Friday, 11 September 2009

We must cut £500m from State party funding over 2 years

There will be many painful and necessary cuts to public spending over the next few years. Cameron has rightly proposed cuts in direct payments and benefits to MPs and ministers, including the ending of Parliamentary bar and restaurant subsidies. This is fine - but it ignores the elephant in the room. We must cut savagely existing tax funding for political parties.

Michael Pinto-Duschinsky, our foremost national expert on political funding and therefore completely ignored by Labour's tacky little 'review' by Haydn Phillips, has calculated the current cost of party funding at £1.75bn over a four-year electoral cycle.

This includes Cranborne Money, Short Money, Widdicombe Money, policy development grants to the big parties, the cost of SPAds at national and local level, and free party political and election broadcasts.

The traditional parties can no longer justify their special treatment because of their size; their combined membership is now probably below 1% of the electorate, and gradually abolishing the advantages of incumbency built into the system would allow a fairer and more level playing field for all. It would also strengthen the need for MPs and candidates to forge strong local links and support.

The current £1.75bn to the big parties is wholly anti-democratic in this age of memberless parties and a battle of the brands. Cameron must pledge to halve it during his government's first term - say a cut of £500m over his first two years in office.

Otherwise his 'canteen cuts' of £1.5m a year will just look like the chaff an aircraft ejects to fool homing missiles.

3 comments:

tory boys never grow up said...

What you are actually advocating is a 57% cut in political spending. You should remember that the £1.75bn figure is over 4 years and includes all local authority spend (the largest component of which is councillors allowances) as well as national spending.

You should also bear in mind that £437m pa (i.e £10 pa per member of the electorate - and remember a single junk mail letter costs c 50 -100p) is actually pretty small when you compare with the level of media and advertising spend in the country as a whole. And perhaps the messages that poliitcal parties need to get across are of a little more importance than those associated with soap powders. You perhaps should also think what might take over if politicians are not able to get their message across - I'm sure Mr Murdoch already has.

Democracy may be expensive - but how much do the aletrnatives cost.

Perhaps a more sensible way of looking at this is to first look at what political parties need to spend in a modern democracy in order to get their message across in a modern democracy - only then can their be a sensible debate as to the level and nature of state funding required. I for one don't belive it is healthy if political parties are overly constrained with regard to funding - although they also do need to feel some pain if they are unpopular.

All perties are struggling to find qulaity councillors - perhaps you should think of the consequences of sever reductions in their allowances.

Raedwald said...

All perties are struggling to find qulaity councillors - perhaps you should think of the consequences of sever reductions in their allowances.

Substantial allowances have only been paid to councillors since the Local Govt Act 2000 - before then they were paid pretty much a pittance in expenses.

Yet it is only recently that parties have struggled to find candidates to stand as Councillors.

Doesn't that evidence suggest that it's not money that attracts councillors but something else, something that's been lost?

You perhaps should also think what might take over if politicians are not able to get their message across - I'm sure Mr Murdoch already has.
The main parties have all gone down the road of becoming centralist 'brands' rather than grass roots associations - they have walked voluntarily into Murdoch's arena, and eschewed local mass membership.

The point is, why should only the incumbent parties enjoy State funding? This isn't democracy, it's the opposite. I might be sympathetic to a system that gave £20 a year of public money to local political associations for each member they had - to all registered political parties, even the nut-jobs. But not to funding the Metropolitan coffers of centralist State parties just so they can play one-up with Murdoch.

tory boys never grow up said...

"Yet it is only recently that parties have struggled to find candidates to stand as Councillors."

Just not true. But yes there are other things going on as well.

I agree on the point that funding cannot just be confined to incumbent parties

The point about parties becoming centralist brands can also be ascribed to the parties as well as everyone having worked out that this is most effective way of getting their message across.

I'm afraid that it is now a fact of life - that ordinary people now get bombarded with literally thousands of commercial, political and other messages - and so if you want to have any chance of getting your message across in a sustained manner it now has to centralised (and ideally tailored to what the sender believes the recipients personal circumstances are using expensive databases etc.) This is what has beeen happening in the commercial world and it is no surprise that the political parties follow.

It is also the case that individuals also want to have the choice to pick and mix between what is offered - and are not happy to buy an entire package that may contain elements that they do not want. The same is true in politics - hence people are now more inclined to support particular causes rather than political parties that package beliefs together, and the increased interest in single issue parties.

There is obviously a debate to be held about the appropriate forms of representative democracy - but rather than your slash and burn policy, which would proably lead to politics becoming even more commercialised (anyone for the Murdoch party!), perhaps we need the debate about what we expect political parties to do and communicate first - so as to identify what their costs should be - only then can we move on to how they shoudl be funded.