Yesterday in Parliament, some of those MPs and Ministers not entirely caught up in debates on the EU referendum were discussing what is known as ‘Short Money’. Short Money is the funding provided from our taxes to help assist the opposition parties to effectively hold the Executive to account. The Government benefits from the additional support provided to Ministers in terms of additional personal staff and unfettered access to the civil service, and so the concept of Short Money makes sense in some ways. The Government is arguing that its desire to cut funding to the opposition parties is a reflection of the state of economy, however as was pointed out last night, if this was a genuine desire, cuts to the ballooning cost of special advisers would be cut by a similar amount. However there is no indication that this Government has any desire to cut its own budgets. One of the Ministers was provoked by a Labour MP to consider if there were alternatives to cutting the Short Money. He responded by suggesting that one option would be to cut the number of MPs. Once again, if this was to be enacted, it is likely it would be the Conservative MPs that would be cut least and the opposition MPs that would feel the fuller force of the cost cutting. This is at the heart of the problem of allowing political turkeys to determine if Christmas should take place.
My view is that we need a thorough root and branch review of Government which includes the provision of Short Money and the spending on SPaDs as well as on the size of Parliament and perhaps just as importantly the size of the second Chamber and how people are appointed or elected to the Lords. It also needs to consider party funding that comes from individuals and organisations. It is clear that our current Government and all of the Political Parties cannot be trusted to make these decisions alone. Ideally a group of electors and some of those who do not usually vote should be the dominant voices in such a group, rather than MPs, Lords or Civil Servants. However such an approach won’t happen if we wait for the Government to decide to do so. We need to make our views felt now!