The problem is not party funding - it's parties full stop

There's no surprise that it costs a lot to dine with the British Prime Minister. But calls for party funding reform are misguided – we need to undermine the parties, not strengthen them.

Tony Curzon Price
Tony Curzon Price
26 March 2012

Cash for access. Again. So £250k gets you dinner and chat?... prices of everything that is really scarce and sought after have gone up, haven't they? ... there was a time when that might have got you a peerage, with all the advantages of a permament capacity to poke your fingers into legislation for the interest that was stumping up the original money. 

But surprise and outrage seem strange. We know that money buys political access. Time in power is time to fill party coffers. And parties have organisations that need that money: researchers, strategists, paying for the right kinds of activists. And of course, focus groups and the advertising campaigns they spawn at election time.

The political party used to make sense: mass organisations like trade unions and churches with mass media like newspapers had their counterpart mass parties. It all went with mass production and mass consumption. And, of course, Cold War, with its convenient division of the world into stark alternatives. 

But every single one of the real bases of mass parties has now been emptied of real life. They are simply self-perpetuating organisations of power, devoid of projects, beliefs or democratic legitimacy. And once an institution is untethered, money quickly enters to fill any vacuum of purpose. 

So how should we react to new evidence of this utterly unsurprising reality? By making sure that we organise socially and politically outside the party system, and in a way that aims to make it subservient to our interests. As long as, apathetically, we leave the institutions of government to these lifeless husks, they will abuse power and corrupt our politics.

"Occupy everything" should not mean that we oppose everything; it should mean that we re-occupy the political system that we abandoned when we moved on from the society of the mass and left the power-addled apparatchiks to grab the helm.

Stop the secrecy: Publish the NHS COVID data deals

To: Matt Hancock, Secretary of State for Health and Social Care

We’re calling on you to immediately release details of the secret NHS data deals struck with private companies, to deliver the NHS COVID-19 datastore.

We, the public, deserve to know exactly how our personal information has been traded in this ‘unprecedented’ deal with US tech giants like Google, and firms linked to Donald Trump (Palantir) and Vote Leave (Faculty AI).

The COVID-19 datastore will hold private, personal information about every single one of us who relies on the NHS. We don’t want our personal data falling into the wrong hands.

And we don’t want private companies – many with poor reputations for protecting privacy – using it for their own commercial purposes, or to undermine the NHS.

The datastore could be an important tool in tackling the pandemic. But for it to be a success, the public has to be able to trust it.

Today, we urgently call on you to publish all the data-sharing agreements, data-impact assessments, and details of how the private companies stand to profit from their involvement.

The NHS is a precious public institution. Any involvement from private companies should be open to public scrutiny and debate. We need more transparency during this pandemic – not less.

By adding my name to this campaign, I authorise openDemocracy and Foxglove to keep me updated about their important work.

Who is bankrolling Britain's democracy? Which groups shape the stories we see in the press; which voices are silenced, and why? Sign up here to find out.


We encourage anyone to comment, please consult the oD commenting guidelines if you have any questions.
Audio available Bookmark Check Language Close Comments Download Facebook Link Email Newsletter Newsletter Play Print Share Twitter Youtube Search Instagram WhatsApp yourData