Tuesday, 2 March 2010

It's not party funding, but parties, that need reform

In the May local elections voters will elect a whole clutch of councillors standing on platforms that owe nothing to established political parties. Single issue local parties are nothing new in British politics, whether to save a local hospital or leisure centre or in opposition to a planned development. They are generally also fairly short-lived, few surviving for a second term. During their time in office, such councillors do no better and no worse than their fellow back-bench lobby fodder from the main parties, but add an edge to the scrutiny process that can carry more weight than that of ritualised opposition.

In Sweden and Norway, such local 'temporary' parties are by no means unusual for parliamentary seats, and with some success. Whether the UK's electoral quotient is too large, or our constituencies too diverse, to support the flourishing of such parties, or whether a system biased to incumbency and the funding advantages of the established parties mitigates against success, I don't know. I can really only remember Martin Bell winning Tatton from 'bent former MP' Neil Hamilton as being one of the few successes of 'temporary' parties in the UK.

In economic terms, the 'barriers to entry' are high. Barriers are in terms of both existing popular support and financial resources. Now this isn't a wholly bad thing; surely we want some sort of threshold for new parties, or either be swamped with fruitbats and mentalists or oligarchs and foreign millionaires (or governments)?

The issue of State funding for the established big parties hasn't gone away. Right now, none of them dare raise it - but all are keen to get their sticky paws on our taxes. It was disclosed over the weekend that the deal clincher for Ming Campbell was a chauffeur-driven government limo. All are united in the belief that State funding should favour them and them alone, should strengthen incumbency and serve to erect further barriers to any evolution in party politics.

There are ways to make things better, all of which will be opposed by the big three. The truth is that all are more concerned with their own power than with the nation's democratic health.

1 comment:

The Great Simpleton said...

Dr. Richard Taylor.
for Wyre Forest


But your are right, they are few and far between.