The Thick of It

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Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Politics is bankrupt

Labour is £10m in debt and the proposed changes to party political funding threaten its future further. If donations are capped at £50k then the party, so heavily reliant on trade union funding, wouldn't be able to operate.

Blair tried to move away from the union dependency, unsuccessfully. He instead sought funding from wealthy businesses. That ended in tears with the cash for honours "scandal." Rob Marchant highlights that Blair regretted not reforming the party more to put it on a more stable future footing. That opportunity was missed, leaving the party vulnerable to a Tory Lib Dem pincer movement.

The simple reform that would have stopped this becoming a problem of debt and trade union funding would have been state funding of political parties. This was the favoured option of the man who led the most recent investigation into political funding in the UK, Sir Christopher Kelly. Yet his recommendations were deemed unpalatable.

Given that politics is already largely funded by state money in paying for MP's researchers and caseworkers, plus opposition support and civil servants it would be more honest to do this properly and openly. I'm sure most voters don't realise this at all. It is unhelpful that many of these costs are currently described as MPs' expenses, when office costs and those for moat cleaning are quite different.

That the Tories and Lib Dems are even in a position to push through a chance that would have such a one sided impact on party politics shows how wrong the system is. We need something fair and independent of parties that means politicians and favour can't be bought. Yet nobody seems to be making this case.

Politics will become morally and financially bankrupt if this happens. It leaves the door open for a future scandal. That in turn will only put people off politics even more and close the opportunity for the only honest solution available.

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