Thursday, July 08, 2010

Pickpocket Politics

If my memory of history serves me well, it was Charles I who was the last king to claim to be above the law. You may recall he was not entirely successful.

This was brought to mind this morning when, listening to BBC Radio4, I heard that the question of party funding is back on the political agenda. Indeed, according to Sir Hayden Phillips, state funding of political parties is inevitable.

The problem political parties in the UK face is simple: over the past few decades, membership numbers have collapsed but they have carried on spending regardless. The result is that the main parties are all in debt to a greater or lesser extent and have become increasingly dependent on a small number of donors.

Now, if political parties were run as a business or even a club they would do one of the following:

  • Make themselves or their products more appealling so that they would get more members or customers
  • Cut their spending to match their income
  • Go out of business

But if there is just one thing all parties agree on it is that their survival is paramount. So if the public won't voluntarily support them, then they will pass laws to take the money regardless.

This is corrupt. This is pickpocket politics.

The corruption infests all three main parties:

  • Labour gets millions from Unions such as UNITE, whose members by default have part of their dues set aside for Labour.
  • Liberal Democrats received millions from Michael Brown, a convicted fraudster.
  • Tories have received millions from among others Lord Ashcroft, who used non-dom status to minimise paying taxes in the UK.

This must stop.

Funding for parties needs to be legislated in such a way that opportunities for corruption are minimised: a fairly low limit on donations from individuals or organisations; legally mandated accounts which must balance: no state funding.

It's time that political parties learned that, like the kings of old, they are not above the law, nor should they be allowed to change it for their own ends.


Slim said...

Good post. However, who will force the change we all agree is needed?

Anonymous said...

Lord Ashcroft has paid taxes on his UK income (and presumably on any foreign income remitted to the UK) and made his donations from his UK funds.
This may be why his donations to the Tories are far smaller than Lord David Sainsbury's donations to New Labour.
It is easier to have a rational debate if you drop inaccurate smears

Sean Haffey said...


What I said about Lord Ashcroft was that he "used non-dom status to minimise paying taxes in the UK." That's not a smear, it's a fact. I remain concerned that a person who showed so little personal commitment to the UK should seek to be a major influence on this country's policies.