Sir, As you report (“Party funding reforms appear doomed”, November 22), reaction from the three main parties to the committee on standards in public life’s proposals to tightly restrict individual donors’ donations and to introduce a “pay per vote” scheme to make up the shortfall has been rapid – and negative. It appears they would rather keep their access to soft money from super-rich individuals, corporations and trades unions than gain access to a large permanent stream of public money.
This telling turn of events points to the broader issue, largely missing from the CSPL approach: the corrosive effect of the dominance of our politics by the interests of a small wealthy elite (for example, half of Conservative funding now comes from financial interests). This elite is holding our politics to ransom, at the very time when economic and climate crises point to the need for radical change. The case for radical party-funding reform, in this broader context, is pressing: the massive inequalities motivating the “Occupy” movement, for instance, will never be tackled by a political system relying on the largesse of the beneficiaries of this system of inequalities.
We are working on a report (for GreenHouse think-tank) responding to the CSPL recommendations. Our report will insist that the case for major public funding of political parties cannot be divorced from the case for broader democratising reforms and must include ways of ensuring that public funding of political parties is not used merely to prop up the large central administrations of the main parties that have presided over the crises now convulsing us. For instance: matched funding for party membership subs, with that funding going to local parties rather than to national HQs, would be one measure deserving serious consideration.
Rupert Read and John Hare, Norwich, Norfolk, UK