It is the policy of the Liberal Democrats to support the state funding of political parties. Although the party hierarchy is rather coy in saying so. Within the Liberal Democrats there is a lot of opposition to this policy.
But lets look at the options.
Even after passing some rather draconian and much welcome laws, there is still a culture of corruption in Labour. Whoever the new general secretary of the Labour party is will have to put that right. But this puts Labour in a spot; can they really compete with the Tories in their financing, and how would they feel about being more dependent on the unions than ever?
There is less pressure on the Tories. They are even more dependent on wealthy individuals and company donations, but as long as they keep to the law, they are sitting pretty. However they are still vulnerable to charges that doners can but influence.
For the Liberal Democrats the situation is clear. The bias in the system is so bad, particularly against us, we MUST change it.
The status quo is a shambles, and needs reform.
The popular solution as far as the electorate is concerned is to limit large donations, make parties reliant on membership funding.
I see this as a partial solution. It is good that parties are funded by members. But there are 2 problems.
First is that this puts in a bias in favour of the Tories. Their members are richer and will pay more. The beauty about democracy is that everyone's vote is equal, whether you are a millionaire or a cleaner. But when it comes to funding - and possible influence on the political parties, then the millionaire has the greater say.
Second is that the money coming in will not be enough. The Liberal Democrats are currently locked in a vicious circle. If you phone membership, you cannot get through. You can leave a message, but when you get a reply your phone is switched off because you are at work ... it is all very inefficient and the outcome is fewer members. Fewer members means less income. Less income means underfunded membership services.
On a related issue Operation Black Vote (OBV) claims that the Lib Dems are doing the least of all the political parties on attracting black members. When they say it, the implication is that the Lib Dems don't care. Absurd when you consider that our policies have been consistantly the best of all on race relations. The reality is that we cannot match what the Tories are doing as we do not have the resources that they do.
Funding political parties is not about funding gimmicky electioneering - although some money gets spent in that direction. For political parties to connect to the electorate they need the resources to do it.
Those who want membership funding only will see the demise of the political parties as serious organisations.
Many people would appear to want that, but they do not appear to be thinking about the alternatives to democracy; dictatorship or anarchy. You can have that now if you vote for it, but no one does, so is the demise of political parties really such a good idea?
I am aware of the objections;
1/ Why reward parties after they have behaved so disgracefully?
Well if you think they have behaved disgracefully, don't vote for them. That will hurt them. Funding political parties properly in relation to their popularity will still leave them in competition with the other parties. The reward in politics comes from being elected into office, and state funding makes that process fairer.
2/ I do not want my taxes being spent on the BNP.
From a Liberal perspective we would prefer the BNP not to exist. The reason they do exist is because people vote for them. In a democracy you have to be fair. If the BNP go too far and break the law by inciting hatred, then they will be banned. The essence of democracy is that parties give you a choice, some of which you would veehmently disagree with.
On current levels of support, most of the funding will go to parties opposed to the BNP, so the BNP will not benefit from this.
3/ In fact I do not want my taxes spent on anyone.
Well do you want a democracy? If not, why not vote for anarchy or dictatorship? It is true that independents do not get funded, but they could start a political party as well. The problem with independents is that they can believe in anything regardless of the contradictions, and in an election campaign it is hard to scrutenise them properly.
Anyway, what do you think?