Thursday, September 28, 2006

State funding for bankrupt political parties is immoral

It's certainly offical - Britains two main established political parties, New Labour and the Conservatives, are financially bankrupt. It's estimated that Labour's debts are a hefty £27m, and the Tories are in debt to the tune of some £30m (which, they of course strenuosly deny).

Practical and financial support for both political parties have been in steady decline in recent years. Both parties have become increasingly dependent on finance from a hand full of very rich donors. In political terms, these are very dangerous developments. The astute political commentator, Mick Hume argues that such developments;

'highlight the advance of a new oligarchy in British politics - an elite political class, cut off from and largely unaccountable to any popular constituency'.

I haven't got a problem with individuals making political donations to parties, if anything, I have reservations about the idea that there should be limits on how much someone can donate to political parties - and, the fact that this idea coexists with ever more louder demands for public money for political parties makes the notion of limits on donations even more objectionable.

Both parties are in a financial mess of their own making, so why would anyone think that by effectively nationalising them, their problems would be somehow solved? Why would the parties financial dependency on state patronage make their political problems disappear?

If you ask me, political parties need to get out of the air-conditioned offices, and convince the public that they are worth donating money to - if they can't be bothered to do that, then they are certainly bankrupt in more ways than one.

UPDATE: The Times leading article agrees with me.


At 7:42 PM, Anonymous Andrew Zalotocky said...

Don't forget the Lib Dems, they've got problems too.

But the reason the parties need so much money - or at least, think they do - is because it costs so much to conduct mass campaigns through the media, and hire the top advertising agencies, spin doctors, etc. If they could no longer afford that they would have to use cheaper methods of communication, such as blogs and public meetings, and devolve more responsibility to the local party branches. It would also force them to work harder to recruit more members.

A period of financial starvation would actually do the major parties a world of good.

At 8:14 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

The Tories, tbf, have incurred a £15m debt to buy the freehold of the building they leased in Smith Square. The total value of the property is supposed to be well over £20m.

At 8:40 PM, Blogger The Intolerant One said...

Canada's Liberal party introduced that very legislation right before we turfed them out of office.

The billed passed and there is now a limit imposed on too how much one donor can give (I believe up to and no more then $5,000 Cdn. but don't hold me to that figure)

It turns out the Liberals just became their own worst enemy. While the conservatives enjoy a bountiful finincial surplus thru "Grass roots" donations those same grass roots people are not supportive of the Liberals. Only some of the higher up corporate and business buddies of the Liberals as well as special interest groups are finincially propping them up.

BUT, as I said, their donations are limited. The Liberals have hamstrung themselves and their political party is in the millions in financial arrears. This why they have to be careful about bringing the current minority governemnt down. They can't exactly afford an election right now.

At 9:17 PM, Blogger Courtney Hamilton said...

Your right Andrew, it's precisely the reason why their in debt - but the thing is, I don't think they know of any other way to conduct their affairs. Politics for the main parties seems to be strictly about one thing, winning elections - and both parties have squeezed themselves down to just becoming an electioneering machine.

Party members seem to be hemorrhaging faster than their ability to attract wealthy donors. Now it's got to the stage where the major parties can't function without a hand full of rich donors to prop them up. State funding the main political parties looks more like some kind of survival stratergy, a way of getting themselves out of their deep financial holes. After that, they won't even need their political parties any more if their being subsidised by the public.

I can see them now, hiring people to do the work that paid up members would normally, like electioneering, or canvassing.

Whether or not financial austerity will do the main parties any favours? Haven't got a clue to be honest. But what I do know, is they shouldn't get one single pence from the public purse.

At 11:03 PM, Anonymous Lucyp said...

With you on this one Courtney. We only have to think back to the Bernie Ecclestone incident to see what large sponsors expect for their large donations and the peers episode that is currently rumbling on.
The Labour party were funded by Union subscriptions but when they needed more they sold their soul to big business, and those boys do not just donate millions out of the kindness of their hearts.
You can see how the oil and pharmaceutical industry run American policy and it is happening here and it stinks.
Limit the donations and if your policies alienate your supporters then you will sink. If you are doing a good job then you stay afloat but taking big money from business is just corruption waiting to be exposed.

At 7:14 PM, Blogger Chairwoman of the bored said...

Just popped over from Pickled Politics and am highly diverted by your very up-front non pc take on things.

I shall return.

At 2:24 PM, Anonymous Courtney Hamilton said...

Chairwoman of the bored,

Well... I hope I'm able to divert you again in the near future.

All the best.


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At 3:26 AM, Anonymous Ruth said...

We have a scandal in NZ at the moment regarding party donations.

I agree with Hume's words - and yours. The general public has become very skeptical about it all - power is in the hands of a few greedy men -- right and left are the same.

At 3:45 PM, Blogger Mark said...

"convince the public that they are worth donating money to"

I Totally agree. On a small local scale, I was asked to walk neighborhoods and campaign for a candidate by a third party who indformed me that the candidtae was "too busy" to call me and introduce himself and ask personally if I would spend my weekends helping his campaign. When I refused, I was called an asshole.

One wonders, doesn't one?

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