Monday, October 08, 2007

Hari Kari

Via Chicken Yoghurt, I stumble across a column by Johann Hari which urges the state funding of political parties. However, your humble Devil believes that there is one sentence which utterly undermines his argument. [Emphasis mine.]
Political parties are an essential part of our democracy: if you complain that you don't want to pay for them, you might as well complain that you don't want to pay for the ballot boxes or for the pencils in the voting booths.

No, Johann, political parties are not an essential part of our democracy, you fool. People willing to stand as MPs are an essential part of our democracy, but political parties... No.

Political parties are what has corrupted our democracy, reducing the effective choice of policy attitudes to two, rather than the infinite variety of human thought.

Political parties ensure that local people vote not for the best potential MP, but with tribal leanings.

The political parties' perception of what people want has brought them closer and closer together in thought, such that a large part of the population is entirely disenfranchised.

Political parties have stifled choice and ruined democracy allowing the domination of two, maybe three, big parties and set up a colossal barrier to entry for others.

Political parties have utterly corrupted our democracy and, in turn, corrupted themselves and there is no fucking way on earth that you could persuade me that I want to fund them, you cunt.


Anonymous said...

Hmm... not very convincing. So we do away with political parties, who then goes through the detailed and expensive work of formulating 4/5 years worth of policies across all government departments ahead of a general election? Do you think an independent candidate standing in one constituency will do all that work?

Democracy needs political parties because they can carry out this work. More than that, they are inevitable, as evidenced by the fact that they have evolved in every democracy. It will always be beneficial for MPs with similar beliefs to work closely together - whether in taking on the government or in formulating policy - and this will lead to formal political parties.

I suspect you're just frustrated over UKIP's lack of success. However I think UKIP's failure is less to do with the existence of 2 or 3 major political parties hogging all the attention, and more to do with the fact that UKIP are, frankly, ridiculous.

I do agree that Johann Hari is a cunt though.

Trixy said...

Wasn't he the chap who spent sunday nights 'on the couch with Davina talking about Big Brother contestants?

And for chappie above:

UKIP are, frankly, ridiculous.

How is wanting your country to be governed by politicians who are directly accountable and don't lie through their teeth ridiculous? I wouldn't want you around in a crisis. Don't tell me, the Italians were jolly brave for changing sides, were they?

Anonymous said...

There is another very very good reason for stopping - at all costs - the state funding of political parties: you get a huge layer of rent-seekers who will spent their time doing exactly and exclusively that which is required to get such money and, far far worse, the state then gets control of which political parties by being able to withdraw funding if a party espouses ideas it does not like.

Roger Thornhill said...

God I hate it when people conflate issues then present a false dichotomy.

Ending the State funding of political parties is quite separate from ending political parties.

I reject an end to political parties as

1: It is against free association.
2: It is against the natural human tribal instinct.

As soon as you try to end them, they will form informally and we will be back to where we started in short order.

However, if you were just proposing a regular cleaning of the Augean Stables or cutting off the blood supply to the tumour, i.e. just limiting or ending the funding of entrenched political parties, then that is another matter.

From my observations, the biggest issue is not political parties, but the political class who have done bugger all except worm their way around the political system - i.e. never a proper day's work in their miserable, parasitical existences.

William Gruff said...

Spot on DK. Jim d is correct in asserting that people of like kind will naturally band together, and it is useful to know what one's MP is thinking and whom he is likely to agree with but party politics has destroyed popular faith in the political process and anti-democratic gimmicks such as compulsory voting and proportional representation cannot change that sad state of affairs.

At best PR simply mitigates the pernicious effects of party politics but it does not militate against them. Amongst its worst failings is that it concentrates yet more power in the hands of party leaders. The list system for the EU elections is the perfect example.

First Past The Post is by far the better system, it needs only to be cleansed of the parasites that are destroying it, and some fundamental parliamentary reforms, to function as it should.

Henry North London 2.0 said...

You could have littered that with more swear words if you wanted to...

El Draque said...

The rot set in with politics when Parliament voted to pay MPs salaries. It paved the way for party hacks, careerists, the strength of the Whip, the threat of de-selection of sitting MPs, neglect of the interests of taxpayers, etc.. Let every constituency have to raise funds to pay the salary of the MP and see how far some of them get.

William Gruff said...

Spoken like a gentleman, el Draque, and trust a gentleman to blame the Chartists as he calls out the militia.

More seriously: Putting the burden of an MP on the constituency, rather than the country, has some merit. Travel, a proportion of postage and landline calls and, perhaps, some accommodation expenses (in addition to a 'secretariat') would have to be borne by the state but, on the principle of 'who pays the piper calls the tune', local accountability would be much enhanced, and 'localism' is now very much à la mode, which phrase is not as inappropriate as one might think since it prompts the thought that just as one may ask for one's steak to be cooked as one wishes it will invariably be served as 'the needs of the business dictate'.

Localism à la mode: who cares what they want, give them this.

I like the idea, el Draque, but the constraints alluded to above obtain.

El Draque said...

The more I think about my off-the-cuff idea, the more I like it. The MP is their representative, they should pay him for being so. And he should justify his income by showing the work he has done for the area. Trade Unions used to have their own MPs, paid by them; the burden was then shifted to the taxpayer.
Won't happen - but the more independent MPs the better, where a local issue overrides the party bloc vote it still happens. Maybe there should be a party for independent MPs - but hasn't that already been done?

Neil Harding said...

DK: Political parties give people an 'reasonable idea' of what they are going to get. With all councillors and MPs it is almost impossible to know what their politics are, but without the political party it is impossible. There is no democracy without political parties - Hari is absolutely right.

Anyway, what is wrong with giving people a choice in funding of political parties? Under the Power recommendations, voters can choose which party to fund (or even no party at all). What is wrong with that?

Why would you want funding of parties to remain with the wealthy? Unless you quite like that political parties have to pander to the wealthy?

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