Sunday, 29 January 2012

State funding of political parties

From the BBC we learn that the Political and Constitutional Reform Committee has published its thirteenth report on the matter of political party funding - although the term 'report' is a tad generous in that it is more like a 'minute'. Reference is made to the report produced by the Committee on Standards in Public Life, whose four main recommendations were:
"A limit of £10,000 should be placed on donations from any individual or organisation in any year to any political party with two or more elected representatives in Westminster or in any of the devolved legislatures.

The cap should apply to donations from all individuals and organisations, including trade unions. But it would be possible to regard trade union affiliation fees as a collection of individual payments, to which the cap applied individually, by requiring the individuals on whose behalf the payments are made to opt in to the fee. It would also be necessary to meet certain other conditions to ensure that undue influence cannot be exerted.

The existing limits on campaign spending in the period before an election should be cut by the order of 15 per cent.

Existing public support to the political parties should be supplemented by the addition of a new form of public support paid to every party with two or more representatives in the Westminster Parliament or the devolved legislatures. The public funding should depend on the number of votes secured in the previous election, at the rate of around £3.00 a vote in Westminster elections and £1.50 a vote in devolved and European elections. Income tax relief, analogous to Gift Aid, should also be available on donations of up to £1,000 and on membership fees to political parties.
Personally, I am of the view that political parties should exist purely on donations from the public and from their members, thus the 'richest' political party would be the one whose views most resonated with the public.

Digressing slightly it is interesting to note that in Switzerland only two cantons, Ticino and Geneva since 1998 and 1999 respectively, have had legislation governing the disclosure of political donations. The canton of Ticino requires parties to report donations of over CHF 10,000 to the cantonal chancellery. The amount of the donation and details of the donor must be given. In the canton of Geneva, political parties are required to submit their accounts and the names of their sponsors every year to the cantonal financial inspectors. The Federal Council has dealt with several calls for increased transparency in the funding of political parties, including the motion by social democrat Max Chopard proposing "Increased transparency in the funding of political parties". It has rejected the demand for statutory regulation and advocated voluntary measures, on the grounds that there are many issues regarding implementation, enforcement, enforceability and sanctioning options. In addition it is felt that pressure from the state could make people less willing to become involved in political matters, and it is precisely this willingness that direct democracy draws life from.


TomTom said...

Voters Revolt

Dave H said...

If ever there was an incentive not to vote, the thought that actually voting for a candidate might cost tangible money is getting there. How long before that £3 gets bumped up to £10 or more?

In context, 33 million voters at £3/head would be £100million wasted on political parties.

However, I do like the opt-in requirement for union members, nice touch there.

Anonymous said...

Surely the bottom line WfW is that in a free market (ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha), political parties should operate just like any other business.

Their success should depend on the number of sales made, the more they sell, the more that can be put into research and development.

Of course the media, should not be advertising their wares without some sort of contract… The BBC under its charter should not be advertising at all.


Sorted, and without a requirement for a "Political and Constitutional Reform Committee".

Incidentally, I rather liked one of the conclusions and recommendations offered on the Parliament website:

"But public confidence in politics risks being further undermined if some future scandal intervenes before a solution is in place."

So rapid action is need and now, before such a scandal is engineered and/or the public realise what we are up to.

Talk about a rigged market.

Paul Coombes said...

I abhor the notion of state funding of political parties. If the cannot raise the money from their supporters then they don't deserve it. Actually they do receive money from the state already. First there is 'Short money' which is currently paying the Labour party £6,024,340.74 for 2011/12. Then there is the Lords' equivalent, Cranborne money, which funds the Labour party to the tune of £522,102. Even Sinn Fein who refuse to take the oath get £103,894.59. All the details can be found here.

PeterCharles said...

I would cap all donations at no more than £50 from any individual source to a political party and limit that to a maximum of ten donations a year. I would allow much higher donations for independent candidates and perhaps for parties that currently have no elected MPs, all in the cause of diluting party politics and encouraging independence among MPs. For political parties all but small donations must be suspect.

A person giving £1,000 to a local independent candidate would most likely simply be a fulsome supporter of that candidate's position.

PeterCharles said...

As Paul C says and I should have made clear, I also abhor any idea at all of any form of State support or financing for political parties.

Anonymous said...

Why have a two MP restriction?
Sounds like a stitch-up for the small parties.
Referism -bring it on!

IanPJ said...

If, and I say if, the State is to become involved in campaign donations and spending, then why not make them responsible also.

Firstly NO payments from state to party whatsoever.

Secondly ban all political party campaigning and replace it with an Election Media Authority.

The EMA would be the only body able to publish election material, and they MUST do so for every candidate who properly registers, in the same amounts and volumes, giving no party large or small any advantage over any other party whatsoever.

The EMA would be responsible for getting that out to the media, who must also publish on a fair basis, i.e. no exclusions, and the EMA would also make a single, or maybe two, home delivery of each party leaflet.

No more, no less. Level playing field for every party, large or small.

Finally make the EMA subject to an audit, where criminal charges are laid at any breach of the code.

Just an idea.

Anonymous said...

The CONSERVATIVES made it necessary for the political levy to be OPT-IN years ago, pre-1997, and I CLEARLY recall having to sign and return said form to my union stating that I wished it to continue.
They made it a legal necessity in order to de-fund the Labour party without being seen to do so.
Over 90% of those who returned the form voted to continue with the levy. Those who didn't return it ceased to pay.
The rules of said levy are here:

Now, where do I see shareholders having to confirm their company contributions ?

cosmic said...

This is like having three companies, each receiving state subsidies and with legislation in place to encourage people to buy their products. They set up a cartel to make sure they churn out things for their convenience and are only in limited competition.

It would be no surprise that they churned out mediocre rubbish and they wouldn't survive if they were forced to make things people were willing to pay for.

As it is, mainstream political parties receive quite a lot of state funding.

WitteringsfromWitney said...

TT: Thanks for the link. I was aware of them but others may not be.

DH: Could not agree more, but then is this a ploy to encourage low turnout, thus cementing their own positions?

r_w: Again, have to agree with your last point!

PCoo: Yup, knew about the 'Short' money etc and yes, agree no state funding!

PC: Interesting idea - see IPJs suggestion too?

Anon: Yup, DD and referism is the answer!

IPJ: Interesting idea, but you are creating yet another set of 'crats. Much simpler to say no state funding!

Anon: Fair point.

c: It is obvious politicians want an even more and tighter stitch up!

TomTom said...

political parties should operate just like any other business.

Oh but they do ! You forget what they have to sell.....Access, Public Contracts, Subsidies.....

The Unions received "Training Funds" from taxpayers in return for donations to Labour; Paid Councillors to fund party candidates, plus contracts and favours.....

With the Conservatives it is all so very different.....Cash for Access, Favours, Contracts, Planning Regulations "reformed", Privatisation of Armed Services Recruiting - the Capita Connection and Conservative donations

Yes, I think politics operates " like any other business"

Anonymous said...

While a lot of people, the press included, moan about the actions of unions, they forget that the unions are there to represent their members. In an ideal world unions would not have been needed, obviously it is a far-from-ideal world.
I would just like to point-out that EVERY strike is the end result of the failure of negotiation and every strike has to be balloted. That is the law. From my viewpoint union membership gives me massive advantages, not least of which is negotiated pay increases. Other benefits are much better workplace safety and free legal representation. Oh, and I've never been on strike. Still time though !

TomTom said...

Funnily enough one of the quirks of English legal practice is that Insurers do not offer Legal Insurance Policies as in Germany where DAS and ARAG are leaders.....German legal fees are codified and listed in BRAGO - a catalogue listing all charges so it is clear insurers can budget

WitteringsfromWitney said...

TT: True but unlike other areas, the political shop is limited in what it sells and the sheep duly buy.......

Anon: That's what I like, someone who takes all the benefits of the club and gives nothing back..... :) (joke)

TT: Interesting - must google those.....