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Monday, December 05, 2005

Deserting or dying

As a politician it is always reassuring to read that one's opponents are struggling politically and organisationally, however there is always the sobering thought that there but for the grace of God etc.

In this case the decline of the Tory Party from its peak of 3 million members in the 1960s to one of 280,000 today, with the majority of members in receipt of their old age pensions, is not just the story of a busted flush (though it could be that as well) but also of the collapse of political activism and civic responsibility in general.

Of course people do not have to get involved and we have no right to expect them to do so. Many are disillusioned with the whole system, most have found other ways to fill their spare time. All of the parties have found that, with one or two exceptions, building and maintaining enthusiasm so as to retain the volunteers needed to sustain our democracy is growing harder and harder. Raising money is also becoming an uphill struggle with all the parties becoming more and more reliant on large donors and the baggage that this brings with it.

The regulation of political parties through the Political Parties Elections and Referendums Act (PPERA) has been necessary to orchestrate a lot of previously hidden activity but it was drawn up by civil servants and passed by MPs and Lords, who have had little or nothing to do with running a political party, particularly in areas where success is hard to come by. As a result a huge burden has been placed on volunteers who are largely voting with their feet.

Although the Electoral Commission is starting to find their feet in this complex world of volunteers and amateurism, they are still struggling to come to terms with it, whilst in the world of election administration and voter participation their intervention to date has been largely ineffective. Their main success has been the reports they have produced on reform and in reaction to Government initiatives, such as the removal of rights from candidates on the list for the Welsh Assembly. Here, they have managed to generate debate and focus minds. The problem is that the Government has largely ignored them when their views are inconvenient to their own agenda and as a result provoked the question, what are the Electoral Commission for?

Much as I want to gloat at the Tories misfortune, I know that a competent party manager will start to turn around a lot of the problems they face and that for a time at least, a fresh faced leader will help that process. What David Cameron (or any leader) will not succeed in doing is to re-energise the political process so as to activate a large number of voters once more. It may be that such a task is beyond any politician. It is possible that as a result political parties will have to rely on professional staff in greater numbers to keep the democratic process going. If that happens then the funding question becomes even more urgent. I, for one, do not want to end up in an American system where money buys influence. Maybe tackling this conundrum could make the Electoral Commission relevant once more.
No funding worries for the Lib Dems though Peter; Charlie's list of dodgy donors continues to grow.

I don't expect you to allow this comment to be posted. Since you introduced censorship the only comments you seems to allow are those of your friends and collegues who agree with the rubbish you write.

So much for the "freedom of speech" you and your party claim to champion.
this isn't a comment as such just a little peice of info that i thought that you might possibily like to know about .

that is to say that your opposition towards the relocation of swansea uni is reported in this fortnights edition of "waterfront" the student newspaper thingy.
Given the current libel laws David, I think that it is only sensible that I moderate comments. That is the policy followed by your boss as well and for good reason.

I have so far only rejected two comments, on because it was libellous and the other by yourself on the grounds that it was unbelieveably juvenile and I really could not bother dealing with it.

As for the donors to Charles Kennedy it is for the Electoral Commission to decide whether they are dodgy not our enemies. Nevertheless, we do not receive anything like Labour or the Tories in these sort of donations nor do we reward them by nominating them for peerages.

On the whole I think the way you manage your blog reflects well on yourself and on your party.

However on the issue of the donation to the Lib dems made by the guy based in Switzerland you have claimed that comments I made were defamatory.

This is despite the fact that the comments were based on the detailed reporting in the Times and I only commented on what has previously been publised and accepted as the truth by the said donor. He would therefore have no grounds for a libel action....and I cannot believe you are not aware of this.

Both Labour and Conservative parties have returned donations when the press have revealed similar details about the donors background (lets leave aside the date of companies being established etc for the time being) so why do the lib dems have lower standards than even the tories and Labour?

You have also failed to explain if the flights that were paid for by the swiss company in very clear breach of the rules included flights to Wales.

Do you not think that this sordid business further alienates the public from the political process?
If you e-mail me then I will explain why I thought your previous comments were defamatory. As for the flights I do not know if they included trips to Wales and frankly cannot see the relevance of that question to the issue at hand.

As I have said previously we are regulated as a party by PPERA and the Electoral Commission and it is for them to establish the legality of donations not our political opponents (which, by the way includes The Times).

Just because a "political storm" is created by people who bear ill-will to the Liberal Democrats does not mean that there is substance to it.
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