Funding corruption not politics
The Cruddas revelations where he offered access for cash lifted the lid on just how deeply corrupt our so called democracy has become. For a mere £250,000 you get to meet the PM and bend his ear about your latest money-making wheeze or convince him that your company is just what is needed for a government contract. When this happens in third world countries it is called corruption. Here it is known as party funding. And they are all at it. And it stinks. Labour had £1m donor Ecclestone demanding the lifting of a proposed ban on tobacco ads on his F1 toys for the boys, plus cash for honours. The Libs fell in bed with Michael Brown who is a convicted fraudster - and then would not give the money back. And then there are the tories....Buying influence and advancement is second nature to them. Why else would so many practice the form of child abuse that is sending their offspring to boarding schools at such a tender age? The old boy network is alive and well and runs through all our parties.
Alternatives to large donations have not figured in the debate up till now. Ian Bell, writing in the Herald has some useful figures and ideas.
“Why do parties require all these millions? Their rotten leaflets and their dire party political broadcasts are subsidised. Opposition parties already get their "Short money". In Labour's case, that's currently just over £5.4 million a year for "parliamentary business", with more than £600,000 allocated to Mr Miliband's office. Yet Labour still depends on £2.5 million from the Unite union.
In pretending to hunt out corruption, we risk institutionalising a corrupt system. Were any of the parties actual mass movements embracing millions of ordinary, dedicated voters the issue of funding would not arise. In reality, these organisations are so moribund they depend on stratagems and big cheques from powerful individuals.
As of last autumn, Labour membership stood at 190,000; the Tories at 177,000; the Lib Dems at 66,000. Membership of the Caravan Club was just under one million. Luckily for all of us, caravanners are not bent on seizing power.
Mr Miliband is mistaken. The point is not simply to cleanse the procedures by which the parties are funded, but to ask why those parties became vulnerable to big money to begin with. The absence of honest political belief, the absence of anything liable to galvanise those holders of a single vote who can't write big cheques, might just have something to do with it.” Herald 18/4/2012
Our political elite exist in a bubble. They do not connect with ‘ordinary folk’ despite claims to the contrary. When was the last time a politician knocked on your door? Or called you up? They talk a lot about going on the doorstep but hate it. Real people complain and are demanding. They want things to be done differently. As the skin of the bubble has become thicker over time, so the input and influence of activists across all parties has declined. Imagine being an activist for the LibDems and trying to drum up support for the doormats masquerading as a party of government.
There should be no public funding of political parties. A maximum limit of £100 per year per member is ample. Parties would have to cut their garments to fit the cash flow. How much is wasted on ‘Special Advisers’ or ‘spads’ whose main role seems to be to tell us lies and brief against each other.
There is a vacuum waiting to be filled. The worry is that a right-wing fascistic party will occupy that space with simple nostrums and racist solutions.
There is an urgent need for our leaders to actively engage with the electorate. That means going out regularly and meeting us, holding rallies, arguing their case, drumming up support and mobilising opinion and attitudes on the ground floor.
Do not hold your breath.