Brown said yesterday that trust is eroded very easily, personally I am not sure there is much trust in him left; his solution reform party funding. While it is a move to distract the agenda, it is also clear that something needs to be done to clean up party funding. The problem currently is that individuals are not meant to gain from donating, so why donate? The long history of donations from Ecclestone to Abrahams suggest that there has been a correlation between making a donation and gaining something in return; despite protestations of coincidence, it all seems too convenient for anyone with a cynical (or realist) perspective. The problem then is how to reform funding.
Discussion on capping donations from individuals is not popular. All the parties have big donors, why who knows we can assume only, but without them the party would be in trouble. So it comes down to the idea that public funds should replace private donations; this is not a vote winner! The electorate may expect a glossy and professional election campaign, but deciding to pay for it at the expense of other services or an increase in taxation is a little like turkeys voting for Christmas. As Keith Ewing argues, there is currently an arms race taking place between the parties over who has the best campaign, but this is unsustainable and it is this that needs rethinking as it is the cause of the funding problem.
But there may be another way. Parties have a problem due to the lack of mass membership. Campaigns can be efficient on the ground if there are local activists to work on the behalf of the party and they are willing to produce their own material. Equally a range of direct communication can be utilised to get messages across to the people. The reliance on television and the glossy centralised campaign, while also focusing on the floating voter and not the party loyalist is damaging the link between party and members and reducing the likelihood of activism. While membership funds may not pay for flashy HQs a simpler model of campaign communication, with more control in the hands of local parties and activists, may just make politics more about people than about winning power. Or am I just a little too idealistic?
Bottom line; is professional flashy, glossy or just what will work best for the money available?