I keep reading various sides of the argument over whether there should be state funding of political parties. What utter nonsense. Of course there shouldn't.
At the risk of sounding like a free marketeer (arrgh), surely the fairest and easiest system for everyone to understand is that parties are funded by their supporters. If the party hasn't got much money, surely that simply means that it hasn't got much support or hasn't been able to organise that support properly. (In which case, do we want them in government?)
What, exactly, is wrong with Labour being funded by unions and, consequently, being the party that advocates the interests of the working man/woman? What is wrong with the Conservatives being funded by the CBI and other wealthy donors and, consequently, being obliged to look after their interests? The minority parties will also have to seek their funding from their own members and/or interest groups or try to persuade donors to shift allegiance.
What I am advocating is that top-end politics is always made up of interest groups. Let's just be honest about it. Make all donations public, secret giving/lending to any party should be illegal. Make the whole process organic. Surely that is something approaching democracy and the public will understand who is who and what is what.
A couple of final points - if they do bring in state funding (that's making us pay for their machinations), our money will be going to all sorts of unsavoury people. The BNP have councillors, they will undoubtedly qualify for state funds. And do we really want to enshrine the status quo? Labour and the Tories will have no need to change anything if they get money without listening to who's paying; a vote in favour of state funding is a vote in favour of the status quo, and nothing will ever, ever change.