My Campaign is funded by small donations

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An envelope has just popped through my door with a cheque for £10 in it. It is one of several that I have received in response to an appeal that we put out to known Lib Dem voters in my ward. In total I have so far received £375 with the biggest donation being £35 and the smallest £5. This is, in my opinion, what politics is all about and how politics should be funded. In addition 4 people have offered to help my campaign by delivering or doing clerical work.
In total my re-election campaign here in Church Ward will cost about £1,100. Clearly, we are also spending money on Leo Evans’ Parliamentary election. Apart from this £375 every penny for these two elections that is spent in this ward will come from our Ward members. Should I be re-elected I will be in no-ones’ pocket and I will be answerable only to my constituents.
I believe that there should be a massive change in the culture of political funding in the UK. All three of the main political Parties have accepted what is in my view dodgy money. We expect it of the Tories. Labour rail against the Tories getting money from Hedge Fund managers and then take money from – hedge fund managers. My own Party has had one major blemish on its record in the 2005 election but still takes amounts that are too big from too few people. Although they will respond that since Christmas they have taken in more than £1,000,000 in small donations. Even the Green Party with all their talk of being different have had to look at some of the donations that they have received.
Imagine what politics would be like if no-one or no organisation could give more than, say, £1,000 each year to a political party. The Parties would have to reorganise to what they once were. Organisations which were out on the street meeting and talking to people. Relying on the people to fund them and support them in so many ways.
Parties once needed an army of people to stuff envelopes and to door knock and to do the 101 things that need doing at election time. Now it is computerised and heavily targeted. We do not see the same need to build up the membership or supporter base in the way we once had to. Many people in this election will not see a candidate or even a canvasser at their house. Even in key marginal seats some people will be ignored because their vote is taken for granted by the Party that thinks they have their vote secured for them and the party that thinks their vote is secured for the opposition.
The General Election, consequently, will not be decided by the vast majority of us but perhaps 1,000 swing voters in 100 swing constituencies. The rest of us are effectively by-standers.
The other night I saw the lonely Green Candidate for my ward trudging the streets in the rain looking for people to sign his nominations papers. A pretty thankless task but I think of vital importance. There is no financial bar to standing in a local election but there is a £500 deposit for a General Election. A figure that would be at least £1,500 if it had been raised for inflation since the time it was introduced.
Imagine the change in behaviour of the political parties if they had to get 25 people on the nomination papers for a local election and 500 names for a General Election. This would force parties to be stronger campaigners on an all year basis. They would need to prove that they have a right to stand by having involved enough people during a period who want to nominate them. It would force political parties back onto the streets to make face to face contact with people. No longer would they be able to rely on targeted and telephone canvassing. They would need to get wet as I have done on 3 occasions this week already!
I don’t believe that we can rely on the political parties to sort this out for themselves. I think we need some sort of dispassionate outside body with no vested interests to look at funding and its corrosive effects on public life. Trades Unions still dominate the Labour Party; the Toffs still support the Tories and the rest of us basically put our hands in our pockets and get on with it.
I don’t want to sound ‘holier than thou’ on this issue but I am seriously concerned about the state of the body politic in this country and believe that until we deal with funding issues we will continue to lose the trust of many ‘ordinary’ voters who will not now vote at all.
But whilst I am writing let me try my luck! Anyone wishing to donate to my campaign can send a cheque made payable to Liverpool Liberal Democrats, 16, Dovedale Road, Liverpool L18 1DW. But remember the maximum that we accept is £50!

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About richardkemp

Leader of the Liberal Democrats in Liverpool. . Deputy Chair and Lib Dem Spokesperson on the LGA Community Wellbeing Board. Married to the lovely Cllr Erica Kemp CBE with three children and four grandchildren.
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