Sunday, December 16, 2007

Political Party Donors 2

Speaking on the BBC Andrew Marr show this morning, John Major opined that one important purpose of political funding was to maintain a connection between the party and its donors.

"If too much of party funding comes directly from the taxpayer a great deal of the activity at the grass roots that brings a party together, that makes a party, that keeps the politicians in touch with the grass roots, gets swept away. And I think politicians are remote enough already from the electorate as a whole, I wouldn't wish to see them made even more remote, and my fear apart from the undoubted desirability of the principle, my fear would be that if party funding too much came from the centre that it would diminish grass roots activity even more, that would be a thoroughly bad development." [Systemic Sleaze, 16 Dec 2007]

In other words, a party needs to align itself with its donors as well as with its voters. That sounds attractive, but a problem may arise when the donors are perceived to have interests that differ from those of the ordinary voter.

In some cases, perhaps, the donors are simply one step ahead of the electorate - funding in anticipation of what they regard as an inevitable shift in public opinion, or perhaps funding in order to accelerate what they regard as a positive shift in public opinion.

After all, why would anyone donate money to any cause - whether political or social or charitable or whatever - if they didn't think it would have any effect?

But it is not donations from the grass roots than causes concern. It is large donations from a single source - whether this be a rich businessman donating his own money, or an organization (including corporations and trade unions) donating money on behalf of its members or shareholders. Surely this doesn't count as "grass roots" activity?

See previous post: Political Party Donors

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