Yep you guessed. The political establishment is gearing up to have another go at getting tax funding of the established parties onto the statute books - or rather, enhancing the tax funding provisions that already apply. This time around the Conservatives, down to a rumoured 70,000 members, are listening.
The previous crooked proposals from Christopher Kelly, building on earlier crooked proposals from Hayden Phillips, would have given all parties with at least one sitting MP about £3 a year from taxpayers for each vote the party got in the previous general election. Protests that this entrenched incumbent parties, discouraged tactical voting, discouraged all voting, inhibited political change and gave Labour, LibDems and Conservatives a sort of quasi-constitutional status beloved of establishment mandarins such as Kelly and Phillips fell on deaf ears. In the end it was Labour's refusal to accept a cap of £50k on individual donations - hobbling Union cash - that froze the scheme.
Back in 2014 I wrote of my dislike for Carswell at the time of his defection - and was admonished by UKIP readers. I called him caddish, I think. However, had the Kelly / Phillips tax funding proposals gone through, he could have earned UKIP some £12m a year in party funding. Without him, 4m votes would get UKIP exactly nothing. Still a turd, perhaps, but possibly a gold plated one.
Now of course wealthy individual LEAVE funders are being hit for 20% inheritance tax on their donations - donations tax free for global corporates and their UK incorporated dags, for trade unions or if made to (you've guessed it) political parties with at least one sitting MP. HMRC may be applying the law, but it is a dubious law that has the effect of implementing crooked and underhand tax funding of some points of view, wholly against the will of the public on tax funding in general. It's bent, it's corrupt and we didn't vote for it. It's the introduction of tax funding by the back door - and the lever that the establishment will use to move to the next stage.
The political landscape never remains static. When I started writing this blog, the Conservatives had some 250k paying members, Labour was suffering and down to about 160k and the LibDems scraped some 60k. The 2010 coalition brought chauffeured jags for the LibDem top dogs but a massive hole in party funding from the loss of opposition Short money. Party membership in the UK had reached a nadir with just 1% of an electorate of 45m being party members.
In 2018 we face a Conservative party with fewer than a third of the members it had ten years ago, a LibDem party on the verge of extinction, with only the disproportionate number of LD peers giving them any parliamentary presence at all, but a reinvigorated Labour party replete with individual memberships and backed with big union money from the TUs that would dearly love a Marxist in the Treasury.
Party funding is in desperate need of a complete rethink; social media in particular makes a joke of much of the existing framework. But no more Kelly and no more Phillips - no more establishment mandarins, crooked civil servants, bent globalists or Blairite managerialists.
Who would you nominate to chair a new, fair enquiry into party funding? My own nominees are both from the left; Simon Jenkins, who ran a membership organisation with over 4m paying members, and Helena Kennedy, whose seminal Power inquiry was squashed by the very establishment it sought to reform.