Political party funding to cost us £100m

Updated: 
Nick CleggThe thought of a massive public funding increase for political parties, set at something like £3 for each vote won, fills many people with a sense of unease.

How can a £100m injection of taxpayer's money over a five-year Parliament be a good idea in this time of austerity, not to mention the continuing unhappiness at the way MPs spend the money we already give them?

The way it's been in the past is pretty clear. The Conservatives sought money from wealthy donors in the business sector and the Labour Party was funded by the unions. Anyone else fed off the crumbs of discontent from either camp and relied on its grassroots membership.

Good idea
Nick Clegg, however, has been pushing the case for public funding for parties based on the number of votes they win at each election. And when you see what the Lib Dems have to gain from this system, it's hardly surprising the Deputy PM thinks it's a good idea.

Because in 2010, the Lib Dems operated with just £4.9m in donations – compared to the Tories with £32m and Labour £20m – while under public funding they would be looking at a gift of £20.4m.

That buys a helluva lot of yellow rosettes.

Based on votes cast in last year's election, the Conservatives would be looking at £32m in public funding while Labour coffers would receive £25m. They would still have private donations, of course, but there would be a cap suggested at £50,000 which might lose the Tories a third of their income while controls over affiliation fees paid by unions to Labour could see that £8m a year cut to around £5m.

The problem here is that voting is not compulsory in this country so, for instance, at the last election only 65% of voters bothered to make a trip to the polling station or fill in a postal vote. Under the new system even those who don't make the effort will be hit by a democracy tax to fund the very political parties that they don't support.

Ask a non-voter to explain their reluctance and it's always the same answer: I don't like politicians, they are all as bad as each other and they're corrupt.

Even if that's your view, under the scheme championed by Clegg you'll be paying for them. So there.

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