Time to end the deadlock on party funding

Electoral Reform Society,

Posted on the 16th May 2013

Today a new bill lands in parliament, courtesy of Labour’s Alan Whitehead, Lib Dem Lord Tyler and Conserative Andrew Tyrie.

It deserves attention – because it offers a sensible, cross party approach to party funding.

This bill puts paid to the myth that cross-party solution to party funding isn’t possible. Caps on spending and donations are the only logical response to the electoral arms race.

This week’s figures show how reliant the parties have become on a dwindling number of big donors. Electoral Commission estimates for the first quarter of 2013 show Labour received over £1.5 million from John Mills, founder of home shopping company JML Direct, while Conservatives received £500,000 apiece from the wife of a former arms dealer, and the Chief Executive of head of mining conglomerate Xstrata.  And it’s only natural for the public to question their motives.

That policies are not for sale should be beyond doubt. We have reached an impasse because our political class only seem to be motivated by their own bank balances. They need to understand that delay has a price – and that’s public trust in politics.

This week the Times suggested that Labour drop two policies in order to attract corporate funding.  This was breath-taking. Political parties should base their manifestos on their vision for how the United Kingdom could be – not leave it to the highest bidder.  Support or rejection of a policy programme should rest on strength at the ballot box, not the depth of donors’ pockets.

An open, clean and fair model of funding the parties would give taxpayers far better value for money.  It would ensure our politicians don’t have to dance to the tune of trusts, union bosses or City interests.

We cannot wait for the next scandal. All the parties have been tainted by party funding. Party leaders need to take this opportunity to break the deadlock, and break the hold of big money on our politics.

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