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An alternative to State Funding would be to ensure that the honours system is not abused. One way would be to form an independent panel, selected in a similar way to the way in which people are selected for Jury service, which would decide on honours etc. The Prime Minister could retain power to appoint a few political Peers for frontbench purposes.

State funding could, for a transitory phase at minimum, be used until this funding base is broad enough to meet all of a political party's financial needs.

Do you honestly think that parties would give up state funding - in any form - once it have been extended to them?

Let the parties raise their money privately and if they can't, then let them fail. Why should they be treated differently from any other business?

It's not as if the parties actually need all the money they receive anyway. What did the parties spend all their money on last year? Expensive billboard adverts that had virtually no effect on the way people voted. What are they spending it on now? Brand consultants and loan repayments.

Why should the poor old taxpayer be forced to subsidise this waste - not matter what the funding formula is?

I'm not a great fan of state funding. The Short Money started as a bribe from the Labour Govmt in the 1970s when it had a low or zero majority - but you can defend it on the grounds that it is meant to support parliamentary policy work and goes some way to rebalancing the effect of a sitting Govmt having the civil service.

What we want is something completely transparent with a rough justice quality to it. If in doubt, be open.

Why not auction off 5 peerages per year, in June, with the money allocated to parties on the basis of their relative votes in the previous May council elections? Admin would be quite simple - track the parties via their registration with the Electoral Commission. I'm sure that nobody ever did anything as crude as buy a peerage, but everyone thinks it happens, so let's just put it out in the open.

A 6th peerage would be raffled off via a National Lottery £1 per ticket - so we could end up with a genuine People's Peer after all. Think of this as a modernisation of the accident of birth and hereditary peerages. I think we could expect a lot of interest in the maiden speech of Lord Chav of Canvey Island.

I oppose state funding of political parties but I do not oppose Short Money if all it is used for is to fund researchers and pay routine office expenses. It should not be used to pay CCHQ consultants, party debts, advertising campaigns and so on.

On the subject of the abuse of the Honours system, the solution is simple. Let's get on with backing a wholly elected Senate with revising powers akin to the US Senate. We would outflank Labour. If, which I don't support, an element of patronage should be retained, it can be by putting people onto the list of approved Senate candidates. Candidates elected to the Senate could, perhaps, serve one fixed term of 10 years.

Moving the debate on to discuss the reformed Lords and the end of patronage rewards for donors and lenders would help us get away from being on the defensive as to who has lent the Party money.

State funding will disconnect politicians from voters as they can simply increase the cost per vote amount side of the multiplication formula if the number of votes falls to maintain their income.

The result, less votes, but the same amount of funds for the politicians.

State funding is a serious threat to democracy and should be rejected in all forms.

But we must be practical and it may take some time for a more democratic
Practical? Practical to steal money from the taxapyer who will have no say in the matter?

That is not practical, it is theft. If you can't stand on your own two feet, you should fail.

This whole issue of state funding is about stealing from the taxpayer to prop up failing organisations and nothing less.

You simply have no right to plunder the taxpayer to fund your activities. This is nothing but dirty snouts in troughs.

If even your members don't want to fund your activities, then why should the taxpayer?

How can you claim to have a political agenda that is worthwhile if you can't even get your members to support it financially?

It's corruption, not large donations that is the problem. Whatever checks we put in place, money will always find a route from the business that wants to buy a favour and the politician who’s prepared to sell it. State funding won't change that.

The only workable solution is for political parties to be self policing. We members should insist upon out party being ethical and put into the constitution of the Conservative Party that anybody who is found dealing in favours for friends looses their job - whatever their position.

It’s up to us to set our own standards. I’m quite happy for the other parties to go their own ways and earn their own reputations.

BTW, I have of course come out against all forms of state funding and pledged to reject any future entitlement for my one man band.

I for one, thank the media for their coverage over this whole issue of loans and state funding, as the collusion between the parties on an issue of ugly self-interest has been disgraceful

The Tory Party claims to have some 300,000 members.

Some are either dead, inactive or not really members at all. So let's call it 100,000 among friends. The membership fee is supposedly £15pp. Some members are better off than others but is it really too much to ask that each member should, on average, pay £50 a year - roughly £1 a week or £4 a month - to support the Party?

That would bring in £5m a year - still leaving room for those who can give £1k, £250k or £1m to do so as well.

I would love to know why we as a Party could not function on such a budget raised from our members. What on earth does CCHQ do with the money..?!

Our Editor says "But we must be practical and it may take some time for a more democratic funding base to develop."

This strikes me as a plea in the mould of the loss-making nationalised industries of the past who appealed for extra funds to smooth cash flow, act as bridging loans etc as better days were always just over the horizon.

Once state funding of political parties is agreed (as opposed to the support for the parliamentary process envisaged by Short money) then the dynamic between government and the governed will be permanently altered, as I can't see the system then being changed by any governing party.

Let's instead take less tax off people who donate to political parties through providing tax relief.

I agree with you on tax relief, Adrian, although it's another way of describing state support. The problem with only having tax relief, however, is that non-taxpayers don't get the same encouragement to give to political parties. Given that many, perhaps most, non-taxpayers are poorer a tax-relief only way of encouraging political donations would advantage more prosperous voters and the parties they appeal to.

as I can't see the system then being changed by any governing party.

Surely the opposite is true. Labour would love to control the purse strings and thus, very existence of their rivals?

This is where the real threat lies; When the opposition are dependent on the state to survive, they will have to play by the states's rules, and thus become impotent at holding the government to account.

Adrian makes a good point: tax-relief is a good way to show that we are encouraging charitable giving without it coming across as an overt Treasury subsidy (as is the case now). It is part of the reason the US has such a vibrant charitable sector and donations to 501(c)(3) organisations are so substantial.

I really don't think any taxpayers' funds should be involved at all.

If someone believes in your agenda, they will give. There is no need to plunder taxpayers' funds as a carrot whether as a per-voter or as tax relief.

Remember, we are talking about taxpayers' money, not free money, and there is no appetite to fund political parties.

When will the politicians stop treating taxapyers funds as their own?

The British people are against using taxpayers funds to fund political organisations. Why don't the politicians just listen?

I would echo James Hellyers comments in particular.If we go forward with any form of state funding it will last forever and it will surely grow.Whatever fine principles one starts with, if politicians are given control of administering it then even the most honest will be tempted to abandon them.The result I think will be that statefunding will increase the distaste for politics and politicians that exists amongst the general public.

If the money is given as a tax relief on an individual's donation, Chad, the individual is only getting his or her own money back.

The problem with only having tax relief, however, is that non-taxpayers don't get the same encouragement to give to political parties

Given the way Gordon Brown is going there aren't that many non-taxpayers left!

Fair point Tim, but I disagree that any tax relief should be given for political donations.

I would suggest that it is not the lack of tax relief that is holding people back from donating.

It is not financial carrots that are needed, just parties offering an agenda that appeals to its members and the public.

I agree that funding by proportion of votes is a bad idea all round. e.g. Conservatives win next election and hike the amounts to make the most of their good result, everyone's a loser.

Matched funding on small donations is good though. There is a free speech element to donating to political parties that hasn't been expressed, not everyone is fit enough to knock on doors & deliver leaflets.

We could also outsource CRD and other research jobs to think tanks to get around the rules.

Matched funding on small donations is good though

I thought so briefly, until you ask, good for who?

Sam Younger at the Electoral Commission suggests that 76% of the population are against any state funding of political parties.

The parties are scrabbling around to find ways to support their activities like a drug addict seeking his next fix.

The British people do not want to fund political parties. It is that simple.

Chad: we are fundamentally agreed on the need for an agenda that "appeals to members and the public". The importance of the financial carrots is more to the parties to go after the small donors than for the donors to give.

Wasp: I am grateful for one person's support for "matched funding on small donations"!

Chad: "The British people do not want to fund political parties. It is that simple."

But they don't like big money having lots of influence either!

Agreed. But it is not a boolean choice, that is a misrepresentation.

The way to get lots of small donations is to offer an attractive agenda. Howard Dean showed this to be so.

You can cap donation size and avoid all state funding in this very simple way:

Create an agenda that appeals to people.


If a political party can't raise sufficient funds to survive, it should die. "Tax Relief" is just another word for tax subsidy It all has to come from the public purse.

There is absolutely no need to spend the ridiculous amounts they are spending. Would you really want your tax money spent to subsidize Cameron's spin doctor at £23,000 a month? Or Labour's Excalibur database?

The problem is this:

We (by which I mean the public in general) are probably in favour of maintaining the current party system.

We don't want our tax money funding those political parties though.

We don't want to fund them ourselves (well, I do, but I'm not representative of the general population).

We don't want wealthy private donors giving them lots of money.

Instead, we want other people to fund them.

The result: the sources of private funding are drying up.

"Some members are better off than others but is it really too much to ask that each member should, on average, pay £50 a year - roughly £1 a week or £4 a month - to support the Party?"

For poor families that may indeed be asking too much. It hardly does much to deter the mistaken impression that we're a party of the middle classes only. We do have a student discount but I'm not sure how practical a "low income" discount would be, especially if it involved prying into bank accounts.

I think that William Norton's idea of having an auction every year to find five peerages is brilliant, but I am not so sure about the money being allocated on the basis of relative votes in the previous May's council elections. Didn't someone post recently that Labour regarded councils as their stronghold? Obviously not every council is labour, but I would like to be reassured on that particular point before completely endorsing that idea.

As for a National Lottery peer, another great idea!

We don't want to fund them ourselves
What was the peak membership size of the Conservative Party?

It is a question of agenda, not lack of interest.

People are still involved politically, they just don't currently want to give their hard-earned cash to Labour, the Tories or the LibDems probably because they do not trust them.

A case in point, if Tory membership did increase by 16,000 over Christmas, then that is another £240,000, simply because the party chose a leader who appealed to more people.

It's not difficult. People have their hands firmly in their pockets because they are not attracted to what is on offer. So what do the political parties do?

a) Change their agenda to align themselves with the people?
b) Try to pick the taxpayer's pocket?

Obviously not every council is labour, but I would like to be reassured on that particular point before completely endorsing that idea.

I think I can reassure you on that one Patsy, according to Sean Fear's excellent local elections roundup on politicalbetting.com Labour have every prospect of coming third in this May's local elections. For many years we have polled above our national poll ratings in local elections so this would be one way we could claim legitimacy whilst having our snout in the trough.

I keep finding myself agreeing with James Hellyer on this so, if nothing else, this issue can unite all branches of conservative opinion!!

A political party could receive state funding in proportion to its success in raising money from small donors.
I don't like the idea of state funding as a matter of principle. But any sort of addition for "small donations" is surely unworkable. How would you stop people making numerous small donations, using fictional names or the names of their friends and extended family? And before anyone says that that wouldn't happen in practice--just think of the recent postal votes scandals.

How about the political parties stopping wasting so much money nationally? Then they would not need these ridiculous sums of money.

Last year, the parties spent huge sums of money on ridiculous billboard adverts and generating a massive CO2 cloud to fly a few politicians an absurd distance.

The only justification that each party can give is that the other side does it.

If each constituency survived on the work of its own local volunteers, the result would be far less wasteful, closer to the electorate and would not require these huge donations.

In answer to Richards post at 12.52,I'm a member of the RSPB and I pay about £60 pa for family membership.I'm not sure how rich or middle class their membership is but there are more 1,000,000 members currently.I don't think people would resent paying more particlularly if they saw that their membership brought some tangible benefits.IE regular communication,policy input etc.

Malcolm: you are BANG on! People are perfectly prepared to pay £50 for RSPB membership and other similar subscriptions. The Party - and the movement - needs to provide better value for money, not just one vote every 4 years for Leader (which Maude wanted to remove), a crappy magazine and so on.

I can only agree. There is no need for financial incentives at all, nor robbing the taxpayer as people are more than prepared to help fund organisations that they care about etc.

It's not the days of mass membership that are over, it is the days of taking the mass membership for granted that have passed.

"The Party - and the movement - needs to provide better value for money, not just one vote every 4 years for Leader (which Maude wanted to remove), a crappy magazine and so on."

I got my membership pack through the post last week. Contained within: membership card, template letter from Francis and a booklet about how the party is changing under David Cameron. I did only pay £3 though :-)

What does 'Imagine' offer new members, Chad? Free John Lennon CD perhaps? ;-)

What does 'Imagine' offer new members, Chad? Free John Lennon CD perhaps? ;-)

Well that would be good for just £2!

Chad is spot on. The party could have a mass membership, readily contributing the required stream of income, IF the party were given to listening to its members. Instead, liberated by the mega-donations of various millionaires and the Short money, Francis Maude et al are free to pursue their own political agendas, untroubled by the thought that they might be estranging the ordinary supporter.
The deceitful use of loans should be stopped: let any one contribute as much as he or she wishes in the knowledge that above a certain figure annonymity is lost.
State funding should be ruled out and the Short money stopped.
Then sit back and watch - the posing, political trendiness will disappear and the paramount importance of the individual and his/her beliefs will be recognised.

i've just had a request for a donation from our constituency chair, so we can get in touch etc out for the may elections. I shall send a donation. Am also hosting a fundraising buffet at my house on saturday night, so If I can do it, so can everyone else. There are only 3 persons (women!) in our branch, plus Edward my other half does the minutes, We raise plenty. Its the will as much as the way.

Conservative membership peaked in the 1950s. I believe we had over 1,000,000 members. I suspect social change has a part to play on the decline but I'm not going to elaborate on that because it has been done to death loads of times.

"So what do the political parties do?

a) Change their agenda to align themselves with the people?
b) Try to pick the taxpayer's pocket?"

To choose a) they would have to call for the renationalisation of the railways, increase taxes on the rich, restore the death penalty and call for the EU to become a free trade area. These are issues where majorities of the electorate are not represented by any major political party (except the Lib Dems on tax).

To put it bluntly, political parties are out of touch. They are economically to the right and socially to the left of most people in this country. One could argue that that is a good thing, but it won't enthuse the electorate.

That's not very optimistic Richard!

Taking Tim's "And" approach, it is perfectly compatible to reduce the overall tax burden, and tax the rich a little more(as a proportion) than the poor. That seems fair, and if everyone's tax bill falls, I am sure there won't be much whinging about relative proportions.

You can be caring and understand our need to compete within the global economy.

With excellence organisations like the TPA showing us an enormous amount of wastage, their Bumper Book of Government Wastage should be a compulsory part of a manifesto pledge to reduce wastage.

As a daily rail commuter, I haven't heard one person calling for them to be renationalised, but we would like them to run on time. There is an imbalance of fairness at the moment, where (my line is run by One) the railways themselves determine whether they will pay compensation and often wriggle out of it.

We used to get our compensation automatically credited to our bank accounts until One (National Express) took over and decided to charge us £50 for the pleasure (with compensation rarely being > £50). This is clearly unfair.

A successful private sector combined with proper and thorough protection of the customer is not difficult to achieve.

With all the talk of housing today, why has no-one discussed the unfair non-progressive application of stamp-duty or ending the crime of gazumping etc and following the lead of countries like the Netherlands where all offers have to be fully-funded before the offer is made, and when accepted, the offer is legally binding?

I also think the grammar schools fit perfectly into a wider range of promoting excellence, whether academic, sporting, technical etc.

It is about getting the mix right. The flat tax is a great idea but it is not difficult how Labour can present it as "the same rate for the nurse as the millionaire" etc. So instead of ditching an excellent cost-saving, simple system, why not advocate a simple two-rate flat(ter) tax that achieves almost all the goals whilst clearly showing the rich pay a higher rate?

These are mainly little things that have a large impact of many of our every day lives. None of them are difficult to address and there will be many like them. All politicians need to do is to actually listen to the concerns of people, and instead of seeking sweeping new grand schemes that cost too much and rarely deliver, just concentrate on the small things that will make our lives noticably better.

It is true that you don't notice the things that are working properly, and it seems we can't escape noticing our headline-grabbing politicians.

I happen to agree with you Chad. It's just that there are views held by vast swathes of the population that none of the major parties represent. Then again though that's the inevitable result of fighting for the centre ground. If all parties were ideologically pure they'd probably get about 30% of the vote each.

As for public opinion on rail renationalisation, I accept I might be out of date. I'm not sure but I seem to remember that renationalisation (however misguided) was quite popular back in the late 90s.

I must signal my agreement with the views of the majority on this discussion. The Party must involve its members much more fully in the whole running of the Party. If they allowed the whole membership to elect the Party Chairman and Treasurer and had an AGM at which all members were invited it would transform interest.

State funding is a form of nationalisation.We believe in free enterprise, so why not for political parties? A small proportion of Short Money may be necessary for the opposition party, but it should be strictly limited.

swathes of the population that none of the major parties represent.

Agreed Richard, it is madness. The whole purpose of political parties as an aggregate of views seems to have been completely lost on the current generation of political leaders.

Greed fills the whole system. It seems the only time our politicians really agree is when it concerns filling their collective pockets. The lack of opposition from the major parties recently has really exposed our politicans.

It is sad when the only political party officially opposing state funding of political parties and pledging to reject any future entitlement is my tiny one-man band idealist. They all smell money, and even the smaller parties can't seem to bring themselves to oppose filling their own pockets with taxpayers money.

I just hope my miniscule David can at least be heard against the collective Goliath seeking to enrich himself at the expense of the taxpayer.

Public funding for parties...in the last 24 hours I've heard Lords Fattersley and Crony arguing for it, along with, I'm afraid to say, one Ken Clarke.

None of us like the sound of it one little bit: our so-called democracy already costs us around £1.5bn pa, and as Tim argues, party payrolling could all too easily increase the distance between top politicos and any meaningful notion of a mass membership.

But tax relief on donations is a much more attractive idea, and is of course the proposal put forward by the Committee on Standards in Public Life (see http://www.archive.official-documents.co.uk/document/cm40/4057/volume-1/volume-1.pdf ). They suggested capping eligible donations at £500 pa (and taking Rob G's concern about cheating, I'd impose a serious penalty- say up to a £1m fine).

I'd certainly go along with that (for a potted summary of the Committee's argument, see http://burningourmoney.blogspot.com/2006/03/little-bit-woah-little-bit-wayyy.html )

Just seen Ken Clarke on Newsnight - blustering, unprepared, obviously unaware of DCs interview no Radio 5 Live this morning.
Responding on Democracy Task Force - "hasn't met yet". So it was Ken's own views.

And what exactly were they? Couldn't understand anything coherent, he was throwing comments around equally damaging to the Conservative and Labour Party.

The "anyone but Ken faction" that elected Hague then IDS has been blamed for taking us down the wrong path - but his egotistical belief that he is a giant amongst pygmies, doesn't need to read detail, doesn't need to prepare, would have so damaged this party we would be the third party by now.

God am I glad I voted for Hague & IDS - whatever their faults.

Totally and utterly against the nationalisation of politics ie state funding of parties. This would create a yet bigger divide between politicans and the public. Don't go there. Conservatives should be inherently against such a notion,


If the state has to give money it should be based on party membership. Ideally though, there should be no state support.

Fight for a free market in politics!

I would say that it is a fait accompli with all the parties colluding to protect their income and opposition "only" coming from the people.

The only thing I can do is to ensure I do not accept any state funding ever to at least give a choice of free vote over paid vote. A protest vote? Well I hope so.

I have some sympathy for your view Ted (paticularly about being unprepared,blustering etc) about Kens interview on Newsnight.But at least he was being....HONEST!Which makes a lovely change from the weasel words of many politicians of all parties on this subject in recent days who have only been concerned with party advantage.Sometimes I do wonder how thick many politicians think the general public are!
Paxman seemed to be taken aback by the fact that he was facing an honest interviewee for once!

Surely the problem is to do with the fact that we no longer have mass membership of political parties. The funding problems only serve to make matters worse. As an ordinary party member, the gap between the politically involved and the average voter is getting wider and wider. Perhaps if we could persuade more ordinary people to get invovled we would not have this problem.

I agree with the balance of opinion, the idea of funding the Greens (Marxists), the Lib Dems, the Scottish Nationalists, Labour(!) or God forbid, the BNP fascists out of tax payer money is abhorrent.

Surely the problem is to do with the fact that we no longer have mass membership of political parties

Henry, exactly, but more accurately, the political parties do not currently appeal to the masses.

As Malcolm noted, mass membership exists in many forms, and people pay a lot more than the political parties are asking.

As noted before, right now, the parties are acting like a failing company, blaming everyone and everything except themselves, asking for government handouts because the days of "mass customers" have passed.

They haven't. They just don't like what is on offer.

Technology is important, but that is just a another channel. If the message is bad, then people will ignore it.

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