George Eustice: Party funding is unlikely to change

The reform of party funding comes on to the agenda periodically, but always proves hard to deliver.

George Eustice: Party funding is unlikely to change
George Eustice: Party funding is unlikely to change

Political parties are an under-appreciated component of a functional democracy. They galvanise support for change. Volunteers deliver millions of leaflets. Without a party system, no-one could get anything done and election promises would be meaningless. Most government policy is initially drafted in opposition by a handful of talented twenty-something researchers, employed by a party, on low pay. The parties already run on a shoestring.

The last attempt to reform party funding was initiated by the Conservatives six years ago and came close to achieving a breakthrough. The proposal was to cap all donations to parties at £50,000 to remove the perception that large donors, whether trade unions or individuals, might be trying to exercise undue influence. There would then be a system of match funding from the state. It would have been a voluntary system into which parties could opt, so it would not have stopped a minority party funded by a wealthy individual running for election to shake up the system.

But the main stumbling block to reform has always been the reluctance of the Labour Party to give up the huge donations it receives from trade unions. In the last negotiations, Tony Blair accepted that a cap should apply, but Gordon Brown did not, so no agreement was possible. Will it be different this time around?

In the current environment, there is no public enthusiasm for state funding of political parties along Australian lines. But a cap on donations without alternative support risks weakening political parties and undermining democracy. One idea might be to introduce a cap, while bolstering support in ways that do not involve direct payments to parties by taxpayers. One could increase the number of election addresses that the Post Office delivers for free or expand and reform the system of election broadcasts, so that parties could have shorter, but more frequent, political broadcasts to get their message across. However, don't hold your breath. Reform will probably remain elusive.

George Eustice is Conservative MP for Camborne and Redruth and a former press secretary to David Cameron

Before commenting please read our rules for commenting on articles.

If you see a comment you find offensive, you can flag it as inappropriate. In the top right-hand corner of an individual comment, you will see 'flag as inappropriate'. Clicking this prompts us to review the comment. For further information see our rules for commenting on articles.

comments powered by Disqus

Latest Articles

Max Clifford trial jury finishes sixth day of deliberations

Max Clifford trial jury finishes sixth day of deliberations

The jury in the trial of celebrity publicist Max Clifford on 11 charges of indecent assault has been sent home and will reconvene tomorrow morning for a seventh day of deliberations.

Analysis: Fishburn chiefs keep eyes on future despite mounting departures

Analysis: Fishburn chiefs keep eyes on future despite mounting departures

Fishburn's management have defended their reinvention of the 23-year-old agency amid industry mutterings, fed by a series of director-level departures, about the direction in which it is going.

Hit or Miss? EasyJet backs Shakespeare Day campaign with world record attempt

Hit or Miss? EasyJet backs Shakespeare Day campaign with world record attempt

EasyJet aimed to break the world record for the highest ever theatrical performance for Shakespeare's 450th birthday yesterday with the Reduced Shakespeare Company performing on a flight from Gatwick to Verona.

Top PRs to gather in Barcelona for inaugural PRWeek Global Congress

Top PRs to gather in Barcelona for inaugural PRWeek Global Congress

Senior executives from IBM, Nestlé, Vedanta, GE, Cargill, Philips and Allianz will be among the speakers at PRWeek's first Global Congress.