Charlie Elphicke is MP for Dover and Deal. Priti Patel is MP for Witham. Both are members of the Public Administration Select Committee.
There is nothing more corrosive to public life than the perception that our politics can be bought. All parties have had problems – from the Conservative ex-Treasurer, through the Lib Dem conman donor Michael Brown to the outright purchase of the Labour leadership by the trades unions. Small wonder then that there is such widespread public disgust with the whole business.
There needs to be a limit on donations. Much talked about, yet never implemented. That limit should be £50,000 or less. It should apply to any individual or any organisation – be it a company or trades union. Only with a limit can people have faith that no one person or organisation has the influence to buy our politics or subvert our public life. Moreover, all donor access should be transparent and published so that the public will have more assurance that the system has been changed.
Some argue that we should move to state funding of political parties. We disagree. Increasing the amount of taxpayers' cash handed over to political parties cannot be morally justified. The public are feeling a real squeeze and facing spending cuts. The public will not welcome another example of politicians attempting to line their own pockets from the public purse.
What is needed is for political parties to broaden their memberships and do more to attract voluntary support from the public. Political parties should focus on how they can make themselves more relevant to the public and engage more widely with the public. Parties should be in touch with their grassroots and motivate local activists to promote their messages, engage with the public and seek out new supporters. Increased levels of public subsidies for political parties would compromise those efforts as political parties would rely more on the taxpayer than the voluntary support of their members.
We believe there needs to be a clear plan to restore public trust. Firstly, that all donations and donor access should be open, transparent and published. Second no person – individual or organisation – should be able to donate more than £50,000 a year. Third no donor should be able to buy our politics or be seen to buy our politics. Fourth, reform should not include forcing taxpayers to stump up for the funding of political parties. Finally, trust in public life should be a golden thread running through our society.