candidates that if elected could be able to form a functioning cabinet, this would allow smaller parties that might hold the balance of power in any coalition to be involved and would also act as a national test on the popular support for such parties.

    All this could and perhaps should be state funded, the argument “Why should I as a taxpayer help finance parties I disagree with?” is irrelevant, tax payers have to finance many things in a democracy that they might disagree with, from CND members having to fund nuclear weapons, people objecting to (indirect) tax funded Green subsidies, to the religious right having to fund what they see as objectionable state funding of sex education in schools. Party spending would thus in effect be for deposits, direct election stumping costs and very limited advertising of local candidates within their own constituencies.

    As long as the horse has a water-trough in the field, what is the point in repeated trying to lead a horse to water if it won’t drink, when and if the horse is thirsty it will not only find the water but drink it…

  14. Ian wragg
    Posted February 17, 2015 at 10:05 am | Permalink

    11 weeks to go and still no indication of what he intends to negotiate in Brussels. Greece has rejected German’s latest offer. I think they want them out of the Euro. Russia must be laughing.
    What is it that makes politicians so unbelievably stupid

  15. English Pensioner
    Posted February 17, 2015 at 10:18 am | Permalink

    I rarely listen to politicians as it is unusual for them to tell us anything of importance and it is almost impossible to find out any detail.
    I’d like to know, not only how the Tories are proposing to get rid of the deficit, but more importantly, how they are going to pay off the national debt, the interest on which is now costing us more than the defence budget.
    I’d like to know how Labour are proposing to pay for everything the appear to be offering, their proposed mansion tax clearly won’t pay for it all unless they extend the definition of “mansion” to 3-bedroom semis!
    All we get are attacks on the other parties and their supporters; a business man attacks Labour’s policies towards business and they attack the man based on allegations of tax avoidance. Even if he had avoided tax, it doesn’t alter the validity of any claims that he made, but we don’t get any comment about them.
    Then last night we had a so-called documentary about UKIP’s first 100 days, designed no doubt to try to dissuade voters from supporting UKIP, (allegation deleted ed)
    And of course, only UKIP will talk about immigration, whilst the Tories have failed to implement their declared policy of reduction, and Labour candidates have been instructed not to discuss the subject but to talk about the NHS instead.
    Frankly I don’t care who gives the parties money, it is better for it to be given publicly to the party than as backhanders to individuals; if we know who has given money, we can see for ourselves if the party is pushing the interests of that individual.
    All I ask is that the parties stop treating the electors as idiots and to start answering some questions.

  16. Bert Young
    Posted February 17, 2015 at 10:21 am | Permalink

    Of course large donors are suspect . Many large organisations I have advised in the past have made donations with the specific intention of creating influence directly or indirectly . When faced with threatening forms of legislation likely to impinge on the way their company was run or to affect its turnover and profits , who could blame them for taking whatever steps were necessary to limit interference ?. On one occasion I recall advising one newly appointed Chief Executive not to give so much time to a particular Party ; his predecessor had sacrificed much attention to his organisation with the efforts and time given to Party “X”- ( he was elevated to the Lords ).

    This sort of practice has gone on for as long as I can remember and I can’t see what is going to stop it in the future . The financial support system is in need of reform – but I hazard a guess that whatever changes are made , there will always be some way of steering around the changes .

  17. Bob
    Posted February 17, 2015 at 10:54 am | Permalink

    I agree with you regarding a reduced spending limit, but alas your govt has recently increased the limit. Another issue where you appear to be at odds with your leader.

    Clearly, the cost of Chris Atkins Channel 4 program about the first 100 days of a ukip govt should be added to the LibLabCon election expenses, it has the LibLabCon’s fingerprints all over it.

  18. stred
    Posted February 17, 2015 at 11:15 am | Permalink

    The criticism of HMRC is welcome usually and there is no doubt that they are inefficient, arrogant and like to hit the small taxpayer rather than the ones with smart accountants, if only to hit targets. However, the smears spread by Milliband and Balls are incomprehensible except in the sense that they wish to gain votes from the non taxpaying core, who do not understand the difference between evasion and avoidance. There is no point in HMRC going after wealthy taxpayers with accounts in Switzerland or other countries, where they may be working or have a house and are avoiding tax by legal means created by the politicians that are now smearing them.

    The biggest avoiders are the multinationals, who again are taking advantage of the loopholes created by EU politicians in order to free up the single market. Strangely, some of the biggest avoidance areas for companies have included Luxembourg and created by their ex PM, who is now the president of the EU. While one of the best tax avoidance areas in the EU, for foreigners only, is the UK, where some of the designers of the scheme are the very politicians now whipping up the dislike and jealousy in order to stop their supporters voting for UKIP.

    • stred
      Posted February 17, 2015 at 11:38 am | Permalink

      To their credit this morning John Humphries ran an interview with a small businessman who had been given a sudden bill for £42k by HMRC and had spent years arguing his case, which he had won in the end after a final appeal. In the time taken he had been badly affected and still is. These days, of course, after Messrs Osborne and Cameron altered the rules, they would simply take the money straight out of his bank account and he would be bankrupted. For this reason, more than any other they should be kicked out of politics and never return.

      • libertarian
        Posted February 18, 2015 at 12:05 pm | Permalink

        Sted

        You are absolutely right.

        All of our main political parties are anti small business. In my area the Tories rule the roost and they are appalling, doing untold damage. In one town 50 traders have been taken to court by the Tory Council for having the temerity to want to pay their hugely inflated Business rates monthly instead of a year in advance. The council are doing this whilst closing car parks, shutting down bus services & diverting traffic away and telling us that they’re improving business. Meanwhile dozens of businesses have closed or moved because the tax costs are too high.

  19. agricola
    Posted February 17, 2015 at 11:48 am | Permalink

    Your thoughts on donors and how one can limit their effect and influence to just paying the bills, merits serious thought and discussion. There is also the balance between lobbyists and the electorate that needs attention. The electorate need 100,000 signatures to get a subject considered by Parliament. Lobbyists only need to offer the right people a good lunch. Lastly there is the question of the extent we should allow the EU to fund various bodies within the UK that it thinks can further it’s cause.

    The most alarming development in the run up to the May election is the blatant bias of our so called public service broadcaster, funded I might add by every TV owning family in the country, whether they like it or not.

    CMD will never do anything about the BBC because he belongs to the same left leaning elite as do most members of the BBC. Just to list the latest BBC political propaganda broadcasts in the run up to the election, I give you the following :-

    The Casual Vacancy.

    The First 100 Days.

    The Price of Inequality.

    How Rich are You.

    All designed to denigrate the centre right in politics and persuade you that you should vote for some left leaning party. What the BBC are planning via Question Time, or any of their politics based programmes I shudder to think. It amazes me that they have been allowed to get away with it for so long.

    None of the left wing drivers at the BBC, on screen or off screen, are indispensable. There are an excess of media studies graduates over jobs available, so a clear out at Broadcasting House would pose few problems.

    • stred
      Posted February 20, 2015 at 9:11 am | Permalink

      Channel 4 is as least as biased as the BBC and staff move between the two, often with an even more ridiculous pay increase. Re. Wiki.

  20. Sir Graphus
    Posted February 17, 2015 at 12:04 pm | Permalink

    NO! to state funding of political parties.

    Political parties have a problem; the public won’t willingly give them the money they feel they want; so let’s take it from them instead without asking. NO!

    So who would receive funding and who wouldn’t. The BNP would have received money. Is that satisfactory? In the future, an Islamist party might be in line for public money. So perhaps some committee is needed to decide which parties should or shouldn’t get money. NO! again. We can’t have people in the corridors of power having any say in who gets to walk with them in those corridors.

    So, the existing system, donations by the willing, has its flaws, but it’s better than any other.

  21. Denis Cooper
    Posted February 17, 2015 at 12:29 pm | Permalink

    Whatever may be the case elsewhere, in this country political parties are no more than voluntary associations of supposedly like-minded citizens seeking to gather support for their ideas and use the electoral system to impose their will on the rest of the citizens; they are not state institutions, they should never be allowed to become state institutions, and they should get absolutely no state funding of any description, in cash or in kind.

    The dictum is very simple: “It’s your party, you pay for it”.

    And I would include in that prohibition the abuse of parliamentary resources including members’ expenses and Short money; in my view any proven abuse by an MP should attract deterrent penalties, that is not just a requirement to repay the stolen money but something like triple damages as well.

    I would continue to offer each parliamentary candidate, that is each PERSON seeking election, free delivery of his election address to all constituents, and to update that I would also make a fixed sum available to each candidate so that he could set up his own website for the same purpose of communicating with the electors; but I would not have the state paying for PARTY political broadcasts which are available to some parties and their candidates but not to others.

  22. Jerry
    Posted February 17, 2015 at 1:15 pm | Permalink

    Off topic, and as I suggested yesterday, DWP policies are going to play a part in the coming GE, so why is Cameron still playing to the extremes, the idea that unemployed youths (through no fault of their own) are going to apparently have to work for less than the minimum wage doing work that would otherwise still need to be done by people at least being paid for a full working week (or at least agree to a zero Hours Contract…) and the NMW, if this is real work then give them real jobs and/or training. No point playing to the UKIP audience if by doing so Cameron switches off the vast majority who might move towards the equal but opposite policy from Labour…

    This new Tory policy just sounds like a supply of untrained labour on the cheap!

  23. Denis Cooper
    Posted February 17, 2015 at 2:08 pm | Permalink

    There was a programme on Channel 4 last night which would have been outrageous if it hadn’t been such a ham-fisted and obviously ludicrous attempt to gratuitously defame UKIP; apparently the rules about the long election campaign do not preclude a TV channel deciding to commission and broadcast what could best be described as an extended party political broadcast on behalf of the pro-EU, pro-immigration, and therefore solidly anti-UKIP, Cartel Party, the alliance of the old parties.

    It seems that according to those who produced this blatant political propaganda, and party political propaganda at that, “British values” do not include respect for the rule of law; either that, or they don’t understand the meaning of the word “illegal”, as in “illegal immigrant”. They could of course come out openly and argue that the law should be changed to allow completely open door immigration without any legal restrictions, but they know very well what reception that proposal would get from the overwhelming majority of the electorate.

    1000 complaints to Ofcom so far:

    http://order-order.com/2015/02/17/1000-complaints-and-counting-for-100daysofukip/

    but of course that’s unlikely to make a blind bit of difference, and I don’t suppose that Channel 4 will allow UKIP a right of reply to take their tripe

    • Mondeo Man
      Posted February 17, 2015 at 7:57 pm | Permalink

      Denis – The Tories got an awful drubbing from the BBC’s The Casual Vacancy too.

      Normally I would care, but after the last five years and – especially – the disaster that is Libya I don’t.

      Our country is about to be swamped with refugees as never before and it will make little difference, to the average person, which party wins in May.

      We are done for.

    • fedupsouthener
      Posted February 17, 2015 at 7:58 pm | Permalink

      I just hope the programme backfires on the 3 main parties and gets UKIP a lot more votes. Channel 4 should be ashamed of themselves putting on such a load of old, inaccurate rubbish. Their broadcasting really has fallen into the gutter.

    • Qubus
      Posted February 18, 2015 at 11:59 am | Permalink

      Well said. I completely agree with you and have also contacted Ofcom.

  24. graham1946
    Posted February 17, 2015 at 2:11 pm | Permalink

    I care less about where political parties get their money than the party political system in general. Will there ever come a day when politicians act on their own beliefs and for the benefit of their constituents rather than be fed the ‘line to take’ and told what to think by a few at the top? A good start would be to ban the whipping system and let MP’s vote anonymously and electronically. We might get some sensible policies then, rather than stupidity like climate change acts and increasing foreign aid to levels that can’t be spent sensibly, when we are broke already, just on the say so of one or two ‘elite’ politicians.

    The antiquated system we have now is long overdue for the knackers yard, and my view is confirmed by watching the television series about how the HoC works. It’s a wonder it achieves anything at all. It looks ludicrous, and is an inefficient waste of expensive MP’s time. How can politicians in all seriousness profess run a 21st century, top of the table country whilst carrying on like this, with their officials dressing and using systems invented for 200 years ago? That’s apart from the juvenile nonsense of the shouting match that passes for debate at PMQ’s. It’s time politics was brought up to date and should not be run by a small cabal of know nothings as a private fiefdom.

    On paying for politics, if necessary we could fund individual candidates a smallish limited amount which they would have use for election purposes only and have to account for and not pass it to their parties. To pretend that donors do not buy privilege or influence, is, frankly, an insult to our intelligence.

  25. cliff. Wokingham.
    Posted February 17, 2015 at 3:20 pm | Permalink

    John,

    I would be very unhappy if legislation was introduced to use taxpayer’s money to fund political parties. In my opinion, if a party has a message which people like the sound of, then that party would have no problem raising money from their supporters.

    I think it would be nieve to believe any successful person or company would make a large political donation and expect nothing in return, even if that return was merely sticking to a particular political ideology or way of thinking.
    Party politics are so grubby in the eyes of so many members of the public that, there will always be doubt over the motives behind a large political donation on the part of the doner and for this, professional politicians only have themselves to blame.

  26. Margaret Brandreth-J
    Posted February 17, 2015 at 4:04 pm | Permalink

    I actually don’t give a monkeys who donates to whom.

    Are they buying favours? ..perhaps, but don’t tell me that people buy favours; sometimes with money , support,kow towing and all manner of ways to get what they want. Don’t tell me that railing against buying favours isn’t in effect an attempt to buy support for the opposition.

    • Bazman
      Posted February 17, 2015 at 7:51 pm | Permalink

      Its an attempt to make the voices of those who cannot afford large donations heard.
      Why not just have a corrupt government if that is your deluded argument Marge? If you are able to buy favours then lets see whats or sale and how much?

      • Margaret Brandreth-J
        Posted February 21, 2015 at 2:17 pm | Permalink

        Your repetitive argument that everyone is deluded except you smacks of inability to understand how people try to gain influence over others.

  27. JoShaw
    Posted February 17, 2015 at 4:25 pm | Permalink

    “Why should I as a taxpayer help finance parties I disagree with?”

    That’s exactly how I feel about supporting the BBC.

    • Bazman
      Posted February 17, 2015 at 7:53 pm | Permalink

      SKY and Channel 4? How do you feel about advertising money influencing these political parties but costs to the things you buy? Get real and come back.

      • libertarian
        Posted February 18, 2015 at 11:52 am | Permalink

        Bazboid

        Get real you say, without a trace of irony. Because dear boy one can CHOOSE to have Sky or not and one can CHOOSE to buy the advertised products. Unlike licence fees and taxes which you are compelled by law to have whether you want/need/use or like them. Do you see why socialism always fails? No choice

        • graham1946
          Posted February 18, 2015 at 7:59 pm | Permalink

          Not buying t.v. advertised products is not really an option either, so it’s not that simple. So much is advertised, how would you keep track of what not to buy? What about all the supermarkets who advertise, thereby actually advertising everything in their stores? All products carry the cost of advertising and it is not possible to quantify.

          The t.v. licence is really no more than a tax. It was invented when BBC was all there was on offer and needed paying for and because everyone contributes is relatively cheap. Do you complain that you have to pay for education if you have no kids at school, or about the NHS if you never get ill? It’s a tax to receive a signal, pure and simple and actually the money ends up where it is supposed to go, not like road tax or NIC’s which disappear into general taxation. It may be more than the BBC should have, but that’s another story.

          Whether the BBC is biased or not, I don’t care, I am capable of sorting out the sheep from the goats and making up my own mind. Only the feeble of thought are swayed by this, just like those who vote according to what their newspaper says.

          Re Sky, as a matter of fact, I live in an area (small village) which necessitates us having Sky just to get a digital picture. Before Sky we had analogue which was terrible quality, full of snow etc. Digital via an aerial is not an option at all. True, we could have Freesat, but we’ve had Sky for a long time now, long before Freesat came about and the wife likes some of it’s channels, so to that extent, yes it is a choice, but for years it wasn’t. Same with mobile phones. Have to have a landline. No use complaining, it’s life in 2015 Britain

        • Jerry
          Posted February 19, 2015 at 2:44 pm | Permalink

          @libertarian: But you have no choice about your money via shop tills going to those broadcasters via their advertising income – I would have no problem what so ever if the channels were supported purely by subscription.

          Try deducting the cost of advertising from your weekly shop when next at the supermarket checkout and then walking out the door, if you do I strongly suspect that you will soon find that you are compelled by law to pay the full total or feel the full weight of the law…

          • David Price
            Posted February 21, 2015 at 6:03 am | Permalink

            If the price of an article that is advertised is less than one that isn’t and it fits the purpose I’ll buy it. That fact that it has been advertised has no bearing on a price comparison for me and I suspect many others.

            Why does advertising on commercial broadcasts have any bearing whatsoever on people being forced to pay for the BBC on pain of fine or imprisonment?

  28. Gareth Wilson
    Posted February 17, 2015 at 5:00 pm | Permalink

    It’s a conundrum. On the one side you have UKIP, funded in the main by 3-4 very wealthy donors and on the other, the LibDems who are calling for the State to subsidise political parties in the name of ‘fairness’.

    Taking the latter point first, in terms of fairness it is a non-starter. Who decides which parties get funded? What criteria would be used? The latest poll results? The percentage of the vote gained at the last election (and if so, which election – general, euro etc)? The number of seats etc. What if a new movement was started – how would they be able to campaign if they didn’t reach the above criteria and were not allowed private donations?

    So we are stuck with private donations – which is the morally fair scenario (after all, who is the state to dictate how a person spends their own money!). We then have to ask, ‘what is a private donation’? Presumably Union money isn’t strictly private – neither is that garnered from a Plc. I think it would be easily possible to ban donations from corporate entities (whose members/ shareholders are perfectly capable of making private donations if they wish).

    Which leaves what? Well leaving aside the permutations and workarounds given by private organisations, members clubs or whoever else – we’re left with individuals as the only fair donors to political organisations.

    If this is the case (and it should be), what rules and regulations could be put in place that allow people to spend their money how they like, maintain sufficient privacy and at the same time, provide the public with assurances that the donation will give them no personal gain (other than the satisfaction of helping the cause they believe in)?

    I suggest the following:
    – donations can only come from private individuals who are eligible to vote in the a UK national election over the term of the parliament (to avoid confusion, this rule would be set around the UK Parliament and would hold for other campaigns for local, european etc)
    – donations above an agreed, sensible threshold should be in the public domain
    – donations above this threshold would be counted as public acts – by this I mean that if an individual is able to part-bankroll a political organisation, who will have potential influence over the state, then they are by definition ‘public acts’
    – those engaging in these ‘public acts’ must be able to demonstrate they they receive no public influence, or personal financial gain for themselves or any institution they represent

    • Bazman
      Posted February 17, 2015 at 7:57 pm | Permalink

      Union money the same as company and rich private donations is just idiotic.
      A labourer putting a few pence a week to a political party that promises to improve his lot. The conservatives are promising this? Really? Do tell us how and give us a laugh. Sorry. We are still waiting for you reply.

  29. waramess
    Posted February 17, 2015 at 5:29 pm | Permalink

    It is hard to see what your real objection is to taxpayer funded election funds and why you might believe that donors will not successfully seek preferment, at the very least, from the political party they support.

    We all pay into hairbrain schemes that the ruling party might decide to proceed on notwithstanding our disagreement with them, so why not financing all the parties electioneering? At least then we might be reasonably sure that there is no monkey business going on

    • Monty
      Posted February 17, 2015 at 9:13 pm | Permalink

      @ Waramess:
      “At least then we might be reasonably sure that there is no monkey business going on”

      Whatever gave you that idea? Have you had a nasty bang on the head or something?
      OF COURSE they will continue getting up to monkey business. Whenever and however the opportunity arises.

      Ask yourself this- what do they want the money for? It isn’t for leaflets and posters at election time. It’s for great hordes of salaried pensioned staff beavering away on research, policy wonks, analysts, focus group coordinators, special advisors…
      Then there are the contractors- advertising agencies, consultants etc.
      If they are given a stipend from the public purse, they will not use it to replace donations. They will use it to augment their income from other sources, and their empires will expand accordingly.

      Not a brass farthing should they get.

  30. The PrangWizard
    Posted February 17, 2015 at 5:43 pm | Permalink

    I would rather we grew a generation of responsible and serious leaders who dealt with issues in depth and abandoned the sound bite and opportunist antics we see every day. The media may then have to treat the issues seriously too. It would mean the sacking of spin doctors and the like. I know, I know it’s hopeless, but there MPs who do this and it is their leaders who fail them.

  31. Bazman
    Posted February 17, 2015 at 6:08 pm | Permalink

    You are seriously telling us that donations from rich Russians as well as donations via tax exiles using methods to circumvent rules on this are anything other than dodgy John?
    If anyone wants to compare donations by the unions to Labour from working class people making small donations to improve their lot there is just no helping you.

    Reply The law only allows UK donors.

    • Bazman
      Posted February 17, 2015 at 7:26 pm | Permalink

      Where do school dinners fit in?

    • Edward2
      Posted February 17, 2015 at 8:53 pm | Permalink

      Do you claim that all Trades Unionists vote Labour Baz?
      Plainly they do not.
      Yet their leaders give 100% of the monies they raise to the Labour Party.
      I find that dodgy.

      • Bazman
        Posted February 18, 2015 at 5:30 pm | Permalink

        How many trade unionists vote Tory? I suppose some do as do council house tenants, but Labour was founded and is funded by the Unions which comprise of working people. The Tories funded by a small rich elite really have their interests at heart? Gullible does not even cover it.

        • Edward2
          Posted February 18, 2015 at 11:46 pm | Permalink

          Well we will never know will we Baz, because their masters don’t give them a choice.

          Usual “do as you are told” Trades Union attitude.

          Our choice is your choice, welcome to our socialist freedom.

          • Bazman
            Posted February 19, 2015 at 7:51 am | Permalink

            Where has the demise of the trade unions got the average working person Edward? Low prices ahead for gas an leccy huh!?

  32. Martyn G
    Posted February 17, 2015 at 7:29 pm | Permalink

    Personally, I would rather go to jail than be taxed or have money removed from me for failing to pay for any political party.
    Such a system would be disgusting, undemocratic and abuse of the the voter that beggars belief. Parties should, must, stand or fall on their own merits.

  33. Jon
    Posted February 17, 2015 at 7:47 pm | Permalink

    This maybe a tenuous relation to donors but here goes.. I remember the Taxpayers Alliance saying that the taxpayer pays around £230m a year to employ full time union reps within the public sector. Putting aside that political interference for a moment, what do we think they deliver to the public sector in terms of advice on the value of their benefits?

    Is it accurate? Is it compliant with FCA regulations?

    When an employer pays for benefits it likes to advertise it as a reason to employ people and to retain the workers. Is that what our £230m is being used for?

    The recent announcements of Pension Freedoms from the Treasury perhaps increase the need for regulated information if not advice. If the likes employees working for large employers have access to regulated advice and guidance should the public sector not have the same standard especially in view of recent upcoming changes?

    What are these unregulated untrained union reps delivering on our behalf for £230m?

    Is it time to replace that with professional regulated information, unbiased and regulated?

    It’s not just the £230m but the litigation liability also that would be removed. Would public sector employees better appreciate the benefits that we pay for them if the advice/guidance they get was professional and regulated?

  34. David Price
    Posted February 18, 2015 at 7:41 am | Permalink

    I agree, no state funding for political parties and full transparency of funding sources.

    The rest is an issue of corruption and I think the only practical answer to that is to limit the powers and extent of government with a focus on upholding the law – limit the value of undue influence and punish all law breakers effectively without fear or favour. But then Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?

  35. libertarian
    Posted February 18, 2015 at 11:59 am | Permalink

    I do not believe that political parties should be publicly funded by the taxpayer

    I also do not believe that democracy is served by wealthy individuals, corporations or Trade Unions being able to bankroll & influence political parties.

    It would be a useful learning exercise for political parties to learn to live within their means and maybe bring that experience into government when elected

    Political parties should be funded ONLY by the memberships fees of their members. With a cap on the level of individual annual membership cost.

    Thats it, nothing else is needed. It would totally change the face of politics. The parties would have to start listening to their core voters and supporters in order to attract members.

  • 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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