Sunday, February 15, 2009

David Cameron on State Funding & the Internet

In the March issue of Total Politics I've got a lengthy interview with David Cameron. Here's what he had to say about state funding of political parties (hurrah, it ain't gonna happen), campaigning on the internet, and his own website viewing habits....
ID: What can the internet bring to your campaigning over the next 18 months?
DC: We ought to be doing a lot more and a lot better. Let’s look at the positive side. The Conservative website is now good. Webcameron was at least a start and ahead of what some other parties have done. We use quite a lot of internet devices to launch policies, but we still have a long way to go before we are up with the best. It’s boring and trite to say it, but what Obama achieved with bringing together campaigning, advertising and fundraising all in the same place was fantastic. So often in politics people think these things are all separate. We’d really like to do more of that.
ID: That’s not happening on the Conservative website, is it?
DC: No, but we are working on it. Could we do more in terms of people who want to help through internet contact – ring these ten numbers, organise a house meeting? Clearly, yes. Can we really go to a small, individual fundraising model? Well, we can try, and we should try, but actually when you look at Obama, he still raised quite a lot of big money from other sources.
ID: But if you want to impose a £50,000 donation cap, you’ve got to make up the shortfall somewhere and the internet is the only way you can do it.
DC: It is. There is no enthusiasm for state funding. I would like to have the cap at £50,000 and I have always argued that if you can deliver that, then there might be some legitimisation of some limited state funding, but at a time of straightened public finances it’s about the last thing you want to spend any money on. So I absolutely recognise we will need to do better on small donations. Could that be accompanied by some sort of tax relief on donations to encourage giving? Maybe that’s one answer. What we want is parties that have, as a matter of course, to engage massively with people in order to win support and win donations at the same time. Any reform has got to be focused on that. Yes, we do still take some very big donations because we have to compete with the Labour Party who can literally pick up the phone to three unions and get the money, but we have massively broadened the number of people giving £50,000.
ID: Do you think the reason politicians don’t embrace the internet is that they fear it? They see the threats rather than the opportunities?
DC: Yes. That’s true. It’s a problem. I am of a generation that didn’t grow up with the internet. My first job did not have a PC on the desk but I am now completely computer literate. I spend a long time on the internet – shopping. I buy holidays and presents on the internet. A lot of the family shopping is done on the internet. I enjoy the political blogosphere. I think it has enlivened things. There’s an awful lot of crap and gossip…
ID: That’s enough about my blog…
DC: [laughs] No, no… I think if you look at some of the stories you have broken, or Guido, it has enlivened politics and debate and democracy. It’s great. So then the politician thinks, well, how do we make sure we avoid the danger of getting left out of the picture unless we use all tools of communication. We’ve got to work out how we do it. You do have to be a bit careful because politicians do have to be responsible for the words which come out of their mouths. Being a politician is not the same as being a journalist.
ID: Would you encourage candidates and MPs to have blogs, recognising the risks that there are?
DC: Yes I would, but I would encourage them to be responsible. The one person they can be absolutely sure is reading their blog is Derek Draper and his team of henchmen.
ID: Are you ever tempted to comment, even anonymously, if you see a particular vicious attack on you?
DC: No. You get frustrated when someone misses the point, particularly in a complicated argument. In politics you’ve got to have a feel for what’s going on but you mustn’t allow yourself to get obsessed by any one thing. The BBC site is good, I look at Guido, your blog, and I think the Spectator Coffee House is bloody good. I also love Willem Buiter’s blog on the FT site. I tend to look at them on the Blackberry in the back of a car.
More from the interview over the next few days.


Unsworth said...

Cameron refers to Draper having a 'team of henchmen'. How many in this 'team' do we suppose? And, given Draper's glaringly limited standards of intellect who might these neanderthals be?

I'm not convinced. If the likely quality of comment is that which we have seen to date I don't think Conservative MPs have very much to fear from Draper. Indeed, it might even help their positions if these henchpersons do write in. They'll provide light entertainment, if nothing else.

The Grim Reaper said...

A team of henchmen at LabourList? So far as I can tell, Dolly's staff there appear to consist of monkeys who press buttons at random. It would certainly explain his moderation policy. Oh, and monkeys pissing on Draper's shoes yet again would certainly explain some of his hysterical rants recently.

Interesting interview from that snippet. From what I've seen of Total Politics, you might just have won a new reader to your magazine, Iain.

Unknown said...

You mean.......David Cameron is here? :O

Hey Dave! *waves*

edf said...

A bit O/T but remember PMQs a few months ago when Cameron made some comment about not paying bonuses to city bankers because of the financial mess, and Brown getting in a cheap shot about opportunism.. and getting a cheqp laugh for it. Well now DC and the Tories should be throwing that right back in his face now bonuses are at the top of the agenda.. haven't seen it happen yet tho'.

Chucklenuts said...

If nothing else, Desperate Derek and his Band of Window Lickers provided me with lots of free entertainment over on Guido's while it lasted.

Andrew Allison said...

Thank goodness we have David Cameron as leader. He is someone who is who acutely aware of the role of new media in modern political life. He may not know exactly which way to go, but he will have the best team around him and I'm sure as a party we will go into the next general election ahead of the other parties in this respect.

Oldrightie said...

I am looking forward to a Conservative Government but we still have 16 months or so of Snotty Brown's scorched earth scenario, to go.

Jimmy said...

Is there anyone in your party not obsessed with Draper?

Daniel Blythe said...

Interesting stuff and thanks for posting it. But one hopes he thinks the public finances are currently "straitened" and not "straightened". Because the latter would imply they had at some point been bent. And we couldn't have that.

Chucklenuts said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

I hope when the Tories win the next election, Cameron will auction off Brown's farmy-farm set asap!

Brown at work can be seen here:

Simon Gardner said...

I have always thought public funding of parties (OK there’s already a bit of it) to be electorally mad. It would be deeply unpopular with the public and just make politicians even more resented than they already are.

OTOH we end up with the corruption of our bankrupt politicians - always chasing funders (particularly the wealthy). But public funding is no guarantee of probity. Just look what went on in Paris - notably when Chirac was Paris mayor*. And they’ve had problems in Germany to, I seem to recall.

To have political parties in the modern age (which you have to) they have to be financed. The question is always how?

You report Cameron as wanting to fund Obama-style over the net. (Or even Dr Howard Dean-style - for he did it before Obama.) This has been talked about by British politicians for at least a decade.

It won’t happen.

British politics is not like US politics and never will be. I worked in the US 2004 presidential election and the contrasts are deep. A campaign is built round one person who raises the funds for him/herself rather than for a party. Individuals running at state or other national level do the same. Supporters feel a link with one person. In contrast, here it’s the party. In the US an organisation is built ad hoc as each election happens.

People in the US also identify as ‘Republicans’, ‘Democrats’ (or Independents) and the entire system is built round it - notably the primaries. Here most members of the public (beyond the committed) would look askance if you asked them if they were a ‘Conservative’ etc. OK they might always vote one way but that’s it. They would never dream of actually giving money or heaven forfend getting involved. US citizens get ‘all political’ every four years or whatever and there’s general mass participation. That just doesn’t happen here and won’t.

Instead we have dwindling party memberships.

However I note than if you ask the average man in the street, many of them think the parties are already publicly funded.

The Lib Dems have had a long-standing policy in favour of state funding of parties (well they would - wouldn’t they). Personally I have always thought their policy was daft and very unpopular.

*The last I heard Chirac was still facing possible prosecution.

ukipwebmaster said...

No state funding for political parties. So Dave agrees with the fruitcakes?

Plenty said...

So he took JPs advice then and gor a Blackberry?

Cynic said...

Oh the fun to be had on Draper's folly this weekend. He has been having a Golliwog moment himself

While ranting at Guido for allowing racist jokes he began to abuse those who disagreed with them, calling them 'window lickers' - a term of abuse normally directed at children with learning disabilities especially Downs syndrome.

When first challenged his response was 'Oh I didn't know that' but since then silence. He wont respond to posts on the subject and won't take down the very offensive comments.

Twig said...

Are there any state funded organistions that haven't become corrupt and wasteful?

Any amount given to political parties would be the thin end of the wedge, and before long we would be into the millions, then tens of millions, hundreds of millions and then BBC la la land.