What do the words actually mean?
Spoiler alert. Today I might give away the plot of a major SFX blockbuster for those who haven’t seen it yet, and shame on you if that is so.
So I did it right last month.
Along came a tiny pay increment from the Bloated Bureaucracy for which I work. Having shed two whole layers of management without any loss of efficiency that I can see; as well as several non-useless lower-ranked bosses whom we do rather miss; the deletion of several layers of useless checking and all-round pointless waffle means that there’s a banana from the aforementioned BB as compensation for now having to use the BB next door’s frankly insane web servers. But a few extra quid a month - with care - can make a difference in the world before they abolish my slice of the BB a few years from now and I have to return to relocating glistening, cheese-crowned bread snacks around Castle City’s glittering nightscape…and you private sector types will all get to cheer about that while shivering around your braziers full of Carbon Trust leaflets and waiting for the wind to blow and the rotors to start turning again for a bit.
Thus I could plan ahead a little bit and rearrange my finances. Out came the Excel spreadsheet, with my new, higher net wage (thank you, O generous taxpayers,) at the top and then the big bills shading through middling to low bills at the bottom…just like the ordering of the chapters in the Koran but without all that Jew-killing and girl-hurting in perpetuity.
Having been the dopey victim and collaborator in an, ahem, disordered financial regime in a previous life I’m utterly coprophobic about going overdrawn and am now a major obsessive on the subject of personal financial planning, and I now budget ever-more anally as the Cat Who Hoards the Cream… Imagine me alphabetising my classic shoe horn collection and add the Sterling symbol and decimal points. Financially, I’m now Columbus in Zombieland and a black monthly spreadsheet bottom line is Cardio for Cats.
So… Leave a margin untouched for the inescapable price rises: motor insurance, mobile phone bill, pro-rata Child Support, and then, what? Oh. Admit that inflation is every bit as awful in the Real World as it is in all the Tory textbooks and top up Tiny Northwester’s pocket money and pass on her regular college savings for her to squander right here in the barn at Claire’s Accessories or by sending vegan food parcels to #occupyyeovil or whatever before the Pound hits Reichsmark levels, or at least the 1970s Lira. Missing the Lira yet, signore e signori?
Sign up for a middling subscription to Love Film – why buy utter dross when you can send it back and get different utter dross, and so on and so forth, repeat as necessary? Note to politicians, the Greeks had a word for this idea, I think. It’s on the tip of my tongue… No; it’s gone. Maybe it’ll come to me later.
Ooh, a few quid freed up for a children’s hospice to add to my existing charities and the church that I support via the Joy of Direct Debits. Not being a saint, I literally can not imagine what it is like to be a child, or the parent of that child, who is definitely going to die young. And did you know that children’s hospices are mostly privately funded? For all its mammoth funding, irreproachable public image and a million-strong army of unionised employees set to go on strike next week, the few children who definitely won’t get to spend the Christmas after next at all get barely a look-in from the National Health Service. Think of that; just about the most helpless and hopeless and harmless people in the kingdom have to rattle the tin and trust to our better instincts or the tenderness of the consciences our parents taught us to use. Imagine: raffles and doorstep collections for doomed children and their already-grieving parents – after all, the health service portion of our taxes are buying us much more important stuff than that kind of luxury, right? Five a day advice and stop smoking advice is all well and good to help problems that might possibly occur one day…but easing the last months of a definitely doomed childhood as best we can? Not so much.
So far, so tender-hearted. But lo! What’s this? In addition to asking for an extra wedge to capitalise on its current level of support on a par with the Lib-Dems, and on top of my annual subscription needing renewal, dear old UKIP only actually wanted a regular monthly payment to continue its Awful Work, that’s all. Well, what with the price of Alcan going through the roof and hats being styled on the roomy side this season…. Plus all those wavy Freedom Association Douglas Bader haircuts don’t come cheap, you know; appearances to the contrary.
After the three-line whip from Cast Iron Dave and the unfolding Eurogeddon, I don’t suppose there’s much traction to be had with the voters via, say, the Taxpayers’ Alliance, God bless them; not in the short time we have left as anything like a free country. So, bung a few more regional trading tokens to the ‘Kippers as a patriotic chore and hope it makes a difference. If I want freedom, I suppose there’s no getting around the fact that I ought to dig a little less shallowly into the linty heart of darkness that is the Northwester trouser pocket because our nation’s Freedom Ain’t Free. Alright then: ‘Isn’t.’ ‘Aren’t.’ Whichever. Democracy (that’s the word I was looking for!); you must pay for it yourself.
So this is what free and responsible people do, isn’t it? They prioritise and budget and make sacrifices, large and small, for what they hold to be important and just and take their chances on choosing right and making a difference.
Then I read this.
Political parties should get an extra £23m of taxpayers’ money to reduce reliance on “big money” donations, an independent inquiry has said.
To say that I was upset about this would be an understatement akin to describing the 1998 US film version of Godzilla as the story of a French Polynesian tourist’s all-you-can-eat weekend for one in New York City.
As an intellectual exercise and as an ammunition-saving alternative to avoid unseemly brushes with the court system, I thought I’d try a mind-game and see if there were any conservative reasons why the taxpayer funding of political parties might in some way be better (or at least no worse, which is also a conservative value) than the current arrangements.
So: is there any way that a conservative or any other freedom-lover can describe this egregious idea as better than what we have right now?
Shall we try ‘preventing radical change’ for a good, Burkean starter?
Sudden, radical change of those in power often bring both inexperienced and ignorant rulers, who may have little understanding of how the system of government works, and thus may destroy some or all of what is good (or even merely functional) in a country. Think Russian Revolution: think French Revolution; think Iranian Revolution, think Weimar Republic. Given that the proposed system is clearly designed, if it is instituted at all, in such as way as to only finance the main three nationwide parties and the establishment parties of the devolved assemblies, such a move might indeed be viewed as ‘conservative’ ; assuming that conservative means ‘achieving an absence of political change as the paramount objective.’ But what is the ‘independent’ inquiry afraid of? An incoming Revolutionary Guard pouring into Westminster on the high tide of public funding and destroying every cherished institution built up over forty years and more of liberal Britain? How could allowing a little bit more funding (if a more open system of state funding were considered) destroy the tapeworm presence of left-liberal hegemony in our major national and regional parties? Perhaps, if funded by a Texas oil millionaire with a Merchant Ivory complex or an eccentric Aussie expat who wants to bring the Heir to Blair’s Britain to its knees in order to recommission a big-budget CGI reimagining of the Tellygoons from the Old County’s State broadcaster and that an UKIP-dominated House of Commons is the only arrangement that can realise such dreams, how could even the injection of, say, fifty million pounds in unmarked Obamacredits or Bondi Bucks overcome generations of prejudice and tribal voting in any meaningful way? Assuming that it really is ‘big money donations’ that have corrupted our political process, that is. Given our hilariously-named working class’s solidarity with Labour and that memories of Great Granddad queuing in the snow for a daily wage have allowed our last remaining labouring classes to mortgage their own and my children’s futures to pay for the Indian space programme and a 50% youth ‘higher education’ intake, I can’t see a few flag-waving chumps like me, however well financed, turning the UK into the Norris McWhirter Reich. And a ‘right-wing’ ‘Conservative’ party whose members stand still for the abolition of the Royal Navy and whose leadership helps to install a couple of Islamist governments in North Africa as the Incredible Shrinking RAF closes the door with its arse on the way out… Will people like me really restore the memorising of times tables in primary schools and reintroduce the shilling and red telephone boxes just because we were given a few hundred thousand quid to beguile the British People into making an Awful Mistake?
Oh, and given that the Good Friday ‘process’ has worked so hard to place the sponsors and formerly active members of Fenian and Loyalist terrorist groups into permanent, shared power in Northern Ireland; carried there as they were on a river of US dollars and EU finance, and amidst opera-level political class paeans to the moderation and conciliatory behaviour of the IRA itself, isn’t fear of radical (and therefore harmful) political change just a little weak, as arguments go?
But I don’t think even Cameron would have the conservative nous to support this move in such terms.
"All three main parties now depend on large donations from a very small number of rich individuals or organisations for the funds necessary for their survival," Sir Christopher said. "This cannot be healthy for democracy."
But simply capping such donations and inviting the establishment parties to cut their coat according to their cloth doesn’t seem to have occurred to Sir Kit; just as one corrupt MP paying his son out of expenses for work he didn’t do led to a blanket ban on ever paying family members for parliamentary support work. They can screw their more expensive secretaries from now on, since their wives can’t work alongside them almost for peanuts.
Is it willful ignorance or actual brain damage that keeps our owners from seeing that the government itself, if not hedged around with checks and balances and established limits and overseen by representatives chosen from the populace at large; is a special interest in its own right? After all, if the government pays for scientists to do specific kinds of research, it is likely that over time much of what you will get is government science: that is, ‘science’ that recognises and supports governmental attitudes, policies and power. So the government-funded political parties, even without their existing, bone-marrow statism, will tend sooner or later to identify with and uphold the powers of government over and above the interests and wishes of the people. The people are, after all, those for whose welfare government is supposed to serve in the first place – however badly. So this will, almost certainly, lead to greater statism within the establishment parties. Except for the SNP, of course, which doesn’t seem to have a single molecule of respect for private endeavour in its body.
Now, as a conservative I have no inherent problems with granting privileges for certain groups; the constitutional Monarchy and hereditary Peers, the Church of England; powers of legitimate force that the police hold that private subjects do not have. A small State broadcaster to conduct overseas propaganda for the benefit of the nation and to make some kind of impartial or honest news coverage available in addition to the bias of private and voluntary news gathering. (Hollow laughter). Public welfare for the unfortunate minority over and above what charity might provide. Tax breaks for married couples better than for those merely cohabiting.
So perhaps political parties might be entitled in some meta-constitutional way to tax revenues - even from people that don’t support them at all. In principle, that is.
While I really do believe that some institutions are so vital to protecting us that they should operate under different laws from the private citizens, political parties and the think-tanks undertake the policy research needed in opposition and the support networks that help them get elected are supposed to be the squishy, rowdy, competitive, replaceable and above all unofficial parts of the democratic system. They exist to be influenced, joined, replaced, reformed, lobbied, split from, divided and reunited by individual people who use their work and commitment and their finance to check the policies that the leaderships adopt in opposition or office and which they then offer to the voters at election time. I can’t see it being much better if the Tories can start ignoring the City of London (which our economy needs to be prosperous and untouched by the EU more desperately than ever right now) or the Labour Party stops listening to its trade union founders (who sometimes demonstrate a clue or two about what some workers want) or even blocking the Liberal Democrats’ leaders’ ears to the ideas of people who are sometimes dedicated enthusiastic employees of the county council and local education systems, however naff. Political parties are either alliances of interest groups who have to face some kind of political supply and demand, or they become centralising tyrannies of one sort or another.
But if a closed shop for finance is enforced via taxation (let alone the horror of knowing your taxes go directly to the parties you personally despise rather than their leaderships at least having to pay attention to someone outside the inner circles), then that squishy centre will solidify into a hard and rather nutty core of policy wonk statists who will never take risks or significantly reform institutions and processes that need it, such as paying down the National Debt or actually taking on powerful and dangerous influences such as supranational bodies and over-mighty bureaucracies. Why would they do any such things when an easy life can be had taking the public dole and running elections as beauty contests in which everyone wants world peace, to take good care of the children who are our future, and Europe. Granted, we’ve got that right now, but this new proposal (craftily suggested to be voted on after the next general election rather than obliging the parties to compete for votes by opposing it, QED) will not change that.
And of course, the party leaders could utterly, utterly ignore their members’ unfashionable policy desires, so that’ll be the end of any idea of EU membership referendums, immigration controls, the effective punishment of criminals, public sector financial prudence, tax cuts ever, visible policeman walking around the neighbourhood, the dilution of compulsory and capricious ‘progressive’ educational fashions… So, no conservatism, ever, nor hope for the law-abiding and aspirational working class.
So, as this will bring no change to the political status quo but we all get to fork out directly for the established parties I ask who will gain from all this? As the Romans said: who in fact is the hypocritical tax-loving, tax-avoiding Irish millionaire?
Why, it's the Socialists, the Tories, the Liberal Democrats, Sinn Fein, the Democratic Unionists and the Scottish and Welsh (but not the British) Nationalists.
The Political Class alone in all its hidebound and untouchable corruption will come out well from all this.
Which is what ‘Independent Inquiry’ really means.
Picture from here.
Oh, and I’m a real conservative who believes that there are damn few saints left anywhere - so this UKIP queue for the gravy train surprises me not at all:
But UK Independence Party Treasurer Stuart Wheeler, who gave evidence to the inquiry, said there was a danger a "political cartel" would be created - particularly if parties like UKIP were excluded from the taxpayer-funded support.
"It is essential that parties should be defined in such a way that a party like UKIP, which obtained nearly a million votes in the last general election, and which came second, beating both Labour and the LibDems in the European election in 2009, should be included."