Non-Doms and Labour; another fine mess….
The Observer has this story about Labour postponing it’s plans to outlaw wealthy tax exiles bankrolling political parties. First, it has to be noted that anything that is postponed until ‘after the election’ enters the realm of political never never land because the stark reality is that Labour is unlikely to be in office to implement such fine proposals. Secondly, it is also worth noting that Labour strategists probably quite fancy keeping Lord Ashcroft around as a handy stick with which to beat the Conservatives, something The Spectators James Forsyth recognises when he says;
“it is reckless for the Tories to let this issue fester precisely because of the good that they could do for the country.”
Thirdly, with Labour’s spanking debt, an upcoming election and probable shortfall this year it can scarcely do without the contributions of the likes of Lakshmi Mittal. Party funding is one of those areas where no party can really and truthfully claim the mantle of being holier than thou given that we have had our own well documented problems. It is one of those self-perpetuating problems where bad practice is wrong but is actively encouraged by environmental factors like the sheer cost of operating politically.
However, solving this problem by caps and such forth is desirable as it would force parties to organically connect with people they are supposed to represent. It would also force parties to be bold and innovative in their campaigning in a drive to reduce costs. Ideally it also has to be coupled with measures that reduce the cost of effectively communicating in politics. So, for example, free advertisement space around campaign time would help as would any measures that reduced the cost. Merely capping donations doesn’t go far enough and would have to be coupled with measures that did reduce the commercial costs of running a campaign which is part of what perpetuates the ‘arms race’ in the first place.