Whitehall's campaign against democracy

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Whitehall's campaign against democracy

Post  EarthsAngel on Thu Sep 01, 2011 3:03 am

Whitehall's campaign against democracy
The Mandarinate, Whitehall if you will, is very happy with the condition of Britain's political parties. Like Whitehall, they are central, exclusive, metropolitan bodies that look inwards and exist without any measure of either popular support or accountability. Fewer than 1% of the UK electorate are members of one of the big three parties, and this, too, suits Whitehall - the less the effect of grass-roots influence on the parties, the easier a cosy accommodation between the central State and the central parties may be reached. And the last thing Whitehall wants is political change, new parties gaining ground and the upsetting of this convenient State alliance.


Some of you may recall the utter contempt with which this blog greeted Hayden Phillips' meretricious recommendations on tax-funding of the parties, based on their electoral share in the previous election, thus enshrining and advantaging incumbency and acting as a permanent barrier to political change. I recall a howl of public outrage at the suggestion, and even an opinion poll that demonstrated overwhelming opposition to the proposal. This isn't, of course, the way Hayden Phillips remembers it;

"When I produced my report and negotiated with the parties, public funding wasn't a big bone of contention. I think there would be much more reluctance now even though I still believe it is the right solution. The political party system is essential to democracy. It is a perfectly reasonable thing to provide a stake in the way parties are is funded."

He tells the Guardian, proving that he's grown neither in wisdom nor honesty in the intervening years. In contrast the co-Chairman of the Conservative Party Lord Feldman is of the view that:

It is commonly argued that additional state funding for political parties is the solution to dealing with the loss of income resulting from a donations cap. However, it seems highly unlikely that the public would accept handing over significant sums of taxpayers’ money to political parties at a time when the Government is having to make tough decisions and cut public spending. In the aftermath of the expenses scandal, greater state funding of political parties simply risks further undermining the reputation of politics and politicians in the eyes of the voter.

But more importantly, there is a matter of principle here. Political parties should belong to the people, not to the state. General state funding would represent a significant constitutional shift and would risk turning our political parties into little more than public utilities. Furthermore, state funding based on past election results acts as a significant barrier to entry. New parties would find it all but impossible to spring up without access to donor or state funding. That would be significantly detrimental to the democratic process.

For Feldman to strike a position so diametrically opposed to Whitehall's strategy of establishing 'tamed' and institutionalised permanent State parties seems brave enough, but consider that the Conservatives alone are capable of surviving a donations cap without additional funding.


It seems Christopher Kelly's committee's long overdue report and recommendations on tax funding of the parties will not see the light of day before the party conference season. Once it is released, Nick Clegg will lead cross-party talks. This is a bit like putting Bob Diamond in charge of printing banknotes; the LibDems have seen a flood of members leave since the coalition, their finances are parlous and Clegg has said openly before now that without taxpayer support for his party, it's doomed. And you can bet that 'cross party talks' will include only those parties already represented in Westminster - excluding UKIP and the nascent parties. So whatever Kelly recommends, Clegg will seek to make party capital of it - precisely the outcome wanted by Whitehall.


I can't overstress the importance of the principles at stake here. The issue of Whitehall's establishment of State parties is the battleground over which we must fight to regain democracy in Britain. If the Mandarins win this one, we're irrevocably lost.
at 07:27
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Labels: hayden phillips, state funding Posted by Raedwald
11 pithy observations:

SimonF said...

If we ever do get state funding of political parties, heaven forfend, does that mean we all become members of all parties? Wouldn't it be fun to organise mass attendance at, say, the Labour conference and vote in a new leader ever year.
31 August 2011 08:19
Anonymous said...

I'm not at all sure about the health of our democracy full stop. I don't see the much vaunted localisms bill gaining ground, I don't see quangos cut, I don't see spending cut, I do see taxes rising and I do see living conditions worsening by the day as the living conditions of politicians improve by the day. I see the private sector groaning and dying under the continued rise and rise of the public sector middle and upper management and I see the collapse of this nation as we know it before too long.

Beam me up Scotty, I'm in the shit down here!

Coney Island

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Re: Whitehall's campaign against democracy

Post  El Guapo on Thu Sep 01, 2011 8:41 am

Good article!

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