Talk about Newsnight


Mrs Pritchard, I presume?

  • Newsnight
  • 19 Oct 06, 02:02 PM

cheque203.jpgThe man charged with looking into the murky question of how political parties are funded has issued an interim report into the issue.

He states that "everyone knows that political parties are essential to Parliamentary democracy."

But are they? Are there other ways than political parties of getting a political message, campaign or agenda highlighted?

Let us know. If you are a real life Mrs Pritchard - or just know one - then get in touch.

And don't forget to watch Newsnight tonight at 10.30pm.

Comments  Post your comment

  • 1.
  • At 02:36 PM on 19 Oct 2006,
  • Peter Gristwood wrote:

No they are not required, and I would be really upset to be told by political institutions that I have to pay even more of my taxed income to fund their activities. In recent years I have seen them waste their funds in stupid campaigns, and illegal activities.

Let them find their own funds either by appealing to their members or by taking out bank loans, as we do.

As all the parties are keen to get their hands on tax-payers funding, I would be interested to see how the 'public consultation' will take place.

Usually this means it being in a party's manifesto, but if all of them have this, where do we get to object.

Please get Jeremy to ask how we can get our objections across and how any public consultation will work

  • 2.
  • At 02:42 PM on 19 Oct 2006,
  • Tim wrote:

There are indeed other ways of getting a message highlighted - and people should be encouraged to do so. But parties are the only game in town when it comes to:

a)aggregating (putting together packages which trade off between competing interests and policies and which act as shortcuts for voters with better things to do) and

b)implementing (putting together stable majorities in parliaments to effect legislation).

That's why there is - literally - no significant parliamentary democracy in the world that does not have a party system. That and the fact that, as organisations located (at least in part) in civil society, they stand between us and the state - which is why dictatorships always abolish them, with the exception perhaps of the dictator's own outfit!

Parties ain't perfect. But they are useful and probably inevitable. This fatalism/realism will undoubtedly get up other contributors' noses, but anything else is, at best, fanciful and, at worst, populism.

  • 3.
  • At 02:42 PM on 19 Oct 2006,
  • John Curran wrote:

Desire an African child to fit into your shallow celeb lifestyle but wrap it up as charity work. Therefore, you have your desirable 'exotic' child and the world becomes educated in orphans. This then results in Labour MPs and David Cameron adopting orphans while Ming is rejected for age reasons which then causes a whole new debate about age discrimmination. Charles Kennedy is also rejected from adoption because of drink which then turns into a legal battle between Drinks companies and the Government which leads to Diagio starting up their own adoption service for recovering alcoholics.

Jack Straw refuses to adopt an orphan unless they can communicate clearly and he can see all their facial expressions. While Ruth Kelly suggestion Catholism rather than adoption is the only way forward......Madonna's new album stays at No 1 for 5 years - It will be called: "Papa you can't preach because I am 2000 miles away now and being educated in a public school"

  • 4.
  • At 02:44 PM on 19 Oct 2006,
  • Paul Webb wrote:

Yes, we do need parties. They aren't perfect, but neither is the environment in which they operate. Politics is about the peaceful resolution of conflict, and it often leads to messy and imperfect compromises, but the alternatives - dictatorship, unaccountable bureaucratic allocation of resources, populist rule by 'charismatic' personalities - are far more pathological. Parties still help provide a significant degree of popular choice, control and accountability - it is sheer ignorance or laziness to conform to the widespread popular view that they don't.

It is true that parties are challenged in all kinds of ways - not least by the modern media environment - but our democracies would be worse off without them. Indeed, I doubt they could really function as meaningful democracies at all.

Excuse the self-publicity, but see:

Webb, Farrell & Holliday 'Political Parties in Advanced Industrial Democracies' (Oxford 2002).

Bale, Taggart and Webb 'You don't always get you want: Populism and the Power Inquiry' Political Quarterly, April-June 2006.

  • 5.
  • At 02:46 PM on 19 Oct 2006,
  • Lee wrote:

This whole debate, if you can call it that, is fascile and beneath the dignity of Newsnight.

I will do you a deal.

If anyone who responds to this debate can name me one country with a functioning parliamentary democracy that is not based on the principle of like minded people coming together into political parties to fight elections and govern then I will immediately resign my membership of the political party I have supported my entire life.

  • 6.
  • At 02:47 PM on 19 Oct 2006,
  • John Curran wrote:

Desire an African child to fit into your shallow celeb lifestyle but wrap it up as charity work. Therefore, you have your desirable 'exotic' child and the world becomes educated in orphans. This then results in Labour MPs and David Cameron adopting orphans while Ming is rejected for age reasons which then causes a whole new debate about age discrimmination. Charles Kennedy is also rejected from adoption because of drink which then turns into a legal battle between Drinks companies and the Government which leads to Diagio starting up their own adoption service for recovering alcoholics.

Jack Straw refuses to adopt an orphan unless they can communicate clearly and he can see all their facial expressions. While Ruth Kelly suggestion Catholism rather than adoption is the only way forward......Madonna's new album stays at No 1 for 5 years - It will be called: "Papa you can't preach because I am 2000 miles away now and being educated in a public school"

  • 7.
  • At 02:48 PM on 19 Oct 2006,
  • Colin wrote:

I'm not a Mrs - or even Mr - Pritchard - but I fundamnentally disagree with the comment that political parties are esential to Parliamentary democracy. The rise and rise of the political parties have been accompanied by a correlating decline in the power and influence of individual MPs, and in teh chjoices available to voters come election day. Powerful parties may give us strong government - but they do so by keeping dissident MPs in line through party discipline and fear of losing or not gaining jobs; and they do so also at the cost of passing highly partisan, often ill-though out legislation.
Parliamentary democracy depends on voters being able to elect MPs who feel able and indeed impelled to speak their minds in the Commons, who can contribute to national debate without being muzzled by the Whips and who who have a healthy respect for the views of those who elected them.
Over powerful parties become brands, like soap flakes, competeing for the public's support by offering the same features and benefits, rather than trying to persuade the elctorate that what makes them different is their competitive advantage. We see this happening right now - Labour and the Conservatives fighting for the fabled 'middle ground' instead of standing by their underlying convictions and seeking to persuade us that they are right.

  • 8.
  • At 02:52 PM on 19 Oct 2006,
  • Alex Marshall wrote:

I think I'd be prepared to go to prison rather than be forced to pay to fund political parties I don't support.

  • 9.
  • At 02:56 PM on 19 Oct 2006,
  • Anna wrote:

Hello! I am writing from Italy, and to me the political parties should stop to exist.Here we have tons of them and they say the same things of the most important, more or less, just with very little differences, but what it is important, in most cases, is that they're not in grade to be "democratic" and to help us. They do not think at the interestes of the many, but just at their interests. This is sad, but I think that the policy should re-start to re-write new rules if in the future willw ant to be credible for the entire population. Hope in Uk you live a happier season....

  • 10.
  • At 03:04 PM on 19 Oct 2006,
  • Robert Brandt wrote:

What if...

Political parties were abolished, MPs were given resources to research and develop their own policies and bills and were permitted to form groups on individual issues only.

With no whips or party agendas each MP would be able to follow their conscience and properly represent their constituency, which would have elected them on their own merits rather than according to which party they belonged to.

  • 11.
  • At 03:05 PM on 19 Oct 2006,
  • Lilly Evans wrote:

No they are not required in the form they have presently! Asa such they are very much a product of th kind of organisations that do not work any more. What with presentation over substance and no real discussion or exploration of ideas, how can we see them as leading the future development in this country - or even world!

We do not need to go further than listen to people who are members of the crusty parties to hear why thy are 'past it'. And, in case you think I am a youngster, no I am 57 year young. Not Mrs Pritchard yet, but Dr Evans.

Do your best to shake thing up, but really ask questions. Like how come so many people got together for G8 march at such a short notice? What is it that helps to self-organise group? How would the Parliament be different if party grouping were fluid? And so on...

  • 12.
  • At 03:08 PM on 19 Oct 2006,
  • Ron Wren wrote:

natural evalution controls all changes in all things, until man trys to hurry things by making unatural changes, it is then that things go wrong.
Funding political Parties with Tax Payers money, will produce unatual un democratic results after the inevitable 'book cooking'.

  • 13.
  • At 03:16 PM on 19 Oct 2006,
  • alan purkiss wrote:

As a child at school learning the political process of the UK (which itself probably dates me!), I was never taught that 'political parties are essential to Parliamentary democracy', rather the reverse. One could justifiably argue that they actually obstruct the true political process. Members of parliament were originally individually elected as the best local person to represent the views of their fellow constituents at the houses of parliament - a leader being elected by all. This could not be further from the local MP toeing the party line for fear of not advancing his career, irrespective of his constituents views. The idea of party friendly candidates being parachuted into 'safe seats' hardly leads to the best expression of local views.
Political parties created themselves, and they should fund themselves or disappear.

  • 14.
  • At 03:19 PM on 19 Oct 2006,
  • Michael Harvey wrote:

Of course if the established political parties get their way on funding it will be even more difficult for new parties or independents to break through. Mrs. Pritchard would now be in prison for her unorthodox funding methods.

By all means put a cap on the total amount parties can spend (most of it is blown on billboards which would contravene Advertising Standards rules if parties were not exempt) but there should be no state (ie. taxpayer) funding of parties and no restrictions on where they get their money from providing it is honestly declared.

  • 15.
  • At 03:25 PM on 19 Oct 2006,
  • Dave Morris wrote:

The fact that these people, all parties, think they are indispensable, shows their professional decay. The serious loss of party membership says it all. They should be able to fund themselves. Even Hitler's house was bought from party funds, not the state purse.

We are heading for State Funded party's, compulsory voting, and extreme parties banned, ie, stop the British National Front nicking their cushy jobs, as they did in recent elections.

We need a completely different class of people to become MP's.

  • 16.
  • At 03:40 PM on 19 Oct 2006,
  • chris wrote:

"but the alternatives - dictatorship, unaccountable bureaucratic allocation of resources, populist rule by "charismatic" personalities - are far more pathological. Parties still help provide a significant degree of popular choice, control and accountability - its sheer ignorance or laziness to conform to the widespread popular view that they don't."

Oh please give me break !

6 - brilliant !

  • 17.
  • At 03:41 PM on 19 Oct 2006,
  • Ayoubi wrote:

No, political parties are not essential to Parliamentary democracy.This business like approach to Parliametary Democracy has been turned into a capitalist venture where the big players like Rupert Murdock or Lord Levi can influence their personal agenda on the political front, using of course their money power.

An excellent model for an ethical praliamentary system would be to vote in individuals from constituencies to the Parliament without a Party tag. Each repsenting their constituents to the best of their ability. No need for 3 line whips etc.

The day our political parties' survival is guaranteed by the state rather than being dependent on voluntary donations will be the day politicians stop having to answer to the people and thus the day democracy dies.

  • 19.
  • At 03:43 PM on 19 Oct 2006,
  • Simon wrote:

Political parties could never be replaced by single issue groups or individuals, because what a party does is offer a platform which aims to balance out the actual conflicts that drive politics in real life (e.g. who disagrees with spending more on the NHS? The crunch comes in how this is achieved: by spending less on other public areas like transport, or individuals having less to spend because of higher taxation – and how to spend existing money when there are constant developments in technology is even more problematic). But this is not to say that parties have to be as disciplined and monolithic as they are presently here in the UK. And funding is and will remain a big issue, given the huge (but by no means total) influence parties have on the political agenda, their need for cash, and the amount of cash available to some groups.

It seems to me, although this can be disputed, that transparency should be the fundamental principle, so people can make up their own minds (with the help of Newsnight!) and parties have to judge the risk accepting a particular donation or pattern of donations presents to their overall credibility. Any additional rule will create incentives that will militate away from transparency, as people will change labels or form opaque groups or directly fund activity themselves (‘soft’ funding in US terms) in which case the question is to what degree will transparency be obscured, and is that degree acceptable. If there is (more) state funding there is the issue of potential new parties, but the risk would not seem large as if it is truly representative it will attract support as any other group can, and not take on government overnight. The main argument I guess for more funding is that it is a preferable alternative to the potential influence of particular wealthy groups. But then the question is would taxpayer funding replace or simply supplement other funding?

It seems to me from an overall perspective a part of the current problem is that central government is so influential a single big donation can potentially have a widespread impact, so it would be better for there to be much more local discretion in public spending generally.

It also seems to me this question shows up the most fundamental flaw in our current educational system. Political parties are fundamental, but how does anyone get to understand how and why? Citizenship could be a way, but it would have to be given equal parity with other subjects, but it seems there is considerable resistance to doing this (I’m only an outsider looking in where schools are concerned, but this is the impression I get). Would improving this be a better use of money than funding parties directly? Although obviously its effects would take longer to filter through, so is adult education a way to speed this up? But then who decides how the issues are presented?

Truly a tricky question that goes to the heart of our democracy! But I would say the perceived problems are primarily symptoms of wider problems of what might somewhat grandly be called ‘civic engagement’.

  • 20.
  • At 03:51 PM on 19 Oct 2006,
  • Barbara Kendall-Davies wrote:

I am too occupied with my own work to become a Mrs. Pritchard, but I am very interested in UK politics although I no longer live on the mainland.
I have long distrusted party politics and think that investigating other democratic methods would be valuable.
There are too many vested interests with MPs often having to go against conscience because they have to keep on the right side of the whips and must not be out of step with party policy otherwise they will be accused of disloyalty.
On the other hand a totalitarian state is too awful to contemplate.
What about a coalition of independents? Worth thinking about, maybe?

  • 21.
  • At 03:51 PM on 19 Oct 2006,
  • Jon Mason wrote:

The role that political parties play in terms of giving collective strength to individuals with a similar outlook, is far outweighed as a force for good by the huge drain on resources that party politics causes at national and local level.

This drain is not just financial, it includes the mis-application of intelligent thought, time and effort on media management, bitching and infighting.

We need a change that allows more of these resources to be given over to what politics should really be about - solving problems and improving the world.

  • 22.
  • At 03:59 PM on 19 Oct 2006,
  • David the economist wrote:

I think that parties are inevitable in a democracy - even if it is not desirable. I recall that the US founding fathers fulminated against "party" and would like to have prevented them. But in practice coalitions form and solidify until shifts in the political landscape break them up (think Corn Laws etc.)

But I am very much against attempts to write parties into the constitution, through party funding, party lists, etc. We should maximise the practical independence and local accountability of our elected representatives instead to tie parties to the representatives and not the other way around.

Central funding of parties, gives far too much power to the party managers. If we must have tax-funding (and I want to see severe spending-cuts for parties as a minimum prerequisite of that) then let it be direct to representatives' local organisations, not to the centre. Should they choose to fund a common campaign so be it.

  • 23.
  • At 04:10 PM on 19 Oct 2006,
  • Mike Sanders (Sandbach) wrote:

What on Earth do you mean by "Mrs Pritchard, I presume"?

  • 24.
  • At 04:13 PM on 19 Oct 2006,
  • Alan Edwards wrote:

I used to be a Labour councillor, years before councillors received any expenses or other money, and I think that that was better. It enabled one to keep ones integrity. If you thought it better to vote against your whip, then at least your income was not affected.
May be political parties are required, but these days they are undoubtedly corrupt. MPs vote almost without conscience in order to preserve their salaries. With this government there are too many second or third level ministers, many I suspect boosting their parliamentary salaries. And again voting for their money rather than for what is right.
If the blighters enable themselves to be state funded then I will cease to vote, and I have always voted.

Nobody should be allowed to donate to a political party (and this should include any pressure group supporting a political line) more than once a year and the donations should be kept very low. Say £100. The main source of funds should be by membership subscription and again these should be very modest, again about £100 a year maximum.
If the rules applied to everyone then it would sort it self out. Obviously rules about lost deposits would have to change, also about how many could be on the executive's pay roll. To limit the governments pay vote.
We need a more level electoral playing field and a more honest and effective House of Commons. We should not entrench the existing large parties by subsidy.

You should not have to be rich in order to participate in a democracy.

  • 25.
  • At 04:22 PM on 19 Oct 2006,
  • Dick Middleton wrote:

MPs are supposed to be elected to represent their constituents in parliament. Problem is that more and more their job is to represent their party to the electorate. I think this "tail wagging the dog" is one of the main reasons why the electorate feels disenfranchised from politics.

It should be unlawful to apply pressure or threaten sanctions on MPS to induce them to vote a particular way. I.e. all votes in the house should be free.

If MPs wish to align themselves into groups they should sponsor the activities of those groups themselves.

I think I would be more sympathetic with a case for increasing MPs remuneration so they could adequately sponsor their groups. I dislike the idea of publicly funding the political parties directly.

  • 26.
  • At 04:36 PM on 19 Oct 2006,
  • Tim Lipka wrote:

As an University student in the United States and interested in government, I am invloved with my local City government working for the "Vice" Mayor (for lack of a better term).

I find that parties are very important in getting out an agenda or a political idea. It's like a club. It gives people something to associate with.

  • 27.
  • At 04:37 PM on 19 Oct 2006,
  • Brian J Dickenson wrote:

I agre with Alan Purkiss. Let us do away with parties and cabinets. Let only people living in an area be eligible to stand. Do away with putting strangers into what are called safe seats.
Let the chicanery, like altering boundaries just to get more of one persuasion of voter, stop.
Somehow we must fund the elections from our taxes, each party getting the same funding, carefully scrutinised of course.
This way we may be able to put an end to the underhanded contributions, (bribes).
It would certainly create a lot of space in the House Of Lords.
One only has to look at the United States to see the corruption that ensues from getting big money from big business.
It's about time that the Great British public woke up to what is happening.
How dumb do politicians think we are?
A prime example was the leader of the Tory party being 'green', riding his bike for television. Of course he did not wish us to see the car that was following him with his briefcase.
Obviously his spin doctors thought us the green ones.

  • 28.
  • At 04:57 PM on 19 Oct 2006,
  • Phyllis Smith wrote:

My mother's maiden name was Pritchard. Does that count?

  • 29.
  • At 05:02 PM on 19 Oct 2006,
  • Ely wrote:

If the parties cannot keep their own books in order then we are in deep trouble if they then are the government.
I oppose any attempt to fund any political parties by the state. That will just be an excuse for blank cheques for the ignorant, arrogant wastrells that are politicians of any persuasion.

  • 30.
  • At 05:14 PM on 19 Oct 2006,
  • Chaz York wrote:

It would be the worst act ever to give all the political parties funding. It will enshrine the present parties for ever.

This is counter to true democracy - a 'political party' should be just that a group of people who agree on the political aspects of government and have enough popular support to fund the ir efforts.

All that is needed to sort out the preent problems is strict rules on sleaze and illegal contributions and an enforcement method that is fully independant, in particular of the government. Sever the ties of gongs, priviledge, bungs and political fraud - punish extremely hard for miscreants and the problem is sorted.

No need to further burden the taxpayer. Just improve and enforce the rules for politics and their party's.

  • 31.
  • At 05:48 PM on 19 Oct 2006,
  • Judy Weleminsky wrote:

I stood in the last election against Tessa Jowell having set up my own self funded party called For Integrity and Trust in Government (The FIT party). I made my protest and on the streets I got a lot of support but at the ballot box I got 57 votes. Does that make me a Mrs Pritchard?

I'm not ashamed of 57 votes but it does clearly show that unless there is a real local issue and campaign (as for example Dr Taylor - the only independent MP) it is unlikely that people will vote for a party which doesn't have a chance.

My proposals to tackle the funding/improper influence/accountability issue is to allow people once a year to choose which party (or charity if they like none of the parties) they would like their £1 per citizen tax money to go to. Taxpayers could do it through their tax form (or online quoting the NI number), benefit recipients through their benefit assessment, parents would have an extra £1 to allocate for each of their children. The result would be £60 million citizen determined funding per year to share between the parties (with a very tight limit on other funding).And everyone including children and those on benefits would become important for the parties to consider.

All publicly allocated money would have to be clearly accounted for and could not be spent on trying to persuade the citizens to allocate their tax pound to them. Any funds not properly spent would be recouped.

And a further suggestion to improve democracy and political accountability and scrutiny, I propose barring party officials, senior civil servants, political advisers, funders and especially ex MPs from going to the upper chamber (currently the house of Lords). The upper chamber should have srong powers of scrutiny and should be free of party influence. Its members should be appointed on merit, be full time (no outside work) and with a clear and powerful remit (and training) to improve the functioning of parliament and our democratic system.

  • 32.
  • At 05:56 PM on 19 Oct 2006,
  • Known as Poppy wrote:

Yes, parties do matter.

And Rosie Barnes was very like a real Mrs P: triumphant in Greenwich for the SDP, heroically defeating real old Labour in one of their safest seats.

Greenwich goes from posh, period Blackheath to some of the poorest, roughest places in town - Belmarsh, the Kidbrook estate: the achievement was huge.

I was a fan/helper of Rosie's (possibly cutting an even more unlikely figure as political activist than Rosie herself, I must admit!).

Some moments:

Rosie's fantastic old-style revivalist meetings: inspiring, brave, clever, home-spun speeches - perfectly accompanied by the brilliant Shirley Williams - and our other hero, David Owen.

I think Freddie Ayer turned up in Blackheath to help as a teller on polling day.

We, the truly committed (though unkindly termed 'fluffy'), plunging into the really rough bits on Rosie expeditions: vicious, snarling dogs, unleashed by wild, angry young men - and Onslows - as we got to the door; lots of old ladies hiding in there, who really liked us; coming round a corner to be confronted by Tony Benn and a very grumpy beast of Bolsover - beginning to dawn on them that this was our territory now!

Roy Jenkins. It reminded him of Glasgow Hillhead, a place of extremes: Blackheath high on the hill, down to the river.

Triumphant tours of our new-won territory, in trucks - balloons, tannoys blaring Tina Turner, Simply the Best: Rosie - fantastic!

  • 33.
  • At 06:04 PM on 19 Oct 2006,
  • Paul wrote:

To those of you arguing for MPs' autonomy from parties, I'd say a couple of things. First, it is something of a myth that British parliamentarians are mere lobby-fodder who do everything their whips tell them; actually, the incidence of backbench rebellion has been steadily growing since 1970. Second, the bigger point is that parliamentary democracy simply can't function without reasonably cohesive parliamentary coalitions of MPs who are willing to support a given government most of the time. Why? Because governments in parliamentary democracies can only survive if they enjoy the confidence of the legislature. If you can conceive of a situation in which all MPs freely shift allegiance from issue to issue on an unpredictable basis, I think you will see that it is a situation in which it becomes difficult if not impossible to establish and manage a legislative agenda, or execute a programme of government - in short, to govern.

And this is no mere hypothetical. Such situations have existed historically in, for instance, the French 3rd (1870-1940) and 4th Republics (1946-58), and in post-war Italy. These 'immobilist' scenarios are far more damaging than anything we are confronted by in the Britain of today.

Incidentally, it IS possible to have far more parliamentary independence of the executive where the latter is directly elected by the people and does not depend on the confidence of the legislature for its survival. We call such systems presidential. They tend to be more 'candidate-centred' and less 'partified': how many of the critics of the British system would prefer a US-style presidency here instead, I wonder?

To those of you who object to the thought of further state funding of parties, I'd say this: there is much evidence from opinion research around the world that, although people generally accept the need for parties in democracy, they are unwilling to accept any of the major forms by which parties might be resourced: party money should not be mine, not from my taxes and not from interest groups, as Juan Linz puts it! Maybe he has a point when he asks how far these confusing evaluations of parties are

…based upon unreasonable expectations or a lack of understanding of the complexities and cross-pressures that parties are subjected to in performing their many roles in democratic politics.

Finally, to Chris, I'd just add that 'oh please give me a break' isn't really what you'd call a considered argument, is it?

No-one's ever going to have the answer that suits absolutely everyone at any one time ..... that's Capitalism-Communism for you. But one thing's for sure ...... before I EVER, EVER voted for a political leader (ipso facto, political party) I'd make VERY sure that their name wasn't 'ROS', knowing as I do the ROOT meaning of the word "Ros".
And I think that many actors who take on acting roles would think twice about accepting parts if they knew the REAL agenda behind so-called fictional scripts and acting parts.

PS. Clue to 'Ros' = Russia

  • 35.
  • At 06:46 PM on 19 Oct 2006,
  • nigel perry wrote:

Political groupings are inevitable but the financial entities we call "parties" are a barrier to democracy. Our Members of Parliament should be independent of the financial power of such parties. Expensive publicity for political parties should be made illegal (including those ghastly broadcasts!) but a modest amount per candidate - enough to publish and deliver a personal manifesto - should be funded from taxes. To qualify for that legally permitted funding a candidate should have to produce (say) one thousand individual nominations. No more "elected" dictatorships, please!

  • 36.
  • At 06:54 PM on 19 Oct 2006,
  • Owen wrote:

Parliamentary democracy itself results in parties. If you look at the evolution of parties in the UK and elsewhere, you will see that when few people had the vote, they would know their candidates personally and so be able to pick who they wanted.

With the widening of the franchise to include everyone over 18, it's impossible for every voter in a constituency of 70,000 voters to know who their candidates are. Luckily, they wear a nice coloured rosette so that we can see what they are broadly standing for.

Basically, if we don't need parties, where are all the independant MPs? We have had Martin Bell and that guy from Kidderminster, but otherwise, who?

  • 37.
  • At 07:34 PM on 19 Oct 2006,
  • June Gibson wrote:

No, no, a thousand times no to political parties being funded by the taxpayers. The idea behind political parties is that members of them put their money where their mouths are, so that they can present their ideas and perhaps persuade the rest of us to vote for them. If they can no longer function because there are enough paying members of a party then it should disband or fade away. As it is, there are a lot of existing MPs who have seen a career path in one or other of the main parties, rather than have a genuine passion about a party's principles. At least they have to try for some of the time with things as they are, but I can just imagine the joy of PPS's if they could raid public funds to help them get elected.
Expenditure on election campaigning should be capped, so that "advisers", PR people and so on cannot be employed at inflated salaries. The would-be MPs would then really have to to try at election times. This idea of public funds being used has been touted by politicians for some months. How can we citizens stop them from carrying it through? I am curious about voters thinking that this is OK. Are they mates of sitting MPs?

  • 38.
  • At 08:18 PM on 19 Oct 2006,
  • Nick Glanville wrote:

who wouldnt like to become a mrs pritchard if you had any sense of decency! our political parties are percived as dogmatic, egotistical and out of touch

its any wonder that voters are talking with their feet ?

engage with the electorate understand their needs realise that problems are not solved by chucking money at them. we are supposed to be the forth or is it fifth richest nation in the world, why do we have child poverty, families living below the breadline pensioners struggling to pay bills, hospitals and schools only succeeding where the politicians can score political points

whre is the representation of the people from our political parties?

when you understand a section of the community you may be better placed to understand their needs and wants-until then we shall be continue to be dictated to by brussels and that has to be a bad thing for our common good

Britain a sovereign nation - master of our own destiny

  • 39.
  • At 08:47 PM on 19 Oct 2006,
  • Luke Pilarski wrote:

Political parties are by no means necessary (and democracy needn't be parliamentary either, incidentally). One post on this forum claims that political parties serve as "shortcuts for people with better things to do". Better things than what? Contributing intelligently to the maintenence of the country without compromising one's ideals for the sake of a political party?
Why not have a parliament (if you need to have one) of independent candidates? The range of discussion and inventive solutions to the country's ills would radically increase and it would re-engage electorate in the political process which is supposed to be by them and for them.
On the political spectrum the three major parties are so close together that as a first approximation they're the same thing. That narrows debate and stifles choice. But then that's what you need to have a "stable" democracy, i.e. one in which a disaffected public hardly turns out to elections - it keeps the people in power just where they are!

  • 40.
  • At 09:41 PM on 19 Oct 2006,
  • A Libertarian Conservative wrote:

Political parties are not essential to democracy, but anyone can be essential, and make money out of Newsnight leadership suggest..their debate must be common in universities everywhere...

Those interested in politics, who know how to do it, can make money offering consultancy services to organisations, the police, the NHS, schools, businesses, and families, who are sold on the idea of changing their ways or need moral support in becoming like them, to get what they want doing things the way that seems essential..

They can always publish books and pamphlets, sing songs produce CDs, write plays or movies, send email texts and build web sites... or just go for a chat down the pub and publicise their points of view in conversation...

Like we need to hear them...!? They best way for them to make money is to force everyone to agree with them and damage their!

Papers, magazines, radio stations, TV production companies all talk about the potencies of life and if they had the courage to offer more leadership could put forward candidates...

We would expect Loaded, Playboy, The Sun, GQ, or FHM to put forward candidates with publishing support... or any other company or business..Barclays candidates or Ford candidates or M&S candidates..but would they risk their shareholders money and brands unless they could show good leadership and customer consideration...and why do they need more politics themselves unless they have clubs of readers customers or members whose causes they feel like representing...and could they do what better??

If the world was run by investment bankers and regulators we could have shares in everything... NHS shares, county shares, whatever ...hold services accountable to get what we want..and invest more in each area in a more participative way..but who needs that?..we do.

More likely the poor man around the corner wants to run the world and smash it up at the same time...and the charities should run his life...

There is always the influence of teaching and church.... and that needs more challenge and diversity...we would like to open schools up all year for anyone to register a course and teach it... and open up all saints churches for people to preach the gospels of Satan and other alternative viewpoints histories healthcares politics and biographies...

If the world was run by lawyers would we have a decent legal system where anyone can bring a case about anything to court to resolve it with courtliness not vendetta?...but the proud would destroy the meek and the meek might inherit the earth..?...

If the world was run by manufacturers we would get the world we have today and future would be improving with increasing excitement...

If the world was run by sportsman how fun would that be?

If the world was run by women... we could have divorcees in brothels and more maternalism...but they would tax us for being men to pay for their houses...

If the world was run by divorced men we could confiscate the houses back again and charge the women tax until they appreciate the lads who build the world around them..

If the world was run by an executive lords working on local budgets for each constituency we could have a great culture of leadership and command and eliminate politics all together....or a nightmare of jealous fury they ever had to pay so much tax to keep people like us happy...

If the world was left to elected doormen..they would tax everyone for being large and be on every door... even the shops and car showrooms saying who could get in to buy morally/ economically suitable products at the price they were told to when they were asked to and get what they deserved...

But at the end of the day we only have the time to do what we want ...not what everyone likes....there maybe for some a confusion of leaderships in life... but all a man needs to do is show off the success of his business and family and argue off the others in court...

But instead the world is run for psychiatrists psychologists and drugs companies to try out their latest theories and ethnically cleanse society of those who disagree with them... and look how much money they make, at our expense, for their whimsical politics of confused people trying to be English without the intelligence to be so!

So we vote for people who can do the job..banks.. retailers...and manufacturers... and will do the rest ourselves...and as for funding: however essential they try to make themselves we don't need them until we need them... we pay for people who do the work we want..and if they damage us we will destroy them...!

Benedict TLC

With our system we will never get away from parties. What we need is a system where we vote for individuals, who publicise their beliefs. We then give them our vote, but can move it any time. So a new issue comes up and the person we had supported goes against our view, we move our vote to anyone who now makes a better match to ourselves. Presence in Parliament would go to the top 600 or however many MPs slots are available. Perpetual election. Somewhat like a stock or share. No parties possible. No forcing through laws by the whips, all are independent, voting on their beliefs with the backing of a certain number of the public. A system now possible in the widespread internet access information age, to look up the individuals prepared to stand’s beliefs.

All contributors to the programme missed the point: there is a fundamental flaw in the Parliamentary system. This system depends on strong, centralised parties who have a strangle-hold on Parliament in order to form the Executive. Parliament is therefore not independent of the Executive and fails to hold it to account. Check out for more.

  • 43.
  • At 01:39 AM on 20 Oct 2006,
  • Riccardo wrote:

the parties have become segments of isues, not an entity that stretches every branch of ( micro 0r macro)social,cultural,economical and environmental foudations representing the sociaty of our country. Parlamentary goveronments have become too vast and big to run fluedly within itself. Thus, not leading in common harmony the country they represent. Does not adhere to anything, only political fiascos.

  • 44.
  • At 05:18 AM on 20 Oct 2006,
  • Jill Jeffs wrote:

You should publish the latest from here in New Zealand. Our Auditor General has found government guilty of fraudulently using NZ$1.200,000 of taxpayer money on election spending last year and ordered that it should all be paid back. So this week the government has passed under urgency a bill to validate that illegal spending dating back a few years, so that they can wriggle out of the pending court case. The National Party paid their dues and voted against this legislation but the other parties voted for it to save their hides. So we all know we have a corrupt government in New Zealand, and we are runnung a petition on the internet asking the Governor General NOT to sign off the new legislation, but we doubt we can stop it.Read last weeks NZHerald papers.

Who was it that said "Find me a honest politician,and you will show mw the eighth wonder of the World".In Australia we have over eight hundred politicians,a federal parliament,6 or 7 state parliaments,a govenor general,6 or 7 state enormous public service,all duplicating the same job.and all for twenty million people! So you folk in the UK,think yourselves lucky to have only six hundred or so crooked politicians.

Political parties are vehicles whose sole purpose is to subvert of the democratic process and impose the minority will over the majority on a wide range of policy issues. That's why everyone in power approves of them and goes out of their way to mislead us into believing that they are essential.

Furthermore, the political parties we have now are tyrannies, with leaders usually appointed for life (until they resign), almost total unaccountability for how their policies are made and implemented, and with the instinct of becoming part of Whitehall as soon as they take on the mantle of government.

If taxpayer funding of parties gave us something back in terms of obligations to the public interest, I'd be in favour of it. Free elections of their leaders every four years, the publication of the whip to their MPs in the House of Commons, and some formal accountability to those who cast their vote for them would be a good start.

  • 47.
  • At 09:58 AM on 20 Oct 2006,
  • Claudio, Italy wrote:

Luke Pilarski wrote:

"Political parties are by no means necessary (and democracy needn't be parliamentary either, incidentally)."
He's probably thinking of Pericles' Athens, certainly a highly democratic republic but hardly as complex as today's societies.

Power, in modern terms, is by definition delegated and politics organized in groups of "some" cohesion, since to govern means to make decisions.

  • 48.
  • At 11:10 AM on 20 Oct 2006,
  • vaughan wrote:

NO we should not have party political parties paid from taxes.Since this government came into power they have robbed us rotten,I have since joined a party to show how I hate them, I do not work as severly disabled so I do not mind spending what little money I have to get shut of this government,after watching a government minister on question time last night,some women called hillary somebody,would not ansewer a single question with a stright answer even the presenter kept having to tell her to cut the wafffle, since this party have come into power with all thair spinnmiesters.It has ruined polotics as all thair party are wirried about is keeping thair big wage packets which they voted for,so dont let them take more of your mony to spend on themselves

  • 49.
  • At 04:44 PM on 20 Oct 2006,
  • Chris Martin wrote:

I think the answer is simple, just reduce the number of MPs and the savings can be used to fund the rest. At the moment we have 659 of them, what do they all do? Lets cut this to about 500, surely that's still plenty.We could start in Scotland, Wales and N. Ireland, now that they all have their own parlaiments of one form or another, they do not need as much representation in Westminster. Just leave each of them with a small representation of say half a dozen and get rid of the rest.

  • 50.
  • At 02:13 PM on 21 Oct 2006,
  • June Gibson wrote:

Indeed,what do MPs do. There's obviously much room in their timetables for radio/TV appearances, newspaper/novel/diary writing and so on - not to mention "fact finding" tours to exotic places. My own MP spends 10 days per month when Parliament is sitting, at the Council of Europe meetings, whatever the CU is. As we move ever nearer to EU control, many of the UK MPs are surplus. We pay very highly for people to tell us that there is nothing to be done, which in the main is what happens.

  • 51.
  • At 06:45 PM on 21 Oct 2006,
  • Greg Matthews wrote:

My my, what a hornets nest?

Well at the risk of sounding 'fanciful' or 'populist' I'd say to all those 'show me another parliamentary system etc' types, "Poo to you with knobs on!"

What a pathetic argument to say it hasn't been done before so we must never consider it ...where's that good old fashioned British sense of adventure?

But seriously, the only truly democratic system has GOT to be a non-partisan one. So how about this:

Independent MPs - unaffiliated Borough representatives who collectively generate a more accurate picture of what the nation truly thinks and feels.

In addition to this house of 'commoners', a second house of honoured advisors. Representatives from the various fields of industry, economics, defence, environment etc nominated by their 'peers' for their expert and knowledge and learnéd experience.

...sounding familiar?

The central government of this new parliament should be a seamless entity that elects a new leader OFTEN to act more as a Chairman than a Chief Executive and the other Cabinet members to be equally as temporary and just as accountable.

...see, we've nearly got it right. But as long as our parliamentary system is driven by dominant parties and our government managed by unaccountable mates of mates of TB, or whomever is currently warming their feet under the desk at No.10, we'll never truly achieve that one thing we keep arrogantly attempting to export to others countries ...a working and fair democracy.

Right, that's my two pennies worth, I'm off down the pub.

Political parties may well start with principles and causes, but all soon becomes subsumed in the necessity of gaining and maintaining POWER.
for a discussion of this phemnomenon.

There is absolutely NO justification for their costs being met d=from public funds. Their spending should be strictly limited as well as donation size. The main beneficiaries of present lavish campaign spending are the advertising industry and special interests.

  • 53.
  • At 07:15 PM on 23 Oct 2006,
  • Jasmine Edmonds wrote:

Sir Hayden Phillips was wrong when he stated that “political parties are essential to parliamentary democracy” they do in fact dilute democracy, democracy being loosely defined as ‘rule by the people’.

Parliament is the sovereign body of the people, it is the ‘People’s Parliament’ to coin a phrase.
Our system of representative government produces ‘ the people’ who represent the party and the party represents the aspirations of the political leader, not the people. The use of the manifesto and the Salisbury Convention to drive through legislation is far from democratic, listening to Charles Clarke talking about the frustrating ‘the will of the people’ when attempting to drive through a particularly unpalatable and controversial piece of legislation was enough to turn my stomach. Our system of government has lead to a crisis in political legitimacy with record low turnouts at the polling booths. Upon finding out at the weekend that my newly-elected white middle class male MP who replaced Dame Marion Roe MP in my constituency has a wife who formerly served as a private secretary to Iain Duncan Smith, it doesn’t surprise me that the electorate are turning their back on mainstream political parties in their droves.

The present Premiership has shown what damage the corrupting nature of power can have on society and its institutions when invested in one individual. We all remember ‘things can only get better’ but we are now more than ever dissatisfied with our political system after that real feeling of hope promised by Mr. Blair and his sofa style government was brutally shattered by his insistence on taking the country into the Iraq war against the will of the majority of the people. Furthermore, the ban on demonstrations outside our sovereign Parliament is an act of government which is entirely contradictory to the whole concept of parliamentary democracy. It is the right of the people in a liberal democracy to demonstrate and no government has any right to interfere with Parliament’s relationship to its people no matter what the risks.

So can we have a system of government whereby the ‘political party’ is replaced by the ‘political alliance’ as the central tenet of ‘The Amazing Mrs Pritchard’ suggests. I believe the answer is yes, with the help of our parliament we can.

We the people have common objectives in life. We want a good quality standard of living that includes core elements such as an equality and opportunity for all, an excellent healthcare and education system, a crime-free society, a clean and healthy environment in which to raise our children and peace in our lifetime. We have an agenda. What Sir Hayden I believe is alluding to in his statement is that we need a ‘party’ to organise us to fulfil our agenda but I believe that Parliament as an institution has that power.

It is not inconceivable to me to see a elected “House of Independents” overseen by an appointed “House of Adepts” engaging in debate to find common sense solutions to the problems our society faces. Every vote should be a free vote with our local ‘representative’ canvassing the opinions of his constituents and presenting them in debate in Parliament. Perhaps Clare Short would have sympathy with this system as it seems her calling for a hung parliament signalled her desire for more rigorous debate and asking representatives to speak their minds rather than “toeing the party line”. The process may be slower but it will have more legitimacy in its decision-making.

So the question is can you re-engage the people. Well anything’s possible. Representative government doesn’t allow for the use of referenda on principle but it is possibly the one tool we the people have in our armoury that will engage us in debate. “Ask not what your country can do for you but what you can do for your country” should be the rallying call to the people to engage and put this country back on its feet. Putting the power back in the hands of the people will have positive benefits for the people. Under the current system we have to seize the power from our elected representatives as in the case of the Fathers 4 Justice Campaign.

They had a message. It was simply that the family law courts were in disarray and the lives of the people, parents, grandparents and children, and ultimately society as a whole, were being affected right across the country. They got their message across. Family law is changing.

But they could have gone further in a People’s Parliament. Their original demand that fathers be recognised in law as having equal rights to their children as mothers was a simple and right concept. It is easy to see how the debate, with the help of feminists, could have moved on to a philosophical level on the whole issue of parental responsibility and its component parts and which would have been to the benefit of mothers, fathers, grandparents and children all seeking justice alike. Had that campaign not spectacularly shot itself in the foot through the demanding of equal custodial arrangements which pitted them against mothers and attracted extremist elements to a cause that could never be won, Matthew O’Connor may well have become your modern day Mrs. Pritchard! I noted with interest that the amazing Mrs Pritchard formed the ‘Purple Alliance’ that being the colour F4J used to distinguish themselves!

Political legitimacy is demanding significant changes to the way in which we “do business”. We need the media to engage in its true role of the fourth estate to help us in our search for the “right way”. Am I concerned whether Mrs. Beckett is using her caravan holiday to dupe the public into believing she is just a normal person like the rest of us, no I’m not. I’m interested in what foreign policies she is developing in an effort to find peace in our time. Am I stunned when Nick Robinson, the BBC’s Political Editor asks Tony Blair about his rift with Gordon Brown during a news briefing held after talks with Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas in Ramallah, yes I am.

I can only hope that if a ‘Mrs Pritchard’ should ever rock our political world, the media would give her a ‘fair crack of the whip’ because the whip we use at present is way past its sell-by date.

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