parliament

Short-changing voters: Why the cuts to opposition funding are wrong

This week the government will formally announce final plans to slash public funding for opposition parties in Parliament.

According to the Independent today, the formula for calculating how the money is given to parties with fewer than six MPs will be ‘reworked’ – in other words, their money will be disproportionately cut.  It’s an incredibly backwards step.

UKIP received nearly four million votes last year, but ended up with only one MP. The Greens received over a million votes and likewise ended up with just one MP. Slashing their funding is an affront to those millions of voters who were not fairly represented.

Currently, Short money – allocated in large part on the basis of number of votes rather than just seats – partially compensates for our woefully disproportionate voting system. Making it less proportional is hugely regressive given that we are now a pluralistic, multi-party democracy, with a need for a strong and diverse opposition.

Polling for us by BMG Research at the end of last year showed that 57% of the public think a publicly-funded political system would be fairer than the big-donor dominated one we have now. And this cut will do nothing to improve people’s perceptions of politics being stitched-up by the big parties.

Short money is designed to level the playing field and ensure that opposition parties can hold the government of the day to account, so this cut could be deeply damaging for accountability. Indeed, an OECD report recently released shows that Britain already has one of the lowest proportions of public funding for parties among developed countries, spending just a tenth of the European average.

The whole party funding system is a complete mess as it is, but this measure risks making it worse. By reducing public money from the mix, this cut risks making parties even more reliant on big donors – with all the potential for corruption that entails.

Until we see a cap on donations and a lower spending limit, taking away public money from opposition parties will just make things worse.

Let’s hope the government think again and stand up for the millions whose voices were ignored last May.

Poll: public want fewer journos and more factory workers in Parliament

A recent YouGov poll shows that voters overwhelmingly want people from ordinary backgrounds elected to parliament – and far fewer journalists and lawyers.

57% of the public want more factory workers elected to Parliament, joint second with scientists, while 61% want more doctors as MPs.

Reporters and lawyers top the poll for the least popular MP backgrounds, with 48% wanting fewer journalists and 46% fewer lawyers in the House of Commons.

Poll results

Since 1979, the percentage of MPs who had occupations as manual workers has decreased from 16% 35 years ago to just 4% today. Meanwhile the proportion of MPs from political backgrounds has surged from just over 3% in 1979 to nearly 15% today, while the number of white collar workers and solicitors has also increased.

backgrounds of MPs by occupation

Perhaps surprisingly, over a quarter of the public want to fewer military officers and social workers elected, while 54% want more economists elected – a potential source disappointment for Modern History graduate George Osborne.

Dividing the results by party background leads to some interesting results. UKIP voters want more factory workers in Parliament, with 62% ranking it the highest priority, while Conservatives overwhelmingly want more doctors (64%) and economists (65%).

Perhaps less surprisingly, Labour supporters primarily want more factory workers in Parliament (72%) as well as GPs (71%), whereas Lib Dems would back more teachers in the Commons (62%) and scientists (63%).

YouGov say the poll reflects the most trusted professions, with journalists ranking among the least popular.

Analysing the poll, YouGov’s William Jordan said: “It’s possible some voters are aware of, and worried about, the recent decline in the number of manual workers in Parliament, and the consistently tiny proportion of MPs that were once doctors or scientists.”

Unfortunately the survey didn’t ask about one profession – bankers. You can probably guess what the result would be (i.e. bad news for former stockbroker Nigel Farage…).

South West Students to Lobby MPs to Save EMA

On Wednesday students from across the South West, including Devon and Cornwall, will be travelling up to Parliament to lobby their MPs not to scrap the Education Maintenance Allowance. The vote to decide the fate of EMAs, put forward by Labour MPs, will be on the day, and will coincide with protests in London and Manchester. The marches, though they have proven divisive, are expected to attract large turnouts as students put the French saying into action – ‘what government does, the streets can undo’.

The UCU in the South West are organising coaches up to London alongside the NUS, though the NUS have decided, to the anger of many, not to support the protests on the day.

Students in Cornwall, Devon and Somerset who wish to lobby MPs in Parliament on Wednesday can contact the regional UCU officer Philippa Davey on pdavey@ucu.org.uk.

And for those who aren’t convinced by the arguments to save the EMA, here’s a video of David Cameron pledging not to scrap it last year –

Parliament to Vote on EMAs – 11 January

In just a couple of weeks Parliament will be voting on whether to scrap Education Maintenance Allowances, according to the National Campaign Against Fees and Cuts. The up-to-£30 a week allowance that has enabled thousands of working class and lower-income students to continue with further education is being scrapped by the government. But as recent U-turns show – on free book provision for children, and the school sports programme for example – when under pressure the government changes course. It is essential that thousands of students across the country protest on the day of the vote, January 11th, against the abolition of EMA.

In Cornwall there should also be mass student action. What exactly will happen is being discussed but it is hoped that a walkout will take place in Truro. The EMA scheme is provided by local councils, so potentially it can still be saved if the vote passes. It is vital however that EMA is saved in Parliament, and not merely individual councils who are facing 28% budget cuts over the next four years.

There will be a protest in Truro on the day – the 11th – meeting at 12:15 in McDonald’s car-par (opposite the college). RSVP via the Facebook group here.

Currently leading the campaign against the abolition of EMA is ‘Save the EMA’, supported by major unions, and ‘Save EMA’ which is largely organised by students.