No. As Tristan observes in the comments to the above post:
We do need totally open funding of parties, but it should always be up to the individual to choose whether they give money to a party and it should be given directly, not through taxation.How about: Parties can only spend money that they've declared as having raised, from declared sources. Any member contribution of over, say, £50(?) per year must be openly recorded (and perhaps such donation could be tax-deductible, would beat state funding), no loans except on an openly reported commercial basis.
Perhaps the threshold of disclosure should be lowered and all loans and their terms disclosed.
Parties that can't raise the money from a broad base of member support aren't, by nature, broad based political parties. The problem is, as Rawnsley observes in today's Observer:
The message from the leaders to their members is that they can't be trusted. Tony Blair has always been frightened that the Labour party might suddenly go berserk on him. David Cameron doesn't trust Tory members to get with his modernisation programme, so he has to hand down to his associations a centrally selected A-list of parliamentary candidates.There's a lot of other good stuff in there (must remember to read more of his stuff, I really like his Radio 4 spots). Essentially, party democracy, and party involvement, are essential if people are to remain engaged. The Lib Dems, to their credit, allow members very strong involvement; in fact, "allow" isn't the right word, I think they rely on it, the party wouldn't exist without member involvement and OMOV on pretty much everything. Cameron's push towards primaries strikes me as a strange move, for two reasons
- The American model of democracy is deeply flawed, and worse in many ways than ours; personality politics doesn't engage, it cheapens.
- It devalues party membership, why join (and donate) if you can have a vote (by texst message?) anyway?
For long-serving governments, especially those with a very dominant leader, it is a particular hazard that the party will be hollowed out. Asquith and Lloyd George, the two great Liberal Prime Ministers, effectively destroyed their party. Margaret Thatcher's reign was marvellous electorally for the Tories, but it was ruinous for the Conservatives as an organisation. As is the way with messianic leaders, she came to believe that Tory success was down to her magic rapport with the people. The party owed the leader, not the other way round, for her three election victories. So she believed, as surely so does Tony Blair.If funding becomes centralised, going directly from the state to the party machines, then party loyalty becomes more and more important. As Chris observed back when we last discussed it:
it is independence of view that is important in politics, not robots following the party line.IF we're to have state support for parties (and that's a BIG if), then it has to be on the POWER model, giving funds to local parties based on local voters ticking boxes for the party they want tos ee get the money. I'd rather parties sorted themselves out, re-engaged with voters, and rebuilt broad membership bases.
Without a plurality of views opinions all you get is an echo chamber with everybody reinforcing each others mistakes. The best ideas can never be found if it is not even put forward for debate.
Centralised state handouts will damage democracy and further devalue debate. Reject them completely.