Reform of party funding

The Conservative Party approach to party funding has been sadly one-sided. Their Trade Union Bill is a thinly veiled attempt to damage the political funds of trade unions and thereby diminish financial support for the Labour Party, which has a long and legitimate association with the trade union movement that extends over a century. In tandem with that partisan move, the Tories have also sought to dramatically reduce the “Short Money” available to opposition parties, whilst parallel funding for special advisers has grown. Such a partisan approach to the system of party finance and expenditure is bad for democracy and unsustainable.

What is needed now is a comprehensive and even-handed assessment of how the current regulatory system could be reformed in ways that would strengthen our democracy. Such an assessment needs to look at the core purpose of party funding rules – to establish a level playing field in which the political battle is a battle of ideas and not a race to raise and spend money. It also needs to guarantee that the money flowing into political coffers is clean and without undue influence. The problem with the Conservative approach to reform is that it is one-eyed, targeting Labour’s income but ignoring the far greater sums flowing to the Conservative Party and paying no attention to the problem of excessive spending which can lead to an imbalance in the electoral process.

The time has come to consider a range of reforms that will together produce a fairer and more sustainable system. These should include:

  • A comprehensive cap on donations at a suitably low level so as to address big donations across the political spectrum
  • A review of existing caps on spending at both the local and national level to ensure a level playing field
  • A new approach to the provision of state funding which encourages individual membership of parties

Declan McHugh, former Constitutional Affairs Director at the Labour Party


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  • commented 2016-07-11 18:56:19 +0100
    This a critical pillar of any move to a new and better politics. Excellent suggestion. Also there is more to the problem of ‘taking the money out of politics’ than just party funding, such as the revolving doors and lobbying. I’ve posted a suggestion here expanding a little on this.
  • tagged this with love 2016-07-11 18:56:19 +0100
  • commented 2016-05-08 12:00:24 +0100
    I am concerned at the possibility of independent funding other than of course for independent candidates. I do favour state funding of parties but am concerned at the fact it gives an extremist government the means to stifle their opponents even more readily than Cameron’ s crew are trying.
  • tagged this with like 2016-05-08 12:00:24 +0100
  • commented 2016-05-04 11:02:27 +0100
    I think this suggestion has a lot of merit and is a good starting point for an overdue public discussion.
  • tagged this with like 2016-05-04 11:02:27 +0100
  • commented 2016-04-01 13:43:08 +0100
    I think we should have state funded parties but with candidates funded more independently and more locally as well, but this is a good start.
  • tagged this with like 2016-04-01 13:43:07 +0100
  • commented 2016-04-01 12:27:41 +0100
    I would favour political parties being almost entirely state funded. This would enable them to offer what they consider the best policy platform to the electorate, rather than serving any special interests. It would also create a far more level playing field during elections, enabling votyers to make decions based on more balanced information. Parties should be allowed to take individual donations, but these should be capped at a very low level, so that any additional funds would indicate large levels of popular support, rather than the backing of a few wealthy individuals or corporations.
  • tagged this with like 2016-04-01 12:27:41 +0100
  • commented 2016-04-01 10:13:59 +0100
    I must admit that terms like, “….a new approach to state funding which (tries) to encourage (something)”… looks like code for increasing state aid for political activities which is a real turn off for me and I suspect so many others. I could be convinced by almost any change except one that tries to create funding by a supposed ‘neutral’ partner to the process. Politics is important in that it will always in the last resort represents interests. Creating vested interests divorced from people, will I suggest always lead to distrust. Funding should always be raised from those it represents and not those who see their way to using supposed neutrality to enhance their positions no matter how nobly they present their case.
  • tagged this with like 2016-04-01 10:13:59 +0100