Party Finance and Corruption:
The British system of party finance is remarkably unregulated. Its development has been characterized by pragmatic evolution and yet the level of scandal and corruption surrounding British party finance has been surprisingly low during the last seventy years. However, a new review seems likely to change the whole face of British party finance. The recommendations by the Committee on Standards in Public Life signal a huge sea change in terms of regulation and established practice. In order to understand the importance of the new proposals, however, it is essential to examine the evolution of party finance and the system currently in operation. This chapter will therefore examine first the development of British party finance, second the scope for corruption which the system has engendered and finally, the attempts at reform which have occurred.
In his study of British political finance from the early nineteenth century, Pinto-Duschinsky identifies three phases of development in party fund-raising: the aristocratic era; the plutocratic era and the modern era (Pinto-Duschinsky, 1981:15). Developments in recent years suggest that a new era of political finance may well be upon us — the post-modern era.