According to a comments by George Young in a debate in the House of Lords last Friday on the ‘Political Parties (Funding and Expenditure) Bill’ the lack of cross-party consensus on major reforms means that the Government believes that it is premature to consider such issues and will instead focus on small incremental changes. The Government apparently think it is too complicated to stop wealthy people and companies from making very large donations to political parties but are instead willing to consider finding practical ways to encourage more and smaller donations from wider audiences. Apparently the Millions of pounds being used to fund the large parties has reached something of a plateau and is diminishing rather than increasing in real terms and in any case they cannot be bothered to work on a reform that is not supported by any of the parties who already enjoy such generous benefactors. George Young referred to a comment by Winston Churchill from 1948 when he suggested that it was not good practice for one party to impose its will on another party on matters affecting the interests of rival parties. Clearly such an attitude does not extend to the rest of society who these party’s how will start funding them!
The Bill that was debated last Friday focuses on reforming the funding of political parties and came from a proposal put forward by two MPs and a Lord. They are Andrew Tyrie (Conservative – Chichester), Alan Whitehead (Labour – Southampton Test) and Lord Matthew Taylor (Lib Dem and previously MP for Truro). Apparently this sort of backbench cross-party working does not count in the eyes of people like Lord Young and the Government. However Lord Young did decide to redirect some of the focus onto a different matter and stated “Instead, we want to reduce the cost of politics, and we are taking steps towards this by reducing the size of the House of Commons—which I hope noble Lords will support when the relevant Statutory Instrument comes before us—freezing ministerial pay and stopping unanticipated hikes in the cost of Short money.” This led to Steve Bassam raising the radical suggestion that the number of Peers could also be reduced as one way of saving public money George Young said “We tried to reduce the number of Peers in the previous Parliament, as I know to my cost, but it did not have the consensus that we needed”
That was it, so unless you and I start to get cross, the lack of crossness amongst the well funded political parties may never emerge. Of course there are more radical ways of implementing change, but perhaps George Young and his cosy chums don’t think we will get that cross!