Footing the political bill

The state of the finances of UK political parties are being put under the spotlight by the Committee on Standards in Public Life. Representatives of the Conservatives and Labour both denied that repaying the undeclared election loans had left them broke. The Tory spokesperson was willing to accept a cap on business donations if the same applied to Trade Unions and there was a commensurate rise in public funding. Labour defended the Trade Union donations arguing it is a historic form of membership fee collection. Locally the Daily Ireland has continued with its “SDLP are in a freefall decline” narrative by revealing rising costs at SDLP headquarters. Perhaps the news (even if controversial in Irish American circles) of $750,000 in donations to develop an American presence will make party members think money is being well invested.The reliance on loans to pay for the last national election campaigns is clear evidence of a funding crisis. Modern democracies may require political parties but here it seems a decreasing few wish to contribute to their rising bills. The debate seems to be focused on increasing the existing taxpayers’ contribution to parties rather than a tax break that would still require parties to work for its donations or expanding the “free advertising” requirements on the media from beyond party political broadcasts. The success of internet fundraising typified by the Howard Dean campaign doesn’t seem to have been excited much interest here (although the difference in American and British cultural attitudes to donations may be sufficient reason to ignore).

PS Cheers to those who commented on my feedback thread – suggestions, comments etc duly noted.