Thursday, 24 January 2008

Hain, Hain, Go Away

...Come again some other day?

So Peter Hain has resigned as Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, due to the police investigation into donations to his campaign for Labour's deputy leadership.

As only one of a string of donation issues of late, this must surely point the way to state funding of political parties? Yes, I do see the irony that at a time when public opinion of political parties is so low, one long-term solution to this issue is to ask taxpayers to fund said parties.

But what else can be done?

Whether these donation scandals prove to be intentional or the result of incompetence, the rules governing funding of political parties that have been put in place are not being adhered to. Maybe that's because those flouting the rules have little respect for them, or they are more complicated or time-consuming than they need to be? I don't have the answers to those questions.

Either way, surely it makes sense to cut this problem off at source and introduce state funding for political parties, with stringent caps on what can be spent, limitations on how additional finance can be raised and indeed how much can be raised in addition to state funding. Lets cap what political parties can spend on elections, and try to ensure more of a level playing field.

Democracy costs. And, the reality is, political parties are the foundation of the democratic process. We all have an interest in supporting the function of these political parties, and ensuring they have the resources to tell people what their vision and policies are, so that electors can make an informed decision about who to vote for. Believe me, I don't want my taxes spent on running Tory HQ! But I strongly believe that we have a responsibility to fund our democracy.

I don't want people in politics to be distracted from the business at hand - that of trying to make their communities, country and wider world a better place. Nobody gets involved in politics to become a fundraiser for their own campaigns or those of their political party.

Why on earth was Peter Hain spending such an extortionate amount on an internal personal campaign anyway? Why did Wendy Alexander spend thousands to become the Labour leader in Scotland - when she was the sole candidate!?! Yes, campaigns cost some money - but it's a stretch to suggest that it's justifiable to spend that kind of money.

I think we need to drive out this spending culture from politics in general, otherwise we will end up emulating the US system where money buys political muscle and does all the talking. It costs nothing to knock on a door and speak to people about your policies and ideas, and leaflets won't break the bank. Politics should be a battle of ideas, not a cash war. But if one party has lots of money from big donations, then it puts the others at a disadvantage, so they need to raise funds to level the playing field more. It's a vicious circle, but it can be stopped.

1 comment:

Calum Cashley said...

The title to your post is a terrible pun - I hope you feel suitably ashamed ...