The LibDems once said that political funding was ” an un-transparent, inaccessible system where money buys influence”. Exactly. So after months of wrangling, what’s the outcome of the funding review going to be? Well, Nick Clegg has started the ball rolling by saying “This is not the right time to ask our hard-pressed taxpayers to pay out more to political parties at a time when they’re having to deal with so many cuts and savings elsewhere.” Cheekily, he’s got in first and proposed that there should be an upper limit on contributions of £10,000, knowing full well that this would cut Tory funding by about a third. His suggestion is certainly not going to fly.
What we’re about to be treated to is a round of horse trading. It’s not going to be about a fundamental reform of the political funding system, but an argument about the level of contribution. Once again politicians are going to duck the issue. It’s what they want, but not what the electorate wants – nothing new there.
But isn’t this all a bit reminiscent of times past when Margaret Thatcher ducked the issue of MPs pay? She put it about that the ‘hard-pressed taxpayer’ wouldn’t stomach MPs being paid sensibly. The truth of the matter was that she feared it might be a vote loser. She ducked the issue and the consequences were disasterous. What we ended up with was an expenses free-for-all which culminated in a corrupt political class and one of the biggest political scandals of all time.
The LibDems were right, the current system is un-transparent, it is inaccessible and it does allow influence to be bought. It’s actually making our democratic system dysfunctional. One of the reasons the ‘hard-pressed taxpayer’ is hard-pressed is because the political class have failed to do their job properly. For example, it failed to understand and regulate the financial sector properly. Quite willing, in exchange for £££, for vested interests in that sector to buy influence and secure an unfair and unjustifiable advantage.
Purchased influence has seriously distorted the political decision making process and undermined our democracy. Strange that politicians should want it to continue. Not so strange when you realise that with purchased influence comes favour and fortune for those who facilitate it.
I would doubt if there was a single hard–pressed taxpayer in the country who wouldn’t vote for politics to be free of purchased influence. Few who would baulk at the £5 a head it would probably cost to end the system of external funding of political parties. It’s time that the interests of the electorate was put before that of party and politician, and time we took money out of politics.