Tuesday, 14 July 2009

Elected representatives are not unhealthy

The Taxpayers' Alliance have kicked off a predictable furore with news that 29,000 politicians are costing taxpayers £500m a year. The Mail heads its report 'A plague of politicians' and goes on to conclude we'd all be much better off with fewer elected representatives.

Wrong.

My contempt for what Peter Oborne has called the political class is familiar to readers; 'professional' politicians and their dags in all their forms are anathema to me. State funding of political parties is also a great evil that stifles democracy, and I loathe any suggestion of its extension. But let's not confuse these 'bads' with the 'good' of having elected representatives. The UK has fewer than almost everywhere else, and in place of democratic representation we have 60,000 unelected local quangocrats and 30,000 unelected national quangocrats, all of whom cost us a great deal more than our elected representatives. We can't have it both ways.

The TA's figure is broadly in line with Michael Pinto-Duschinsky's finding that State funding for the parties already amounts to some £1.75bn over a four-year electoral cycle. This is the real scandal.

We need more, not fewer, elected representatives. And we need to strangle the haemorrhage of State funds to the parties. The two are not mutually exclusive. We must reverse the venal and corrupt 'snout' culture engendered by the loathsome policical class. We must purge our political institutions of the thieves and robbers. We must trash the quangos. And above all, we must return power to municipalities, communities and parishes.

4 comments:

Anonymous said...

Excellent post, agree 100%.

Let's start with directly-elected Chief Constables.

After abolishing ACPO, of course.

Mark Wallace said...

We certainly don't take the view that democratic representatives are a bad thing, and we support election of Police Authorities/Commissioners and so forth.

There are three problems that these numbers do raise, though:

1) How much some of these people are paid. With 3000 councillors now claiming public sector pensions, for example, as well as a boom in pay and allowances this is a serious problem.

2) The 29,000 figure includes paid party political advisors. It is absurd for a council to employ SpAds to tell the councillors what to think.

3) Much of this money is funnelled straight into party coffers, e.g. through taxpayer funded staff actually doing campaigning work and the rental of offices from parties at inflated prices.

As an aside, just for the record it's not TPA research it's the BBC's own - we simply commented as part of the programme.

Raedwald said...

Mark -

I certainly don't disagree on SpAds, and also think the move from expenses to allowances and salaries for councillors was a mistake.

And I wholeheartedly support bringing an end to the covert funding of parties, local associations and their premises and costs from the public purse.

The media however jump straight to a 'too many politicians' interpretation - this, and in particular Quentin Letts' piece in the Mail, which is garbage, is what I'm disagreeing with.

Blue Eyes said...

Interesting to note the cost difference between the Lords (who actually challenge the executive) and the Commons (who act as cheerleaders).