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Political parties in ‘critical condition’?

It does warm the cockles of one’s heart to read a lede like this:

Political parties are so small they are “nearing critical condition” in many constituencies, a survey suggests.

Of course there is an agenda accompanying this report from an organisation calling itself Unlock Democracy. UD is a joint project of Charter 88 and the New Politics Network, and their aims are far from pure:

Revitalise local political parties through targeted state funding – Political parties are fundamental to our political system and should be funded in ways that encourage political participation and activism at a local level.

The group cannot seem to keep broken links (which are supposed to lead to their own project sites) off of their main website, but they do manage to get governmental ‘support’ for their People and Politics Day. (I have contacted the New Politics Network to ask what form that ‘support’ takes, and await a response.) The day boasts speeches from Tory chairman Francis Maude, Theresa May, various Lib Dem and Labour politicians, and even the leader of UKIP. Exhibitors include the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament, British Union of Anti-Vivisectionists, and the League Against Cruel Sports.

So the good news is that political parties face death. The bad news is, there are people who are trying to keep them alive, and getting governmental support to do so. The surprising news is…nowhere to be found.

UPDATE: New Politics Network’s press officer, James Graham, responded to my query about whether or not taxpayer money is funding this event:

The Electoral Commission, DCA and PEU are indeed financially supporting the event. I don’t have the exact figures in front of me but they have contributed around £17k in total, two-thirds of which comes from the Commission. I hasten to add that we are not making any money out of this project and it is currently just about breaking even.

Well, that makes it okay, I guess! (Not.)

8 comments to Political parties in ‘critical condition’?

  • guy herbert

    My cockles remain unwarmed. I think political parties, per se, are not a bad thing. They are just a thing. If you have politics, you’ll get parties. And if you have people, you’ll get politics.

    Do not get your hopes up. The only function of pretending parties are dying is as a trope of bien pensant opinion to justify more progress in their regulation and nationalisation.

    I’d be much more pleased to see the Electoral Commission dying. I’d be mildly comforted if it were proved membership of non-departmental public bodies (or quangos) shortens your life. Unfortunately I suspect the opposite is true, and that other people’s membership of quangos is shortening my life.

  • From http://www.new-politics.com

    The Electoral Commission is delighted to support People and Politics day and I hope that this unique event will inspire more young people to become involved in politics. This is great opportunity for young people to engage with some our most senior politicians and be part of the debate about the important issues in our democracy. – Sam Younger, Chairman of the Electoral Commission

    I would have thought it better if the Electoral Commision concentrated on elections, which is somewhat different from support for state funding of political parties.

    Best regards

  • Just to mention that at the national conference UKIP overwhelmingly passed the motion not to support state funding for political partes.

  • guy herbert

    I’d prefer we didn’t have an Electoral Commission at all. We had elections without it – among the fairest, best administerd, elections in the world – up until 2001. The mass corruption of postal votes in the last few years was not coincidental, but a consequence of the Electoral Commission’s loosening the rules to ‘increase participation’.

    As for its connection with political parties, that is its raison d’étre. The Electoral Commission, despite its name, has as its principal role licensing and control of political participation. (To the point where it is distinctly uncertain at law whether pressure groups can take paid advertising at all, when some politicians have declared differing views on the point in question, if they are not themselves to fall under the control of the EC.) One of the main reasons for its creation was to hamstring the euroskeptic side in the referendum on adopting the euro that never took place; another was to give direct advantage to Labour and the state by creating barriers to voluntary individual and business funding in politics.

  • The trouble with the death of political parties is that people join single issue groupiings and become even more shrill. Then you have governments lurching hither and yon trying to please different constituencies rather than everyone.

    This government is classic example of what happens when you have too much single issue and not enough concentration on the big picture. The giant mush that is British mainstream political party politics comes as a direct result of single issue politics.

  • Snorre

    Are these Republican negros also gay?

    Ha! That just makes me think of possible new members for GNAA. (For those who haven’t heard about GNAA: it’s an organization of internet trolls.)

  • Snorre

    Arrgh. <cite> didn’t work, and I posted to the wrong post. :-( That’ll teach me to pay more attention to what I’m doing, I guess.

  • The Electoral Commission is delighted to support People and Politics day and I hope that this unique event will inspire more young people to become involved in politics. This is great opportunity for young people to engage with some our most senior politicians and be part of the debate about the important issues in our democracy.

    If I were a parent, I would want my child to aspire to something more effective and productive than politics. I would be angry that after teaching my child for years a “live and let live” ethic, s/he would think that s/he had some kind of special knowledge and ability to run others’ lives.

    The second sentence sounds like Mark Foley instant messages. Keep your children away from the parliament of whores.