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Tuesday, 12 June 2012

English Democrats' reponse to Lib Dem attempt to close down democratic competition

Here is Charles Vicker's robust response to the latest Lib Dem supporters efforts to advantage their Party. See what you think?

On 12 Jun 2012, at 12:57, Peter Facey, Unlock Democracy wrote:

Dear Charles,

Over the weekend, it was reported that the Metropolitan Police have launched an inquiry into the Conservative Party “cash for access” affair which blew up a couple of months ago[1].

We welcome the police inquiry and called for one when the story first hit the headlines [2]. But what is even more important is that we take the big money out of politics in the first place. With the three main party leaders currently in talks to clean up party funding, will you sign our letter to them to demand they agree to capping party donations?

Sign our letter to David Cameron, Ed Miliband and Nick Clegg

The suggestion that big money donors can buy access to senior politicians - and even policy - has dogged UK parties for years. Last October, the Committee on Standards in Public Life recommended introducing an annual cap of £10,000 for each individual and organisation. All three parties signed up to the principle of a cap of some kind but moved swiftly to kick the CSPL report into the long grass.

They would almost certainly have got away with it if it wasn’t for the “cash for access” scandal a few months later. Former Conservative Party Treasurer Peter Cruddas was caught on tape recommending that a foreign company illegally donate at least £250,000 to the party with a view to joining a “Premier League” of donors and gaining special access to the Prime Minister.

As it stands, the three main parties agreed to set up cross-party talks to sort out party funding. But without public pressure, these talks are likely to fail - as so many have before.

So we need you to help put pressure on the party leaders and write to them today. Over 2,400 people have already done so: will you join them?

Add your name here.

As we’ve seen with our recent campaigns on electoral registration and lobbying transparency, public pressure can have a real impact. On party funding, the party leaders are particularly vulnerable. All the main parties have had party funding scandals in recent years; they know they need to clean their act up eventually. Your pressure today will ensure they do this sooner rather than later.

Many thanks,
Peter Facey
Director, Unlock Democracy


Dear Peter,

I'm afraid that this is not the answer.

All this measure will do is ensure that small political parties cannot get off the ground and will thus hand the political arena over to the major parties who can count on multiple donors and result in a great loss of democracy.

Small parties, particularly in their inception depend critically on a few large donors. Without them they will struggle and quite probably fail to get off the ground. £10,000 from three donors is not enough to run a parliamentary campaign and get a party political broadcast.

To have any chance of being fair and democratic a policy such as this will have to have a number of additions such as:

•Scrapping all election deposits for all candidates.
•Giving each candidate for all elections a free page in a 'candidate booklet' that is sent, without charge to the candidates, to all electors by the last day for registering as an absent voter.
•For parliamentary elections giving each candidate who is not resident within 30 miles of the constituency an overnight allowance of, say, £50.00 per night, to enable them to campaign and stay in the constituency.
•Reduce the requirements for getting party political broadcasts in England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland to the same level as the lowest level currently.

Insofar as measures such as these have little chance of being taken on your proposals are, in my view, more anti-democratic than the current system.

Charles Vickers
Chairman Eastern Counties Region
Chairman Policy Committee


  1. Dear Robin and Charles

    Unlock Democracy is not a supporter of the Liberal Democrat's or any other political party. Our Council is elected by our membership and has people who are members of a wide variety of parties and non represented on it.

    Unlock Democracy broadly supports the recommendations of the Committee on Standards in Public Life. If you have not read their report it can be found here

    They recommend (and we support) that the cap should be £10,000 and only apply to parties that have 2 or more elected representatives in the UK Parliament or in a devolved parliament or assembly.

    As your primary concern seems to be in regards to new parties then the cap would simply not apply. As for your other points a number of them are things we have been campaigning on for many years.

    Peter Facey
    Unlock Democracy

  2. Thank you Peter for responding to this but it is true to say that, although the English Democrats support quite a few of the issues that you campaign on, when they are genuine causes to improve our democracy here in England, nevertheless you are Liberal Democrats Party political supporters - as you have made clear you are yourself.
    I gave evidence to the Kelly Committee and was not impressed that they had democracy at their heart rather than maintaining the dominance of the status quo parties and the Whitehall establishment.

  3. Where I have ever said that Unlock Democracy are political supporters of the Liberal Democracts, please tell me. If you can I will then tell my Council. I look forward to telling supporters and members of Labour, Greens, UKIP and Conservatives that in your wisdom you have decided that they are all Liberal Democrats. But I am sure you know best.

  4. Thank you Peter for your response.

    The great political theorist Hans Morgenthau noted in one of his lectures on the problems of democracy (late 1960s, Chicago University) that the critical issue in a democracy was when some members of that democracy felt that they no longer had access to the democratic means of attaining power. When that happened he opined that "violence becomes existential in society". By this he meant that whether or not violence occurred was now a matter of context. Whatever now happens the sad fact is that the democracy concerned had lost its way and is in danger of loosing its democracy.

    As I tried to point out in my email the proposals of the Committee on Public Standards that you support do indeed inhibit, quite markedly,access to the levers of power in our democracy for small parties. If they are adopted then "violence will become existential" in England. This is hardly a wise course to follow!

    In supporting those proposals "Unlock Democracy" have shown that their title is an oxymoron since by supporting the Committee in this matter you are in fact "Locking up Democracy".

    The sale of influence in politics has been an issue in political systems of all sorts, whether democracies or not, over the last several millennia. Surely then the correct way to deal with it is through the criminal law and not by obstructing democracy itself?