Despite the dislike I have for political parties, I have come to the realisation that we actually have to fund them to fix our democracy. As much as I hate our stupid adversarial system, it won't change because people are always going to want to group together behind shared ideologies and beliefs. To quote the great philosopher Ferris Bueller: "A person should not believe in a -ism, they should believe in themselves". There will always be parties sadly, some people are in them because they believe in the parties ideologies, others because its the only way to get voted in and help people and others are just greasy pole climbing idiots who wouldn't cut it in the real world so go into politics. Politicians should be prepared to look at the evidence and facts, identify what the real problems are, not invent problems to placate their own base and make a judgement unbiased by pre-conceived ideas of what works best and pick the best way of fixing the problem. They shouldn't care if its delivered by the public or private sector, whatever is the best way of doing something is the right way. Some examples: Trains in my opinion should be state run, the duplication caused by the franchises are a nonsense, its fragmented, expensive and crap. Libraries should always be publicly owned, they are incompatible with private sector ethos on profit and growth and are probably the only ideologically free space we have left. Where there is real choice then its probably best to have private sector, the market (when it is a real market) is more efficient. Sadly we are lumbered with lots of fake markets that don't actually work, if it has a regulator beginning with "Of-" then its probably a fake market and should be in public ownership. In councils we have most services provided by the private sector in competitive tendering deals that in my opinion are rarely well negotiated by civil servants. It adds a extra layer of buck passing and services end up being publicly funded, privately run and accountable to nobody. (I nicked that line, cannot remember from where)
The problem is the decision making process on these things isn't really representative of what non-political people want because consultation is a sham. The Westminster bubble is full of people who don't represent us but fund the parties, setup the think tanks and have the influence and ear of the elected. The rest of us can write letters to our MP's, perhaps we can hold a protest if enough of us feel strongly about something, it rarely works though. Parliament and Blair still took us to war with Iraq against the will of the people and stupidly we still elected Blair again.
Again I must stress, I hate the adversarial party system, their behind closed doors democracy is why we are in a mess. The only way to clean the parties up though is to fund them and deny the people, groups and companies who subvert our democracy their biggest weapon, cash. The top diagram is what we have now, the bottom part is if we fund the parties and ban donations:
The unions completely fund the Labour party, I'm not in a union, they don't speak for me but they hold sway over one of our 2.3 parties, they do have their own democratic mandate but in 2009 there were only 7.1 million people out of around 62 million in a union. It doesn't give them a mandate to speak for us all. I do acknowledge the good they have done historically but I have seen the bad sides of unionism during my working life and I'm not a fan of unions today.
The Tories and Lib Dems have to rely on their members and wealthy donors to fund them. This is even less satisfactory than the unions paying for Labour. Lord Ashcroft almost single-handedly funded the 2010 election for the Tories. Then there are also taxpayer funded lobby groups like the LGA, SCL and god knows how many others that are not democratically elected or accountable and should have their funding cut.
The poor voter in the top part of the equation has almost no access, they can vote but because most of the seats are safe it rarely makes a difference. Most of us are disenfranchised by FPTP but we're stuck with it. Consultations are a waste of time as they are ignored. The media has more sway over policy than we do, we need them to act in the public interest rather than the interests of their owners. Hopefully this will improve post Leveson.
The parties are always desperate for money, peerages are given, whole bills have clauses written into them by lobbyists. The system as it is means the people are ignored and the wealthy special interests are given access and preference. This has to end.
If we as taxpayers fund the candidates and ban all donations from individuals then this nonsense can end. The MP's will finally have to start listening and working for the majority not the minority. Union subs can pay for the full time union officials rather than the taxpayer, the wealth non-doms can fuck off back to Monaco and stop interfering with our democracy.
Parties and MP's already get to go on the news, have party political broadcasts and we already pay for them to leaflet us, they can have a few million each from the taxpayer based on how many candidates they get to stand and that's it. No donations, no special meet the minister dinners and events at £500 a head, no cash for honours, taxis for hire and a end to lobbying. Ministers and MP's should be banned for at least five years from taking jobs in companies that they have held a parliamentary interest in, either as a minister or on a committee. Meetings with lobbyists cannot be banned all together but they must be minuted and the ministers must insulate themselves from the special interests with all communications going through the civil service, no sneaky gmail accounts and pay as you go phones to avoid FOI to keep in touch with your dodgy mates. Complete transparency in other words.
There are drawbacks of course, the rules for funding would have to be applied equally so some parties I don't agree with will get funding, some people vote for them so its a price we have to pay. Hopefully it will mean independents can compete on better terms with the party machines because there will be fixed limits on what the parties can spend. It will also encourage the parties and candidates to get back to the communities to help them campaign which in turn will give power back to the local parties. Maybe some of the 60-70% that don't vote will start to believe in politics and vote again, who knows.
It won't happen though, the craptocracy will continue. I honestly feel sorry for the politicians who get into politics for the right reasons, despite my feelings towards the parties there are a lot of good people in them.