Straw calls for party spending cap

Jack Straw, leader of the House of Commons, has called for caps on party spending to stop politics turning into a marketing exercise.

The MP for Blackburn linked falling membership across all political parties with the increased amount being spent on election campaigns and called for a return to doorstep politics.

“As far as political parties are concerned, membership of the three main political parties has halved in the last 25 years, whilst their spending in real terms has trebled,” he told Today.

“I suggest that these two are connected, in other words that what parties have had to do as they’ve been faced by a decline in membership is raise more and more money.”

And this move from personal involvement to media campaigns could result in politics becoming a “spectator sport”, he warned in a speech.

“If I am convinced of one thing about the future for party politics, it is that it must move from being a spectator experience to a contact sport, where the public engage with politicians on the field, on equal terms, not from the touchlines,” he said in a speech to the Fabian Society.

Mr Straw was given responsibility for party funding when he moved from foreign secretary to his current post after the cabinet reshuffle in May.

However, the caps he himself placed on election spending when home secretary, could be having an adverse effect on local campaigning, the MP for Blackburn said.

As election campaigns are now longer than ever, caps on all spending will be required to stop money being taken away from local campaigns.

“If and when we do that, as a result of the current review, parties will be forced, if they want to flourish, to recruit, retain and involve more members and supporters,” he said.

“The more local and personal our politics becomes, the more that trust and confidence in the system will be built up.

“All of us involved in politics know this, and the polling data confirms, that trust levels significantly improve in respect of politicians who are known.”