The Elephant in the Corner

Religion and Politics – anything for a quiet life

Posts Tagged ‘representative government

Who Pays the Piper?

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As our mass media begin to fill to overflowing with pre-election puff pieces about the Dear Leaders and their wives, they will naturally begin to ask what most people are taught to think of as the important questions about the next General Election: Which party will win the most seats? Who will become the next Prime Minister? What percentage of the electorate will bother to vote this time? And so on.

In 2010, with the real economy mired in recession, rising unemployment, and rising discontent among public sector workers in particular, most of these questions have hardly mattered less. If we want to identify the real winners of the next General Election, we need detailed answers to two questions the mass media and the politicians usually avoid like the plague:

  1. Who is bankrolling the major political parties?
  2. And what do they expect in return?

It is a criminal offence for politicians to try to bribe voters directly (or vice versa), and all of the main political parties have an ageing, shrinking membership base. As a result, it’s getting harder and harder for the parties to

  • justify taxpayer funding for themselves in lieu of party donations and membership fees
  • “rally the troops” for the next ritual marathon of door-knocking, leaflet delivery and all the rest of the actual grass-roots level donkey work.

But none of this will stop the main parties spending millions of pounds on national level, top-down, multi-media election campaigns. So who’s going to pay for it? And what will they expect in return? In former years, the parties have looked to the occasional rich businessman (such as Geoffrey Robinson or Lord Ashcroft), and a few politically connected big businesses. It looks as if Lord Ashcroft is going to retire from the fray in the next few months because of the controversy surrounding his UK tax status, and Geoffrey Robinson has long since fallen out of favour in “New” Labour circles – but at least each of them could claim they were British voters and British taxpayers.

Big businesses may pay tax here, but they’ve no right to vote because we all know that corporations aren’t persons in the same sense as human beings. It would be revealing to see the value of the public service contracts (and legislative clout) these corporate “sponsors” gain compared to the size of their tax bills and their political donations.

It’s time we were told, and it’s long past time to ban corporate donations to political parties while simultaneously forbidding any taxpayer subsidies for political parties here in the UK – and we must ensure that both measures stand or fall together. If we the electorate don’t force the issue of party funding onto the agenda and get it fixed soon, we will have to make even further allowances for an important political law:

All government is representative government, the only question is whose interests it really represents.

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Written by salternlight

March 19, 2010 at 3:34 pm