OPINION: State support for parties won’t solve political shadiness

By Ian Silvera

As debate rages about party funding, MM argues against the calls for political parties to be state funded.

In an undercover sting, Peter Cruddas, the now ex-Tory Party co-treasurer, was caught, presenting a delectable menu of access options to pretend prospective Conservative Party donors.

The Arsenal fan drew his inspiration from the ‘beautiful game’ when he drew up a league table of benefactors: Donors who were willing to part with £250,000, for instance, were considered in the ‘premier league’. 

Membership of this prestigious association would give businesses, so the banker sold it, an opportunity to put unhelpful legislation forward to the ‘policy committee’ at Number Ten – a governmental group that Foreign Secretary William Hague has since denied the existence of.

The father of four didn’t commit any crimes, though. His boasting, however, has been considered immoral by many.

The consequences of the so called cash for access scandal, therefore, may embarrass our parliamentary parties into supporting reforms that would create state funded political parties.

Mary Ann Sieghart has led the debate on party funding.

The Independent columnist is in favour of tax-payer funded political parties.

The main premise of Ms Sieghart’s argument is that the remedy would be inexpensive: “How much do you care if our government was being corrupted by shady donors?

“What would you be prepared to pay once a year to stop it happening?

“The cost of half a pint of beer?

“Too much?

“How about a pound coin?

“Still too much?

“Surely we can settle for 50p then, the price of a first-class stamp?”

The proposal of 50p per voter was put forward originally by the Committee on Standards in Public Life, chaired by Sir Christopher Kelley.  

The committee, among other things, also proposed that individual party donations would be capped at a humble £10,000.

The committee and Ms Sieghart, nevertheless, only describe the pleasant part of state funding political parties – the cheapness.

What they forgot to mention is that it’s undemocratic for the state to fund political parties.

Our political parties at the moment run on a free-market basis.

That is, if a majority of party members no longer want to contribute to the party pot because they feel disenfranchised, the party will fold.

This is why large contributors like the trade unions have an influence over the Labour Party and private companies have leverage over the Conservative Party.

The electorate, of course, show disdain toward the financial relationships parties on both sides of the House of Commons have, but what’s the alternative?

Well, in seeking a utopian state funded system, our political elite will become more insensitive.

Why, because they won’t have to listen to their members any more.

After all, there will be a hefty tax payer provided provision in their bank once a month, every month.

So, in answer to Ms Sieghart’s question, I say yes.

Yes, 50p is too much.

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