Monday, 16 April 2012

The Workers "Mites" will keep the Labour Party well off.

I am Agnostic but there is something I can learn from all religions and one that always sicks with me from the bible is the Lesson of the widow's mite presented in the Gospels (Mark 12:41-4, Luke 21:1-4.

In the story, a widow donates two small coins, while wealthy people donate much more.Jesus explains to his disciples that the small sacrifices of the poor mean more to God than the extravagant donations of the rich.

I was reminded of this (I sound like a preacher giving a Sunday sermon) . When I saw Ed Milliband on the Andrew Marr talking about party donations.

He started of well calling for a £5,000 cap on donations to political parties,  and when challenged included those Millions of pounds  from trade unions.
He told the BBC this would remove the influence of "big money" on politics.
But he then went on to say said he wanted to keep the system under which union members are asked whether they want to keep paying £3 a year to Labour and are given the option  (not always clearly spelled out) to opt out from this. Rather than to voluntary opt in.

Around three million currently do so. That's about a third of those who voted Labout in the last General Election and it is questionable whether 100% of those who failed to opt out of the "political fund", voted Labour,in that election.

What it means is that Milliband wants to cap donations to £5000 for individuals  whilst receiving a tidy £9 Million from the collected "Workers Mites".
Which would give Labour a huge financial advantage over other parties .
The origins of a political fund to back the Labour Party at a time when MP's weren't paid and the Labour Movement was being formed in the latter part of the 19th centenary had great merit.But it does not exist today especially when Labour represents "Middle England" and not the ordinary worker,.
The issue of Party funding has led to all the major parties to consider capping donations and it looks like a good idea.
However :
If there is to be a cap then it should voluntary take place well before the Bill is even discussed in Parliament.
What's to stop the big donors  making huge donations before the cap legally comes into affect and simply wiping out smaller Parties for decades as they cannot compete with expenditure?
Just imaging Big Business making say a total £20 Million donation to the Tories and the Unions and some Big Business a similar amount to Labour. Whilst the LibDems get £ 5 Million just before the cap becomes Law. Where would that leave the smaller Parties?
And if they introduced State funding of Parties based on their percentage  vote The big parties would have a built in advantage. Having a huge War Chest already.
They would then fight the next General Election and outspend smaller parties by Millions and then claim state money for further campaigns based on the vote they just bought.
Building a perpetual funding on the state which it would make it almost impossible to break
Can we trust Milliband and the other Party leaders to act in the interest of the democratic process when it comes to Part funding? I doubt it.


  1. Maybe we could also have a spending cap, a strict limit on how much money can be spent per year by a political party for campaigns. As the donations are effectively used to buy support, this would help to level the playing field.

  2. We certainly need a spending cap and stricter monitoring on what is considered campaign. Parties are now leafleting years in advance of an election in some constituencies and I bet they all don't get included on the election expenses.

    Also It has been claimed that Unions for example pay for leaflets then resell them to Labour for a penance thereby keeping themselves within the limit.

    What we need is a more aggressive electoral commission and returning officers who are prepared to take action against those who are overspending.