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They haven’t gone away you know… UK party funding and the shape of the political future. February 27, 2007

Posted by WorldbyStorm in British Labour Party, Irish Politics, Northern Ireland.

Will come back to the question of some sort of detente on the left that Michael Taft, franklittle, smiffy and others have been discussing here.

But in the meantime it’s always useful to remember that old adversaries change only slowly, if at all, and an article in today’s Guardian points up something that leftists of all stripes from centre out to the furthest reaches of the further left should note. David Cameron may, or may not, be the next Prime Minster of the UK, but so far his ‘project’ of a seemingly more moderate and modified conservatism is both popular with the public as seen by the clear shift in polling data towards the Conservatives and more importantly with those who would underwrite him and his party.

Consider that donations to the Tories are now at record levels, and most notably are pouring in from various parts of the UK including Scotland where Conservatism had been effectively leveled during the peak of the Blair period. Labour received £12 million (just under half of it from the unions), the Conservatives twice that, and the Liberal Democrats a not derisory £6 million.

Now funds alone mean less than one might expect, but sentiment is an important aspect of political activity and money tends to leech towards those it perceives as being potentially successful. If I were a member of the British Labour Party (and I once was many years ago) I’d be thinking long and hard about what this particular flight of capital represents. Perhaps it is the victory of the left liberal centre ground, hewn almost single handed by Blair from that most unforgiving of political materials, the British electorate. But somehow I doubt it.

Two thoughts strike me reading the report, firstly funding for the Liberal Democrats is increasing significantly. This can only be to the good for them (incidentally, I hate to hate, but I can’t stand them on a political level, I mean, what exactly are they for? I’m sure they’re lovely people in person but yet…ach, no. I’m not much of a class warrior, if at all, but they leave me cold). And is it possible to see them now play the role as regards the Labour party that they played in relation to the Conservatives for the past fifteen or so years, one of suppressing that vote sufficiently to hobble the party nationally? And perhaps Blair will regret that he didn’t eventually bring the LDs into his cabinet as he mooted with Paddy Ashdown prior to landslide victories making that but a distant dream.

Thought number two arriving hot on it’s heels is to wonder how the increased trend to union funding of the Labour Party is going to influence it as time progresses. Now, as we’re all aware, the unions are not quite holdouts of revolutionary socialism (which is broadly speaking a good thing). But their general tendency is to be left social democratic. That has to have some form of an impact. Does that mean that spaces to the left might open up with a more avowedly left social democrat Labour Party? Or does it mean that Middle England takes fright and goes with the ever so nice Mr. Cameron rather than the not quite so nice, indeed fairly dour Mr. Brown and an increasingly left leaning LP behind him?

British politics is always fascinating because it is so close and yet so far from Irish politics. It’s very familiar, but to be able to judge detail and nuance is difficult, so it’s difficult to see how this is going to pan out. But the thought of a Conservative government leaves me much colder than even the thought of the Liberal Democrats, both as regards it’s implications for British politics and the possible implications for this island.

Still Hazel Blears could ask Blair cut this particular Gordian knot while Labour retains a majority and institute public funding of political parties, but somehow I just can’t see that being a popular option either among the public or more particularly among the parties.


1. Redking - March 4, 2007

Interesting points-ones I’ve pondered myself-all the polls (if believed) point to the Lib Dems being seriously squeezed by the resurgent Tories under Dave. An indication that the Tory “transformation” is perceived as just that by the public. If it were true it would represent a perverse victory for New Labour-a kind of new times style shift of the political lanscape to a centre-left near-concensus. However I feel it doesn’t quite signify all that. The Tory “modernisation” is largely a fraud ( but so far admittedly a masterpiece of presentation), the party is not centre-left and Dave hunts stags to boot!! And class warriors will have a field day with this toff in due course, despite new Labour’s discomfort with that. Gordon may well get in but with a paltry reduced majority – and then expect a night of the long knives with a more avowedly social democratic LP endangering his leadership. All speculation, I admit, and it may not happen. And the Lib Dems -like you I abhor their so-called bogus “centre” credentials-and as a Labour Party member and former councillor I’ve often crossed swords with them-at times they seem to be more a protest group than a party at all and all over the place policy-wise. Let’s not forget they have their own leadership problems but the price of suport for Labour in a future govt. may be more tha cabinet places-PR perhaps. Interesting times ahead…


2. WorldbyStorm - March 4, 2007

That’s fascinating. Do you think PR for a continued Labour government supported by the LDs would be a price worth paying or a bridge too far.

I think you’re right about the optics of the Tory revival. It’s really Labour lite (C4 picked up on how the Shadow Chancellor is deliberately modelling himself on Brown in the early days). But it’s a thin veneer in a way that arguably the New Labour project wasn’t – in so far as Blair meant it when he said all that stuff about the ‘new’ centre and third way.


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