The latest scandal to afflict the finances of political parties has revived the old demand for public funding. Strangely enough, this demand always seems to proceed from the presumption that parties must be funded somehow, rather than justifying such a premise.
Public funding derives from either taxes or borrowing. We have an unsustainable fiscal deficit, so perhaps now is not the best time to suggest yet another call upon the public purse.
The calls upon tax revenue already have to be rationed; there are far more causes worthy of state support than there is state support available. Who will explain to the patients queuing in ambulances outside A&E that in our wisdom we decided funding political parties was more important than their medical needs? Who will explain to our troops in the field that they are short of equipment because we allocated higher priority to political funding?
The party system in this country may have evolved as a method for the legislature to seize power from the executive but it has been sustained to a point where legislative tyranny has supplanted executive tyranny. Politics as a civic duty has given way to politics as a career to be pursued by an entire class of professionals who are without knowledge or understanding of real life as lived by taxpayers and who do not appear to understand that before money can be spent it must first be earned.
These professionals believe that they should be allowed to spend our money on the communication to us of party-biased misinformation. The more of it they are allowed to spend, the more distortions their advertising campaigns put out and the more special advisers they are able to appoint in order that ministers may be surrounded by yes-men rather than impartial civil servants.
The party system in the UK is moribund; parties used to be mass movements, now they are largely hollow shells inhabited by few but careerists. Nevertheless they maintain a stranglehold on government. In the 1950's over 90% of voters supported one of two parties and election turnout exceeded 80%; now over a third of us don't vote at all and the two big parties only poll two thirds of the votes that are actually cast.
When our great metal bashing industries lost market share at such a rate we reluctantly closed them down and learned as a nation to make our living in other ways. Likewise we need to reinvent our democracy not just subsidise dying political dinosaurs.
There are public services for which British taxpayers have shown themselves more than happy to pay. Funding political parties is not amongst them.