The Thick of It

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Thursday, May 26, 2011

The state of political party finances

This morning's newspapers were full of reports of who was funding our political parties. Labour, £10m in debt, is even more reliant on trade union funding than before. The Tories have continued to rely on wealthy businessmen. The Lib Dems didn't have that much at all.

I also read that Tory super-doner Lord Ashcroft has just been given responsibility for reviewing Britain's considerable military presence in Cyprus. The Lib Dems are not happy about that. Ashcroft has bought his influence.

That these two stories appeared on the same day further stoked the strong but little heard argument for state funding of political parties in the UK. While big business or trade unions bankroll politics there will always be the accusation that they buy influence. Cash for questions, cash for honours, Ashcroft. The list of suspicious political funding has a long history and won't stop any time soon.

The only argument I hear against state funding is that voters who don't like politicians will like paying for them even less. That doesn't wash. Voters hate dirty politics and if paying a small amount to fund political parties and election campaigns cleans it up, then it is a price worth paying.

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