Political funding in the UK
Political parties can receive funds through membership fees, donations and state funding. The first effort in history to try and regulate finance in politics came in 1883 when the UK passed the Corrupt and Illegal practices Act. Since then there have been various soft attempts to try and curb the amount given to political parties. In March 2006 Sir Hayden Phillips set up an inquiry where he recommended capping individual donations at £50,000. There is little evidence to suggest that at any point since 1883 there has been a valiant attempt to curb political donations.
Cash for Honours
The cash for honours scandal highlighted just one loophole in the electoral law of the UK, which meant although anyone donating money to a political party had to declare it, those loaning money at commercial rates of interest did not have to make it public. During the scandal several men who donated large sums of money to the Labour party had been nominated for life peerages. There was an investigation, there were arrest and Labour were ordered to pay back the loans given to them which left them in financial struggle. After a long police investigation no charges were brought to any individual. Former cabinet minister and Blair critic Clare Short described the issue quite well.
“What we’re getting is a bubble of these clever people who’ve captured the state, don’t need a party, don’t need any members, don’t have turbulent opinions, who then get money from rich people and run our state without counselling anyone else.”
This was happening around ten years ago and had been going on for years. Money has found its influence in politics increasing over time, and there are various ways it seeps into the political stream. Donations have been given to parties to help fund campaign for years, but some people believe has started to poison politics. On the electoral commission website it states;
“‘There is no limit, or cap, on the amount a permissible donor can give to a political party. But if the donor is impermissible they cannot give more than £500.”
Political donations aren’t evil but, aren’t good either
In Q3 of 2016 Mick the Miner was the Conservative Party’s biggest donor giving £269,000, and has been giving to the Tories for years. This is all open information and there is no doubt that money in politics has become an accepted part of the political framework. UK political parties raise millions each quarter in donations, and the money comes from wealthy individuals and various other groups (trade unions play a big part). Money in politics has eroded away at democracy for years and has had almost a Stockholm Syndrome effect on the public. Not many people care, and continue to vote for the party whose name it hears the most, spoken in a slick British accent.
One pound is equal to one vote. When it should be one person is equal to one vote. The extremely wealthy have more of an influence over political decisions than the average individual, when in fact the average individual is much more reliant on state decisions than the extremely wealthy. This is the topsy turvy world we live in. The super wealthy infiltrate, negotiate and inebriate the workings of the political structure which is supposed to be in place to benefit the people. We definitely do not live in an autocratic state, but as the money pours in the realm of democracy continues to get further away by the day.