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The Lib Dems respond to Short Money rumours

Michael Crick | 17:43 UK time, Wednesday, 19 May 2010

The Lib Dems have announced tonight that they are seeking taxpayers' money to bolster their finances whilst serving in a coalition government.

This follows a story earlier today on this blog, when I reported strong rumours that the Liberal Democrats were trying to keep receiving Short money - the annual payment to opposition parties to help them with their costs. But as the Lib Dems are now a governing party they should no longer be entitled to it.

The money was worth £1.75 million pounds to the Lib Dems last year - which could therefore amount to almost £9 million over the course of a 5 year parliament.

Having now obtained power the Lib Dems will inevitably be accused of trying to rig the system in their favour.

A Liberal Democrat spokesman just told me:

"We are no longer in receipt of Short Money as its current formulation is for opposition parties only.The current system of Short Money does not account for the complexity of situations where there is not a majority government. We are looking to existing precedents, such as that established by the previous Labour Government, in Scotland, to ensure that, as the smaller of the two coalition parties, the Liberal Democrat are able to maintain their operational independence in parliament. Recognising their role in government, the Liberal Democrats believe any such financial support for parliamentary functions should be less than received in opposition. "


  • Comment number 1.

    Was the precedent quoted restricted to the Scottish Executive?
    I'm concerned that there appears to be no parliamentary precedent for this, and arguably, no case for use of public funds to support a ruling party in this way.
    This could potentially damage the Lib-Dem party, not just in terms of finance and infrastructure, but reputationally, how would their bedfellows react then?

  • Comment number 2.

    Lib-Dem claims on the Short Fund Scheme are surely specious in coalition, unless they propose to develop policies alternate to their own?

    [Unsuitable/Broken URL removed by Moderator]

  • Comment number 3.

    This is an absolutely shocking attempt by the Lib Dems to take money that is not due to them. 'Short Money' is the unofficial title for 'Financial Assistance to Opposition Parties'. Get that, Lib Dems? You're not an opposition party, you're in government, so you don't get it. End of.

  • Comment number 4.

    Please keep up the pressure on this, it's an astonishing attempt to have it both ways - either they're part of the Government (in which case they have the resources of civil servants and special advisers and individual MPs have their office costs allowances) or they're in opposition. They can't be both. Btw, 'Short money' was on the Nick Clegg handwritten note photographed by the Guardian during the negotiations. I thought this must be what was meant, but you are the first journalist to pick it up.

  • Comment number 5.

    PS Don't forget the £0.25m of Cranbourne money in the Lords, which is what brings it up to £2m altogether.

  • Comment number 6.

    Don't be so churlish. This is a new circumstance and, irrespective of the coalition/Government/Opposition status, the Party must have the werewithall to maintain its integrity during its time of service to the country. New circumstances demand imaginative solutions untrammelled by precedent.
    If it was called Lib Dem FC United, the FA would give it additional cash to enable the club to play in the Big Boys' League.

  • Comment number 7.

    On the face of it, this seems a bit of a non-story.

    Surely, the spirit in which Short money is provided (to allow Opposition parties to aid them in Parliamentary business for which they receive no civil service support) should, presumably, allow a portion of such money to be made available when a party only has partial civil service support. And, as the blog says, a Lib Dem spokesman said, the quantity of Short money they think they should receive is 'less than received in opposition'.

    On a separate note, in a vibrant democracy, the media (rather like the Opposition) have a duty. By feeling, as in this case, the need to dish the dirt last night, Newsnight is undermining its own duty. When the media often responds in this way to such a trifling matter, so muddy do the waters become that, when there really is some dirt to dish, it gets lost in the noise. In short, how can the public know when something really is wrong when programmes like Newsnight generate so much froth over nothing?

    Instead of Jeremy Paxman and Michael Crick ganging up on Norman Lamb and hardly allowing him to complete a sentence, Paxman would've served the public better by acting as mediator between Lamb and Crick to establish whether there really is a story here.

  • Comment number 8.

    Watch this and see how the libdems man crumbled when taken to task by the presenter and Bill Cash Tory MP(well I never) on the 55% issue and short money the fight starts just after 10 minutes in to the program but the first 20 minutes are worth watching if you have the time.

  • Comment number 9.

    It's rather disingenuous to claim that Short money doesn't take into account the possibility or complexities of non-majority government. It was introduced in the March 1974 Queen's Speech by Harold Wilson's *minority* government. This was, understandably, a time when, like now, the logistical issues of coalition and minority administrations were widely discussed, not least in governmental circles.

  • Comment number 10.

    The Electoral Commission reports that total income for the Liberal Democrats (including local parties) in 2009 was £6,208,317.
    Of that, £2,326,175 (or 37.5%) came from public funds.
    This was made up of £1.73m Short money, £0.25m its Lords equivalent (Cranborne money), £0.25m policy development grant from the Electoral Commission, and the rest was Scottish Parliament party funding.
    Taxpayers therefore funded a third of Libdem activities; it is probably this that has led them to rely on it. But that is not a reason for changing the system.
    In 1998, the Neil Committee on Standards in Public Life explicitly rejected the extension of Short money to Government backbenchers, and that is what Liberal Democrat MPs who aren't ministers now are.
    The Liberal Democrats as a Parliamentary party do not need a Leader's office; Nick Clegg has civil servants to do that. They do not need staff to arrange meetings with interest groups, the Libdem ministers have civil servants to do that in all but about 5 departments. They do not need advisers to draft or table amendments to government legislation, they are part of the Government legislative machine, with lawyers and civil servants to advise them.
    There will presumably be government briefings to backbench MPs on legislation and debates prepared by special advisers in each department, and given that they are in coalition i.e. part of one givernment with one policy and collective responsibility, why should there be a Libdem briefing separate from a Conservative briefing?
    In Commons and Lords, they do not need a whips' office, they will be resourced by the Government Whips Offices to tell their MPs and peers the forthcoming business and the Government's view of whether they need to be present for votes.
    These are all things Short money was designed - and then upgraded post-Neill - to cover. It would be a fix for a party that is in government to hang on to any of this.
    They will still get £450k from the Electoral Commission for policy development, as that is given to every party.
    What more do they need? They have civil servants and some have special advisers. Individual MPs have money to pay staff for casework and wider Parliamentary support. If they need to run a Liberal Democrat Parliamentary staff equivalent to the Parliamentary Labour Party, that could be funded by donations from their MPs, which is how I understand Labour paid for its PLP staff for the last 13 years.
    It has been the position since the 1970s: the party of government gets civil servants and special advisers and individual MPs office staffing allowances. Opposition parties get Short money.
    If this is changed so that all parties get it, whether they are in government or in opposition, it completely changes what the money is for. It would be public funding of political parties by the back door. Voters sore over MPs expenses and facing cuts in services aren't likely to view this kindly. That is why it needs to be exposed, not dismissed as a minor issue.

  • Comment number 11.

    Provision within the coalition agreement outlines areas in which Lib-Dem's are to develop alternate policy ideas to the Conservatives - this is now only a story about the proportion of funds sought - agree that LD's are now entitled to claim Short funds in light of this.

  • Comment number 12.

    what a cheek...I'll go to the foot of our stairs!!

  • Comment number 13.


    "On the face of it, this seems a bit of a non-story."

    Correct, but you obviously don't know where you are or you wouldn't bother trying to make the suggestion.

    As a scientist if an article suggested something important concerning my field came out but the name of the source/author wasn't given I would dismiss it as nothing more than worthless malicious rubbish. No name, no author, no credibility period.

    However this is the BBC and this is just yet another example of the BBC's post-election policy of doing everything in it's power to bring down the coalition, and whatever is left of our hopes for our economy with it, as soon as possible, so that their beloved Labour party can reign over us once more.

    Since the coalition formed I have not heard one positive story or comment from the BBC, just endless criticism, scepticism and negativity from carefully chosen similarly disaffected politicians, mostly Labour. I admit it may just be a coincidence due to the times I'm tuning in. However those are the times when most people are also tuning in so I very much doubt it.

    However it is also possible the BBC can't get anyone from the coalition to talk to them for obvious reasons. Crick invited senior Lib Dems to comment. I mean who does he think he is?

    Anyway what the ANOMONOUS person said sounded reasonable enough to me. It's still EARLY DAYS and it takes time to get these things sorted out in a rational and fair manner. Time Crick and the BBC is determined not to give them of course!

  • Comment number 14.

    Thanks Clare (posting 10).
    Its good to have a fully informative posting. And it answers my earlier posting that the absence of Short Money as Opposition needs to be replaced with working-cash for operating in power. Nice to know how much is made available in cash and in kind.

  • Comment number 15.

    Blog in haste but don't trust the spell checker!

    "Anyway what the ANOMONOUS person said sounded reasonable enough to me."

    Just tried it again but no anonymous. It may be to do with a guy that runs the urban dictionary who calls himself 'anomonous'or maybe it's because it was in caps lock! They say I'm dyslexic but it's just not in my NDA!

  • Comment number 16.

    I have just listened to the Wark being nauseatingly rude to the French ambassador, literally shouting him down until he had to stop talking. Why, because he appeared to be in danger of saying something complimentary about David Cameron.

    By now I shouldn't be surprised by Crick and Co's anti-government antics but why should we have to endure it when all we want to know is what is going on. Yes I can switch off if I don't like it, but can I have a refund of my licence fee in return, no. Not yet that is.

    I have been in touch with the new Culture Secretary and reminded him of the corporation's duty to be politically neutral. As tonight's programme continues critic after critic lined up to pile negativity on our government's early efforts. It is nothing short of disgusting from an organization that is supposed to inform while remaining impartial. Utterly shameful!

    A government spokesman is now on and yes, the Wark has not yet let him finish a single sentence!

  • Comment number 17.

    Trout Mask, you're not commenting in a scientific forum. You're commenting on a political discussion board. Even setting aside the question of frivolity, these should be free to bash-out ideas and exchange thoughts without attempts to shut down discussion 'cos they don't have primary references.

    Clegg was pictured with a note showing his desire to question the allocation of Short money. It's possible that he was going to offer to relinquish it, but I doubt that very much.

  • Comment number 18.

    Melancholy Man. To me you miss the point. The British media are locked into an internecine marriage with our ruling establishment. The personal and institutional ambition on both sides ends up disenfranchising the people who democracy is meant to serve aka US!

    At some point it became clear that we, the electorate, we the actual workers, the suckers that pay for all the people who instead work the benefit systems and end up enjoying a higher standard of living than the low income families who Gordon stabbed in the back when he abolished the 10% tax rate.

    Crick will be unable to understand this, but the abolition of the 10% tax rate was NOT A MISTAKE it was a deliberate attempt to create a mutually interdependant relationship between Labour and those who wish to parasitize the welfare state, and in so doing turn this country into a one party state. Making low income working families worse off than the indolent system workers playing on the free lap tops Gordon gifted them shows the depth of the corruption of the human spirit Labour were prepared to indulge in to win an election that, had they won, would have seen them in power in perpetuity. Imagine a Zimbabwe on the Western seaboard of Europe and you won't be too far short of the mark.

    The only reason the true deficit figures aren't coming out is the damage it would do to the economy. The coalition wanted to get our recovery measures in first before the real numbers start leaking out. Be sure the BBC will try and frustrate their efforts.

    Francis Crick was part of the British effort that included the superb images of crystalline DNA taken by Roslyn Franklin who sadly died died of cancer before the rest of the team were rightfully awarded the Nobel prize. This was yet another triumph for the UK's Cavendish laboratory. Now the name seems to have been devalued by someone whose name is more associated with tapping into a stream of money from people who are forced to pay, and repaying them with a self-indulgent, non-impartial, and unethical news programme that I, for one will never watch again.

    I love Newsnight. I didn't know about anti-neutrinos until the coverage on Newsnight of the Leukaemia clusters had me screaming at the telly that there has to be a third particle! My wife and I had tears in our eyes for days after the Newsnight feature on the fur trade when, with all appropriate warnings we listened to the sound of a dog being skinned alive in Shanghai to meet the needs of the resurgent fur trade.

    RIP Newsnight. You did some great things imho, but you're seriously adrift now.

  • Comment number 19.

    >> The British media are locked into an internecine marriage with our ruling establishment. The personal and institutional ambition on both sides ends up disenfranchising the people who democracy is meant to serve aka US!

    I have no idea what this means.

    You're constructing your own fantasies. My thoughts on the power-structures of the BBC and other media outlets are irrelevant to this. Clegg was thinking of Short money when negotiating the Coalition... the spokesman above clearly indicates the Party is looking to retain money.

    As I said, this is not a scientific forum. Unnamed Party spokesmen make statements which appear in the reporting of X story all the time.

    Why are you trying to halt discussion?

  • Comment number 20.

    Sorry, I wasn't trying to halt the discussion. It's just to me this Short money non-story is little more than yet another example of the determined efforts of Crick and all his cronies at BBC news to paint the coalition in as negative a light as possible, in the hope that it will help to bring it down and hasten Labour's return to power.

    What I meant in the paragraph you quoted was that when journalists and news presenters get in too close with the leadership the result is ultimately mutually destructive in a society where people can see clearly what's going on. Labour have faced the consequences, I imagine BBC News will suffer in due course.

    As a licence payer and coalition supporter the spectacle of a respected news programme mired in political bias, when there are so many important issues all over the world it should be addressing, simply enfuriates me, as you can probabably tell from my posts!

  • Comment number 21.

    PS The idea that Labour actually want to increase the levels of state dependency in order to create for itself a perpetual electoral majority came to me during the Glasgow North-East bi-election campaign.

    They have held the constituency continuously for 70 years and counting, and yet they left it to rot until the bi-election exposed their tactics. Why? My theory is as good as any.


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