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Not that Tory Radio could afford a 3 second slot in the middle of Coronation Street, let alone a 30 second one - but would this mean that campaigning organisations very closely aligned to political parties could advertise - and what about actual political parties?

Excellent news.

I share some of the concerns re - big money. I was chatting to a friend who helped raise money for Jeb Bush. He alone raised more money in a couple of weeks than a candidate could spend during 3 elections here.

They should liberalise donator rules, and too on spending and advertising on politics.

I am certain that the conservatives would gain bigger donators, and have a better marketing campaign against labour.

I'm not sure how worried we should be; the lessons of America show that while this may have been true (big money big influence etc) in the past the bloggers can often hold the tide against it.

We Brit bloggers will have our work cut out for us but i'm sure we're up to the task.;)

Fantastic news. An increase in campaign funding (even if indirect) is sorely needed in the UK.

It's about time. A)It'll make commercials more interesting (well, for us political geeks anyway) and B)I see no reason why people who want to get a message across should be banned from doing so

Echoing Richard, Its about time bloody time to... it's little wonder that people are uninterested in politics when McDonalds and Samsung are better able to articlate and put forward their message than the political parties and pressure groups who are relegated to largly unwatched current affaris programs and lumbering five minute PPB... give political parties and pressure groups the same freedoms as companies to address their "target markets".

This sounds a very good idea. I think the worry about negative advertising can be countered by the proposed cap on donations. Political Parties won't be able to afford too much negative advertising.

Good idea. Let's see if we can get voter turnout even lower than the US !

They only spent $4 billion on their last Presidential Election

This is great news. The bizarre situation we have currently of adverts containing the most important messages - how the country should be run - being the most highly restricted we hope will finally be coming to an end.

I think Jonathan Sheppard has hit on an area that could cause problems - if every pressure and interest group is allowed to advertise, then how would the Electoral Commission monitor the General Election spending limits. There are already groups - like trade unions - that spend money on print advertising effectively supporting one political party. How would this work if there were a plethora of pressure groups spending very large sums on TV advertising supporting one particular Party (without of course precisely saying vote for x or y party).

I think changing the current format of PPBs is fine but a free for all... not so certain that we would like the results. Most of the broadcasting advertisements in the USA are unrelentingly negative and are certainly a contributory factor in turning people off politics. Is that what we want here?

Just a follow up: I recommend actually reading this section of the ECHR:


Everyone has the right to freedom of expression. this right shall include freedom to hold opinions and to receive and impart information and ideas without interference by public authority and regardless of frontiers. This article shall not prevent States from requiring the licensing of broadcasting, television or cinema enterprises.

The exercise of these freedoms, since it carries with it duties and responsibilities, may be subject to such formalities, conditions, restrictions or penalties as are prescribed by law and are necessary in a democratic society, in the interests of national security, territorial integrity or public safety, for the prevention of disorder or crime, for the protection of health or morals, for the protection of the reputation or the rights of others, for preventing the disclosure of information received in confidence, or for maintaining the authority and impartiality of the judiciary.

What an awfully written piece of bureaucratic nonsense, that ends up meaning almost nothing. Instead of the eloquent brilliance of the US 1st amendment, we have a mass of qualifications and caveats which includes rather totalitarian ideas that freedom of speech carries with it 'duties and responsibilities'. Who decides what is a responsible use of free speech and what isn't is up to the European courts I suppose.

Also in the second paragraph:

"the exercise of these freedoms... may be subject to such... restrictions or penalties as are prescribed by law... for the protection of health or morals..."

No wonder restrictions on tobacco or fast food adversting do not also count as 'free speech'.

If you allow political advertisements all you will get at election time will be firstly, personal attacks of the sort you get in America and also left-wing and trade union groups will simply run ads pointing out the dangers of certan Tory policies.
Politics in this country is far from perfect but I think our present system allows political campaigns to be conducted in a far more civilised and gentlemanly manner than occurs in the U.S.

Still sponsored political adverts should make the BBC more popular - I hope they drop PPBs since parties can then pay commercial channels to carry their propaganda

Good post Jack. This is a really complicated area and I understand and sympathise with many of the points made. But US political funding is a mess, with huge sums of money spent through 3rd party organisations which are essentially fronts for political parties. Nasty, unscrupulous and often untrue attacks are made, such as those against Senator Kerry by the Swift Boat Veterans. And politics becomes focused on raising money and not debating issues.

I hear what 'changetowin' and Jack Stone are saying ... and yet .. and yet ... the thought of anything that would break the hegemony of the ruling class about what political message is allowed to be broadcast (unrelenting left-wing accepted 'truths' with the exception of 3x 3minute Tory PPBs in election campaigns) is an intoxicating thought innit? Of course it would get personal (Labour's 2005 campaign wasn't?!), but (1) it already is, it's just that we don't have any comeback against their smears, and (2) politics is personal anyway.

Imagine what a website like this one could do if we could all donate a tenner towards a series of non-party sanctioned broadcast adverts. With respect to new technology - blue chip aside! - we actually seem ahead of the left.

Is a desire for tactical advantage clouding my judgement? I dunno.

Incidentally amid all the hubbub over party funding discussions - has anyone noticed that Dave has promised to veto any proposal which doesn't restrict union funding of the Labour party? Well done my son. No doubt they'll all be a-sobbing and a-wailing into their dog-eared copies of the Ragged Trousered Philanthropist (I can't think about the time I read that book without flinching) but I can't see any moral distinction between a business seeking to influence policy via donations and a block of organised labour.


The Swift Boat Veterans ads run against Kerry were largely (not entirely) true, and were valid political debate. Kerry put his Vietnam record at the centre of his campaign, and some of those who served with him wished to point out the lies he was subsequently telling about his service.

One good thing about this proposal is that TV ads pointing out the fallacy of the highly political ads, masquerading as charitable, run by Oxfam, Christian Aid et al that only Western donations and aid will assist Africa, could be run.

"And [US] politics becomes focused on raising money and not debating issues."

And our politics isn't focussed on raising money? Then why on earth is it that major donors to us and the government end up in the Lords? The difference is that in the US its much more open - you can look online to see who gave money to Congressman X, or see how much money and to whom your neighbour donated.

As to 'not debating the issues' - that is laughable. There's far more debate and controversy in the average American election than in our straightjacketed system where just about any viewpoint that causes distaste to the producers of the Today programme is automatically branded extreme and out of the mainstream.

"Politics in this country is far from perfect but I think our present system allows political campaigns to be conducted in a far more civilised and gentlemanly manner than occurs in the U.S."

Well, we can have gentlemanly politics and continue to lose or...

Look, U.S. elections are brutal, bruising affairs - and they always have been. Look up some 19th Century ones if you like. But one effect of that is that the political climate is one in which a lot of halfbaked feelgood ideas get much better scrutiny.

Given that our approaches tend to be much better thought out, while our opponents are not, and given that our opponents have grown lazy thanks to the institutional bias of the BBC resulting in their views never being thoroughly questioned, we ought to welcome the liberalisation of political speech regulations.

"Nasty, unscrupulous and often untrue attacks are made, such as those against Senator Kerry by the Swift Boat Veterans."

Au contraire. The Swift Vets are a great example of the benefits of political advertising. Kerry was running as a veteran, and the overwhelmingly liberal US media made no mention of his behaviour in 1971, when he (falsely) accused US troops of war crimes before a Senate Committee, and met in Paris with representatives of his countries enemies while still an officer in the naval reserve.

Whatever one thinks of the Viet Nam War, the fact is that having been involved in the antiwar movement back then is political death in most of America. Kerry wanted to airbrush that part of his life out of the election narrative and the media was ready and willing to go along with him.

The Swift Vets ad campaign put a stop to that.

Gildas' points are spot on. The standard of political debate is much poorer in this country than in the US, where there is no state-controlled monopoly broadcaster to censor views unwelcome to the establishment. Big money clearly drives the British political process too and we are no strangers to politicised judicial enquiries and voting fraud either. As for the idea that politics is more gentlemanly in the UK, that is both untrue (think of the way Labour treated Dr David Kelly and its critics over Iraq) and in any case, so what? Aren't we just glimpsing the envious anti-American snobbery that permeates the more moribund corners of the Tory Left?

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