The Funding of Political Parties


  • This article is based on a lecture delivered by the author at the University of East Anglia on 24 February 2011.


Despite attempts over the last decade to bring an end to what has become an ‘arms race’ between political parties, party funding in the UK continues to defy resolution. Drawing on the experience of the committee charged by the last Labour administration to put party funding and electoral spending on a more sustainable footing, this article examines the issues and the main sticking points. It outlines the basis on which the negotiations were undertaken, and the main hurdles they sought to overcome. It highlights the disagreement between the parties on the definition of the central issue, the problems associated with the main funding sources for each of the parties, and the viability of state funding. It discusses why success proved elusive, but also why a solution is necessary, since in the absence of robust rules, parties and therefore the UK political system more broadly, are ‘a hostage to the next scandal’.