Elections cost money. Contrary to popular rumour, most local candidates don’t have huge amounts of money to fund their campaigns. And they have to raise money to fund their campaigns. Each candidate (depending on the number of voters and whether the constituency is rural or urban) will have a spending limit of £15-20,000. If they are fighting a hopeless seat they may well even have to fund their election deposit themselves. Having fought one parliamentary election I know how important money is. Leaflets cost money. Posters cost money. Every aspect of campaigning costs money. And the last thing you want to worry about when you are a candidate is money.
The trouble is, if you wanted to make a donation to a candidate in your local constituency they rarely make it easy for you. Look for a DONATE button on their campaign websites and you will often look in vain. People are used to donating to charities on sites like JustGiving.com or GoFundMe.com, but candidates and politicians don’t seem to be making huge use of them.
Most people obviously donate to the candidate representing the political party they support. It may be £5, £20 or sometimes a three figure sum. Anything above £500 and they have to declare it to the Electoral Commission.
I would encourage anyone reading this to donate some money to any candidate they approve of. Maybe some people will do what I am about to do.
Many people may think that I have lost leave of my senses, but I am going to donate to three political candidates, each from a different political party. Everyone knows my politics. It’s difficult make secret of them when you’ve stood for Parliament, even if it was 12 years ago now. However, I haven’t been involved in party politics since 2010, and I don’t belong to the Conservative Party any longer. When I joined LBC in 2010 I didn’t think it was appropriate to have any party alignment. I’ve spoken at the odd Tory Association dinner and I did a fundraising dinner for Lynne Featherstone. I’d have been happy to speak at a Labour event, but no one has ever asked!
So for this election, I’m not going to be campaigning for anyone, but I am going to make a donation to three different candidates from three different political parties. They are Jess Phillips (Labour, Birmingham Yardley), Julian Huppert (LibDem, Cambridge) and Tracey Crouch (Conservative, Chatham & Aylesford).
The reason I have chosen them is that they all royal pains in the arse. They each exemplify what a good Parliamentarian is all about. As MPs they have all done a brilliant job in holding the executive to account. They aren’t afraid to go against their own party lines, and each has maverick tendencies.
I’ll admit that Tracey is a good friend of mine and I have taken great pleasure at her success as Minister for Sport. She’s in a job I’d have loved to have done and she’s doing it bloody well. She’s in a seat that used to be highly marginal, but she won with a good majority last time.
Julian Huppert was the LibDem MP for Cambridge until 2015, when he narrowly lost to Labour. He was a great loss to Parliament. He rattled many an establishment cage and often incurred the wrath of Mr Speaker Bercow. He knew how to use parliamentary procedure to get his own way and was highly effective – much more effective than his rather lame Labour successor.
Jess Phillips swept into Parliament and made an immediate impact. Anyone who tells Diane Abbott to ‘fuck off’ in her first few months in Parliament has to have something about them. She knows how to use the media to further campaigs she believes in, and has a withering array of putdowns. Parliament would be a much poorer place without her.
I’m sure I will get a lot of criticism for doing this, but I hope that others will look at doing the same. Donating to political parties or candidates is an honourable thing to do. I hate the very idea of state funding and this is the best way to avoid it having to be introduced. Campaigns should be funded by ordinary people making small donations. Rich people can do what they want with their money, but it is not healthy for national parties or local parties to be funded by a very small number of rich individuals or trade unions. We often talk about the ‘wisdom of the crowds’, but we should also talking more about political crowd funding.
And for God’s sake, if you’re a political campaign manager in any of the 650 seats, for any of the political parties, make it easy for people to donate. Do that, and they will.