Thursday, 19 February 2015

Party Funding from tax on the agenda again

The political class is locked into a Groundhog Day scenario with regard to proposals for the tax funding of political parties; a report is commissioned from members of the political class, the report recommends measures which are agreeable to the political class, but the government in power at the time realises such moves will be unacceptable to voters. Forward to the next cycle. Of course they try to disguise it by calling it 'Public funding' or 'State funding' but as the State has no funds except those raised from taxation or from borrowing - which is future taxation - what they mean is party funding from taxes. 

The two most recent reports, from establishment insiders Hayden Phillips and Christopher Kelly, were shelved not on account of the funding cap measures they proposed but on account of the substitute tax funding proposed. And the reason why both proposals were so monstrously unacceptable is that both started from the same standpoint; that the the established, incumbent political parties should assume a more constitutional role by entrenched funding, which also acted to exclude incomers and new parties, and thereby produced a stable continuum for the existing political class at a time when party membership in the UK has fallen way below 1% of the voting population. To this extent both reports were inherently corrupt; they institutionalised advantage and incumbency in favour of Labour, the Conservatives and the Lib Dems.

What is more heinous, both reports completely disregarded the belief strongly held  by a very substantial number of voters that these 'private' parties should receive no tax funding at all. They rode roughshod over the clear wishes of voters who want to vote but don't want their vote misused to fill the mouths of metropolitan politicians with tax gold. 

Phillips and Kelly both also wilfully ignored a solution mooted by Helena Kennedy's Power Inquiry - that voters should have the choice, at polling time, to agree in their own name only a tax donation of say £3 a year to a party of their choice, or not, and if so not necessarily to the party for which they were voting. This would allow objectors to tax funding to withhold any tax subvention in their name (on the basis of their vote) and allow tactical voters to fund their party of true allegiance. 

Kelly dismissed the requirement for an additional voting slip as 'too complex'. Compared I suppose to last May's elections in London when we went into the polling booths with three different papers, one a yard long. And managed to get them right. The real reason of course has more to do with the fears of the established parties that voters will choose not to fund them from tax, or choose to fund insurgent parties instead. Well, that's quite possible. It's called democracy. 

The other problem with the Phillips and Kelly proposals is that both would throw a tsunami of cash at the central, metropolitan party Headquarters - the very bodies so alienated from constituency voters and local parties, the HQs responsible for the apparatchiks, blow-ins and family members of their own that have been so unwillingly imposed on constituencies. The schism in Labour between the Scots party and the English party is not healed, and why should it be? So why should not any tax funding be paid to local or regional parties in the first instance and leave it up to the local members to make a subvention for national initiatives to the national party? 

This is the problem. For as long as tax-funding proposals are seen to favour the stale, old, central parties - the ones that voters have grown out-of - they will not be acceptable. For the stale, old, central parties to agree truly democratic tax funding proposals means risking their own existence. So no action. Groundhog Day. 

The Electoral Reform Society are the latest body to give the dog a poke, with the publication today of 'Deal or No Deal - How to put an end to party funding scandals'. Except it avoids the solution. There is wide agreement that existing funding methods are corrupt and that funding caps are needed, and the ERS reinforces that. However, it neatly avoids any discussion of the details of any replacement funding system, and repeats the cardinal error of assuming that we need tax-funded parties on a scale equivalent to other Euro countries - this itself is worth a paper. 

Watch this subject; the price of democratic freedom is always eternal vigilance.  


DeeDee99 said...

I predict taxpayer-funding will go ahead during the next Parliament. The Establishment Parties will unite to force it through on a "consensus politics" basis.

They cannot continue with the donor scandals or the transparent link between making donations and receiving Honours, including elevation to the Lords.

They will do it during the next Parliament so they can stitch up a system that will ensure LibLabCON receive the vast majority of the money - to starve the insurgent parties of funds. If they leave it any longer, the insurgent parties may be too strong to deny them "a fair share" of taxpayers money.

The idea that they should cut the amount of money they spend will never occur to them. We are milch cows and we WILL be milked!

Mike Spilligan said...

Good points, DeeDee. Expect some softening-up by "neutral" commentators, from several directions, too.

Anonymous said...

State funding obviously works though in relation to stability...

This nation has been state funding the EU since 1972 without any reference to the electorate.

A more stable... Nay necrotic body, it would be difficult to find.

Raedwald said...

Dee Dee - it may well go ahead, and with the full support of UKIP! The current proposal states that only parties with at least 1 MP in the Commons are eligible for funding, and will then get £3 for every vote cast for that party in the election. Six months ago UKIP would have got nothing - now they are set to be rich if the proposal goes ahead. On a 60% turnout, with UKIP taking 15% of the vote, that means £12m a year

Can Nigel refuse to endorse tax funding?

If UKIP accept it, I for one will cease all support for the party.

The raising of the proposal now may be more of a trap for UKIP as part of the electoral strategy than anything else.

Anonymous said...

Political funding is dead simple. Have donations ONLY from registered UK electors on a voluntary basis and then limited to, say, £5 per year. No funding from other bodies at all.Then see how the larger parties survive ....

Anoneumouse said...

As we are supposed to be electing an individual to represent us in Parliament and not a political PARTY, then it becames really simple. Parliamentary candidates should only be able to raise funds from within the constituency that they will be standing. There should be no donations from business and there should be a cap on the size of individual donations. Sorted.

John M said...

Lets not forget that these troughers already receive taxpayer funding for this stuff!

They get budgets allocated for ELectoral campaigns to a point, and they get free airtime on our TV channels to promote themselves

It is not the public's fault if these parties are less popular than the pox. Less than 60 of the electorate are even voting. These people have no right to even ask for funding.

Cascadian said...

Because funding dying political parties is more important than funding the "elite" European Rapid Response Force. The peace dividend has become the appeasement dividend.

I know this is article references Germany, but who in their right mind believes Britain is any better with its chocolate box ceremonial army.