The Taxpayers' Alliance (I cannot commend them highly enough) have put out a briefing on 'Why we should say No to tax-funded parties':
"Many people are already repulsed by what they see as the negativity and cynicism of modern politics with its relentless focus on the delivery of campaign messages through the use of polling, focus groups, expensive databases and spin doctors. Forcing people to actually pay for these things will only make them more disillusioned with politicians and the political process generally and these costs must continue to be paid for by political parties themselves."
They give 5 main arguments against public funding:
- The public should not have to pay for cynical, professional campaigning
- It ignores the obvious short-term answer: transparency
- It takes us further away from the real solution: more local power and more local participation in politics
- Countries with taxpayer-funded parties still suffer from corruption
- There would be less incentive for the parties to listen to the public and less incentive to improve their campaigning
PS The TPA give some jaw-dropping examples of how parties chose to spend their dosh:
- Media monitoring: £350 grand pa
- Voter database: £250 grand (eg Tory Voter Vault)
- Image consultant: £276 grand pa (eg Steve Hilton for the Tories)
- Full-page colour broadsheet ad: £70 grand
- Opinion polls: £25 grand each
- Launch events: £10 grand a go
Pricey business. And that's even without those dratted elections. The Electoral Commission reported that in the 2005 Election, Labour and the Tories both spent £17.9m- just within the regulated maximum of £18.8m for GB (being the number of constituencies contested times £30,000). The biggest single chunks were for advertising, which in the Tory case cost a full £8m: on top of all those free party politicals.
And you also have to count spending by individual candidates, which for the Tories amounted to another £4.6m, and for Labour £4.2m. So the overall totals were over £22m for both main parties. Even the cash-strapped LDs spent about £7m.
And all in an attempt to snow us into picking one set of big state tweedledums over the other.
We need a real choice, not an expensive imagefest. Which we just ain't paying for it.