Taxpayer funding for political parties - a weak case weakens more

An excellent Policy Exchange report out today has hammered some important nails into the coffin of taxpayer funding for political parties. We've long argued that the reason parties are struggling financially is nothing to do with the needs of the modern political industry, and all to do with the fact that they are failing to sell their product to the public.

The fall in voter turnout and the corresponding collapse in donations from the wider public show that people are deeply unattracted by both the behaviour of many politicians and more fundamentally put off by the policies (or in some cases lack of policies) on offer. They are an industry whose product is simply not selling.

So, instead of updating their business model and improving the product to meet what customers want, they have simply decided that their work is perfect, rather it is the modern environment which is wrong. The keystone of that argument is that there has been a political "arms race", with costly advertising and glossy literature becoming essential and driving costs upwards, beyond what can be covered by donations.

The Policy Exchange paper holes that idea below the water line by calculating that the parties spend the same amount - and less in some cases - than they did 40 years ago. It also rightly points out that there is already huge subsidy of political parties through Special Advisers, party political broadcasts, Short Money, councillors' allowances and various other sources.

Given the recent spectacle over MPs' expenses, the public's attitude to the idea of even more taxpayer funding of political parties is already hostile - this report does a great deal to further that opposition and sweep the legs from under the already dubious argument put forward by politicians who simply aren't willing to change to engage the public.

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