Thursday, 10 April 2014
Palatable state funding for political parties.
Last week Andrew McDonald, on stepping down from his post as head of Ipsa, the body which scrutinises parliamentary expenses, called for greater state funding of political parties, but acknowledged that this is unpopular witht he pulbic.
In addition to its unpopularity, a danger of further taxpayer funding of political parties is that, freed from the necessity of raising money from their members and supporters, the party organisations become more and more detached from the public and operate in their own little bubbles. Some years ago Professor Stein Ringen, in an article in Liberal Democrat News, proposed a way round this. Put simply, parliament decides the total amount of public funding needed, divides this by the number of the electorate, and issues a voucher for that amount to each elector.
Thus if we assume for simplicity that the total amount is £60m, and the electorate is 30 million, then each person on the electoral roll receives a voucher for £2. Party members and committed supporters promptly send this off the the headquarters of the party of their choice and it is cashed in by the Treasury. The "plague on all your houses" brigade throw theirs into the fire. The majority pop it behind the clock on the mantelpiece, or, if more sophisticated, in their pending tray, and it is up to the party activists to canvass them and persuade them that it is to their party that the voucher should be given.
In this way the parties still have to "earn" their money by keeping in touch with the electorate, and public resentment at further state funding is reduced becasue each individual can decide to which party, if any,their portion of the money is going
This seems to me to be a slendid method of killing two birds with one stone: finding an accptable method of financing our democracy and forcing we party activists and enthusiasts to increase our contact with the public we aspire to serve.