Thursday, November 16, 2006

Party Funding

I am in favour of limited regulation, more transparency but a cap on election spending.

Elections should be about ensuring the electorate makes an informed decision. There is a danger that unless spending is capped, the electorate are “sold” a party instead of being convinced by seeing all the arguments and viewpoints. Many inferior products do well with good marketing and presentation.

I am against any significant increase in the funding the parties get. It is bad enough as it is, as who decides who is eligible for funding? Surely that introduces a bias in favour of the incumbent parties and makes them complacent and stifles dynamism. If people are taxed to pay for party funding you are forcing people to pay for the promotion of views that they may disagree with. By definition it is safe to say that if all 3 main parties have funding EVERY taxpayer will be funding ideas they oppose. There is the argument that people may not know of alternative viewpoints, but if that is the case, then you should not limit the tax to just the mainstream. People should be free to fund parties of their choice via membership or donations. If each taxpayer is taxed, say, £1, to avoid the problem of enforced funding of ideas counter to your preference, the taxpayer would need the option of choosing the recipient or “none of the above”. The above opens a Pandora’s Box, as you can see that by logical extension taxpayers should then get choice over ALL budget items. By logical extension we need a “none of the above” option in General Elections. Best to keep the “enforced” funding to a low level.

Directors of Companies awarded State contracts should be prevented from funding political parties. If a company is awarded a state contract (or turns over a certain amount or a certain percentage that way) then they are, to an extent, a subcontracted employee of the State. To continue to allow directors to fund parties in this way (as opposed to being members of them using their time, which is their own resource) is to nurture an environment where corruption can breed.

As a related issue, I am of the belief that state employees and those dependent on the State should not get the vote. Why? They are paid by the State and as such are influenced in their voting preferences by policy in regard to the size of the State, decisions as to expansion or cuts in State services and departments. I am not condemning State employees per se, as it is a very natural feeling and totally understandable to subconsciously lean towards administrations that are less likely to cause the loss of ones living. This is why, historically, the UK has not allowed State employees to vote, but this was altered at the beginning of the last century. I think this should be reversed. (To compliment this, State employees should also be free from income tax, with their salaries adjusted accordingly).

The above is linked to party funding as it ties in with the Directors of companies that profit from State contracts. It is in a similar vein, i.e. It opens the door to corruption and distortion for direct personal gain.


William H. White said...

Given voter dissatisfaction with "lesser evil" and "one choice" elections as well as excessively negative campaigns, many voters often wish to vote NO in elections to office just as they can on ballot questions.

Why not? In a democracy, government must obtain the consent of the governed, and all legitimate consent requires the ability to withhold consent. Clearly, the legitimate consent of voters requires they be able to withhold their consent to an election to office.

Essentially, elections to office are hiring decisions made by voters, where the political parties act as search firms and the campaign serves as the interview/assessment process. Can you imagine any institution arranging its affairs so that each search firm sends a single job candidate for a position, with the understanding one of them must be hired? Compounding the problem, the two largest search firms arranged the institution's regulations so that, expect in rare instances, only they present candidates for selection. Worst still, often only one candidate is presented in these "must hire" elections. Furthering difficulties, where there is a choice of candidates, the “must hire” method causes candidates to attack each other rather than discussing their own qualifications. Any institution using such methods would soon be controlled by those search firms. The wonder is government is not more of a mess than it is, since that is exactly how we hire (elect) most candidates for public office.

Instead, we could enact Voter Consent laws giving voters a binding "None of the Above" (NOTA) option after each candidate list, which calls a new election, with new candidates, to fill the office should NOTA win. While NOTA by-elections are an expense, they would not occur unless voters vote to hold them, and are likely less costly than electing unacceptable candidates to office.

With a NOTA ballot option, voters make the final decision about the choices political parties made, rather than those parties deciding the final choices voters can make. Even candidates running unopposed would have to obtain voter consent to be elected. And all political parties would know their selected candidates must face NOTA as well as any opponent, reducing the incentives for negative campaigning and "lesser evil" candidates. Buying "access" to candidates or determining election outcomes with contributions becomes a more uncertain enterprise.

Surely Voter Consent laws will not solve all the problems with democratically governing ourselves; however, it seems to me NOTA based Voter Consent laws are a common sense, much needed improvement, returning some power to "We the People", from whom our constitution draws its legitimacy, and taking some power from political parties and corporations, whom our constitution never mentions.

Below is a list of specific reasons for enacting NOTA based Voter Consent laws:

o All legitimate consent requires the ability to withhold consent; "None of the Above" gives the voter the ballot option to withhold consent from an election to office, just as voters can cast a "No" vote on a ballot question.

o Would end the "must hire" elections where voters are often forced to vote for the least unacceptable candidate, the all too familiar "lesser evil."

o A candidate must obtain voter consent to be elected, even if running unopposed.

o Voters would decide the fate of the political parties' choices, instead of the parties deciding the voters' choices.

o It should reduce negative campaigning by encouraging candidates to campaign for their own candidacy rather than against their opponent's candidacy.

o Many voters and non voters, who now register their disapproval of all candidates for an office by not voting, could cast a meaningful vote.

o The meaning of elections should become more clear, since voters would no longer be tempted to vote for a presumed losing candidate, with whom they really do not agree, as a protest vote.

o Establishes flexible, voter controlled term limits of one term for every office, as the framers of the U.S. Constitution intended.

o Campaign contributors who give to all candidates to insure "access" would no longer be sure they backed the winner; in general, buying elections should become a more uncertain enterprise.

o Improves checks and balances between voters and political parties, especially needed in jurisdictions with one dominant political party or nearly identical alternatives.

o Political parties would nominate candidates knowing those candidates must be a better choice for voters than "None of the Above."

o Follow-up by-elections are far less costly than electing unacceptable candidates to office.

o Office holders, knowing they face "None of the Above" in the next election, would be encouraged to insure their re-election by focusing more on doing a good job in office and less on attempting to prevent the emergence of an effective opposition candidate.

o When pre-election polls include "None of the Above", the feedback from voters should help guide candidates and parties.

o Even when "None of the Above" does not win or is a non-binding NOTA, the reported NOTA vote would help identify those offices for which voters might be more receptive to new candidates in a future election as well as limits the winner's mandate.

o Provides a permanent option for voters to withhold consent that is independent of expensive and infrequent candidate based "reform" movements.

o Should make public service more attractive by improving the quality of those elected to office.

o Opportunities for election fraud should be reduced because fewer blank votes for an office would be cast.

o Applies to all candidates and parties equally.

o It is a relatively simple, fair, sensible, accomplishable and permanent improvement to our current system, hopefully making for a more democratic and ultimately stronger America.

Serf said...

As ZaNu Labour get most of their corporate sponsorship from those made rich by PFI, don't hold your breath.

Newmania said...

Hi , just popped in to mention how much I enjoyed this

"I climbed Mt Everest, the only difference being it was Glastonbury Tor"

Jolly funny and a good point

mandrill said...

Why bother with parties at all?
They lead to cronyism, eliitism and corruption and reduce voter choice. If you vote for a particular party then you're getting all the policies that you don't like along with the ones you do.
Why bother with a tier of government which is unnecessary?
Representative democracy is demeaning to the electorate, it implies that individuals are incapable of representing themselves and their views. It is also apparent that MP's put party loyalty before loyalty to those who elected them (or they do if they want to be up for election next time around.)
Why not give the electorate true control over the actions of the government?
Instead of politics being about personalities and marketing, it should be about the issues that the voters think are important. Let them decide what the government(them) should concern itself with instead of having proclamations handed down from on high "This is what you should worry about, this is how we're going to fix it."
Why not make every bill a referendum?
The technology exists to allow every citizen a vote on every issue and allow voters to decide which issues merit state intervention. The main reason we aren't using it is because of resistance from those who would lose their jobs if it was implemented, i.e.: the government.
If things continue as they are we, as a population, will no longer be capable to decide anything for ourselves and will rely on the state to do our thinking for us. Our independence of thought and individuality will have been 'educated' out of us.

Roger Thornhill said...

I agree, mandrill, that the party system is in a mess.

It would be better that the whip system was weakened to the extent that people should be able to stand by their PERSONAL manifesto which the electorate then votes on.

If we had multiple groups in Parliament that allowed non-exclusive membership, then this would enable an MP to be a member of, say, pro-Nuclear group, an anti-EU group yet be in favour of State Education.

The groupings could then recognise the MPs as being in that grouping.

However, this is only half the problem. Apart form making the State much smaller, we do need to have more referrendae. Switzerland recently voted on immigration and nuclear energy issues. Try getting any of that discussed properly by MPs in the UK!

A smaller state means local authorities can be much smaller and far more concerned with "bins, lighting and parks". This reduces the need for greater power and democracy. One thing worse than a bad politician is one on your doorstep!

I am not happy with too much influence in policing in cities, as this runs the risk of pandering to large minorities. The Rule of Law should be consistent and I am still unconvinced that elected Sheriffs at any real level are beneficial.

james higham said...

...If people are taxed to pay for party funding you are forcing people to pay for the promotion of views that they may disagree with...

Couldn't agree more.

Very pleased to make your acquaintance, Roger. Tell me, which is your main blog? I noticed some quite august contributors and friends on your other blog.

Roger Thornhill said...

James, likewise "nourishing" is an interesting blog, btw.

This is my "policy" blog, as opposed to my "real time" blog over at NeueArbeit Macht Frei.

I felt that my Manifesto is about policy and fairly static and is driven from my views which I post in NAMF. I try to refer back to the Manifesto items as and when events justify.

james higham said...

Perhaps no public funding and no restriction either on where the private funding comes from, even if it's for a peerage.

Roger Thornhill said...

James, I would not rule that out if the State was not involved in very much and tax was low.

However, the issue of vast party funding is a problem when massive contracts or monopolies are awarded by the State, as now.

The best way to avoid corruption is to remove monopolies from the purchasing decision and the biggest monopoly we have is the State.

Sam Tarran said...

Apologies for coming late to the party, but I must say that's a very interesting idea on denying state employees the right to vote. Very interesting indeed. It will probably make you the first politicians to reduce the British voting franchise since the eighteenth century I believe.

Lord Higham- Murray said...

Congrats on the Top 100.

Thomas Gordon said...

Hi Roger

Just a quick comment to say that yesterday was a great day out!

The rally was a downer but the drinks and chat more than made up for it!

I'm really interested in getting involved (as well as John Trenchard) so get in touch

Super stuff and here is to the next outting!


GT at BBC-Biased

Bretwalda Edwin-Higham said...

I am in favour of limited regulation, more transparency but a cap on election spending.

I'm in favour of absolute deregulation.

dirty european socialist. said...

I give money to all the parties to fund democracy using my million pound fortune.