Home > Party funding, Political equality and influence > Voting on constitutional reform

Voting on constitutional reform

Power 2010 have opened voting on various constitutional reforms, to decide which should make it onto their ‘power pledge’ campaign. At the time of writing, proportional representation has the most support. There are a few on the list which could promote political equality and control the influence of wealth in politics – such as a cap on political donations, transparent lobbying and an end to ‘revolving door’ politics.

Good to give these issues a wider airing, but in many of the cases, the difficulty lies in the detail rather than support for the broad principle. Take the cap on political donations (which I support in principle). Many people will agree that it is desirable to stop multi-millionaires bankrolling a party. The Sir Hayden Phillips Review accepted the arguments for a donation limit. But then other questions quickly follow: at what level should the limit be set; should it apply to unions and companies; should public funds be made available to compensate for any loss of funds? It is questions like these that have stopped change so far.

The same can be said for other proposals being put to a vote – it is one thing to support a written constitution in principle, another matter to decide what it should say.

Back on political donations, there is now a regular flow of stories in the press about the parties’ sources of funding, from companies and individuals.  With the Times reporting that ‘Andrew Lansley, the Shadow Health Secretary, received £21,000 in November from Caroline Nash, wife of John Nash, the chairman of Care UK’ (which receives healthcare contracts).

Yet this takes place against the background of a broader resources war in the coming election, stretching beyond political parties. Earlier this week allegations were made that government communications are being used for political purposes. On top of this are the resources flowing into the various think-tanks and independent organisations, which may act as a testing ground for political ideas and policies. The fundraising and spending of the political parties raise important issues, but will just be one part of the overall cost of campaigning in this election.

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