Political parties must not use opposition to UK party funding as an excuse to block caps on donations, says leading political reform NGO Unlock Democracy.
Commenting on the Conservative Party Chairman Sayeeda Warsi’s suggestion in the Sunday Times that the Conservative Party will oppose the proposals by the Committee on Standards in Public Life to introduce a new system of party funding, Director of Unlock Democracy Peter Facey said: “We have some sympathy with the proposal that a system of party funding is not affordable under the current political climate and would oppose a system of awarding parties public money on a blanket ‘per vote’ basis. If the main parties feel that a cap on donations can be introduced without having to dip into the public purse, then we welcome it."
He continued: “However, they cannot use it as an excuse not to introduce a cap on donations. Following on from the Liam Fox / Adam Werrity episode, the lines between lobbying and party funding have never been more blurred. In a time of austerity, it has never been more important that political parties are seen to be serving the interests of the public and not vested interests."
In an interview in the Sunday Times last weekend, Baroness Warsi said the following on the upcoming report by the Committee on Standards in Public Life: “I fundamentally disagree with [the proposal to give each party £3 for every vote it wins at elections]. At a time when the country is facing the current economic climate, for us to be thinking about putting £100 million, which could build 20 schools and give you thousands of operations on the NHS, into party political funding is wrong. I think people would be appalled by it. They would say, ‘That is not what I pay my taxes for’... you would have £1.7 million going to [the British National] party that is going to then push out fascist literature and try to split communities”.
But Mr Facey responded: “We believe that a case can be made that if a donations cap is set at a low level, for example £10,000 per organisation or individual per year, that public money may be required to make up the shortfall. That is up for negotiation; the need for a cap however is not."
“Baroness Warsi’s claim that money could be better spent on the NHS is unfortunate given that her party is insisting on expensive referendums for elected mayors and direct elections for police commissioners, both of which are of dubious merit and far less crucial than the need to clean up politics in Westminster,” he concluded.
* Unlock Democracy: http://www.unlockdemocracy.org.uk/