Thursday, 29 November 2007

Money for nothing?

There's a few things I don't understand about the Labour Party's latest funding scandals, now to be the subject of yet another police investigation.

Apparently, David Abrahams offered money towards Gordon Brown's leadership campaign but was turned down. And Wendy Alexander, the leader of the Scottish Labour Party, has now admitted that she received an illegal donation towards her campaign to lead the Scottish party.

The common denominator with these two funding issues is that neither of them actually faced a contest to become leader of their respective bits of the Labour Party. Both were unopposed, so what the hell were they spending the money on?

I'm also intrigued by the fact that Mr Abrahams was so impressed by the quality of the candidates for Labour's deputy leadership election that he offered funding for two of them. I can understand someone giving money to help a particular candidate get elected, but giving money to more than one campaign looks suspiciously like a wealthy businessman trying to buy influence by being well in with whoever came out on top.

But this whole mess again indicates the need for reform of the way political parties are funded - although I'm not convinced of the case for direct state funding of parties. Firstly, I think there needs to be a cap on the amount any one individual or organisation can give to a political party of, say, £50,000 per year. Secondly, I would like to encourage smaller donations to parties by introducing some sort of voucher or tax credit which people can use to make donations of up to £100 per year for the campaigning organisation(s) of their choice, pressure groups as well as political parties. That would mean that parties would become more focused on getting supporters, rather than relying on a few big donors. It would not be compulsory for people to use such vouchers/credits, and any unused funds could be returned to the Treasury.

Until measures like this are introduced, the party funding scandals will continue with monotonous regularity.

1 comment:

The Tory Troll said...

"Secondly, I would like to encourage smaller donations to parties by introducing some sort of voucher or tax credit which people can use to make donations of up to £100 per year for the campaigning organisation(s) of their choice, pressure groups as well as political parties."

Personally, I think the last thing the country needs is to subsidize a burgeoning class of PR flunkeys and spin doctors from the public purse. I'm also not sure that the potential cost of £5800000000 (assuming £100 per head of the resident UK population) couldn't be better spent elsewhere.

Incidentally, any views on how the parliamentary communications allowance would fit into this? Incumbents of all parties notoriously fly close to the party/public line when issuing glossy flyers of their latest achievements.

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