The Uncarved Block

Public funding of political parties

The UK political parties are voting for their own interests by asking for taxpayer funding. Taxpayers should say 'no'.

In the light of recent scandals various proposals have been made that would result in political parties in the UK receiving taxpayers' money to fund their activities. This is something that UK taxpayers should fight in the strongest possible terms for two reasons: Firstly, the main political parties stand to benefit hugely from this change- they would no longer need to worry about funding but would simply receive boatloads of cash as of right. This would tend to entrench the political status quo. Secondly, it could only be achieved by raising the tax burden in the UK even higher than it is now or by cutting government expenditure on other things. As all taxes promote economic inefficiency raising the tax burden is a terrible idea. Equally, while cutting government expenditure in general is a good thing, simply replacing one existing form of government waste with another is bad in general and in this case particularly odious.

How about instead we keep our current system where people who want political parties to be well-funded get to put their money where their mouth is and fund them? This is good for several reasons: Firstly it is maximally efficient- I spend the amount I want to spend to achieve the political funding outcome I want and nothing is wasted. Secondly, I can't lie- if political funding is so important to me that I want others to pay but I am unwilling to pay myself I get nothing. Thirdly, people who are not interested in sponsoring a political party are not forced against their will to do so. Finally, the overall burden of taxation is not increased, so everyone has more money of their own which they can use to do whatever they want (including donating it to a political party if they want to).

Making political parties taxpayer-funded won't make politicians immune from accusations of bribery- people who want to seek influence just need to be more subtle, funding party-affiliated organisations or events (this happens extensively now) and bribing politicians personally rather than improperly funding their parties.

permalink Updated: 2006-08-02