Every summer the political quiet time begins with the Electoral Commission's release of party accounts for the year previous. For political anoraks it's an opportunity to pick over the financial standing of one's opponents during the previous year, and for those of us specialising in the ultra-niche domain of the leftist trainspotter, it provides a chance to see how the Trots and Tankies who've embraced bourgeois legality are doing in terms of members and funds.
2009's accounts continues the established tradition of fining the BNP for late submission, again. Unfortunately it means income and expenditure for their "breakthrough" year remains clouded in smoke until the Commission have finally received them. You could be forgiven for thinking something crooked's going on ...
Before the main course of far left party accounts, I know some readers will be interested in the starter: the incomings and outgoings of the three main parties and the 'major' minor parties:
Conservative Party Income £41,984,000 Expenditure £37,154,000
Green Party Income £813,841 Expenditure £813,382
Labour Party Income £26,798,000 Expenditure £24,732,000
Liberal Democrats Income £6,497,013 Expenditure £6,679,089
Plaid Cymru Income £798,805 Expenditure £768,982
Scottish National Party Income £1,842,127 Expenditure £1,737,609
Sinn Féin Income £1,177,727 Expenditure £1,183,693
Ulster Unionist Party Income £392,868 Expenditure £357,430
UK Independence Party Income £1,221,422 Expenditure £1,201,617
You can compare previous years at a glance on these charts. There's nothing really to note except the Labour party were in dire financial straits - but we knew that already. And I see the LibDems had to sell some of the family silver to fight the European elections.
But anyway without further ado, let's look at the far left's accounts. All +/- are on 2008 figures.
Alliance for Green Socialism Income £11,864 (-£658) Expenditure £12,582 (+£4,226)
Alliance for Workers Liberty Income £63,856 (N/A) Expenditure £65,544 (N/A)
Communist Party of Britain Income £102,499 (-£84,034) Expenditure £149,073 (+£10,853)
Left List Income £15,967 (-£87,806) Expenditure £3,040 (-£81,513)
Respect Income £32,852 (-£3,385) Expenditure £40,277 (+£126) (Members 1,085 (+591))
Scottish Socialist Party Income £72,228 (-£5,939) Expenditure £69,258 (+£324)
Socialist Labour Party Income £11,705 (+£2,450) Expenditure £9,466 (+£3,342) (Members 3,194)
Solidarity Income £38,424 (-£8,285) Expenditure £37,494 (-£8,814)
The major decline in the CPB's income isn't as bad as it appears. In 2008 their monies were temporarily boosted by a one off legacy of 70-odd grand. However, going over the accounts show an absence of Halpin's millions. Of course, it's up to her how she spends her cash, but she could afford to give the party she's been a member of all her adult life a nice wadge of dosh. It begs the question, why ever not? Is it because she has no confidence in the dozy old outfit?
SSP folk gearing up to refight the fratricidal battles of the Scottish left ahead of Tommy Sheridan's court appearance will find welcoming ammunition in the accounts. The SSP and Solidarity finances have more or less stabilised and neither are looking down the barrel of bankruptcy. Well, financially at least. I was struck by a particularly stupid and arrogant comment in Solidarity's accounts. Quite why they had to boast to a faceless Electoral Commission bureaucrat that they are the biggest force on the Scottish far left is beyond me. Especially as a comparison shows their income is approximately half that of their erstwhile SSP comrades. For those surveying the scene without sectarian blinkers fixed, it is entirely reasonable to assume the members' base is half theirs too.
The SLP's submission tickled me. It claims to have 3,194 members in total - 150 affiliated and 3,044 individual. I'm pretty sure the comrades are being a little economical with the truth. Swapping the individual for the affiliated figures around is closer to the mark. Long-time sect watchers will remember how Arthur Scargill wielded the 3,000-strong bloc vote of the North West, Cheshire, and Cumbria Miners' Association to see off pesky oppositionists. It's fair to assume this is now clumsily being used to give the impression the SLP has a sizable membership (by far left standards) rather than being the hollow shell it actually is.
The accounts give Respect some cheer. Despite a minority who were switched onto No2EU in last year's European elections (incidentally, no No2EU accounts were filed), 2009 was a period of consolidation. Finances have stabilised since the catastrophic split with the SWP and its membership more than doubled over the course of the year. Now Labour are in opposition I wonder if Respect can maintain this momentum under the coalition government? I doubt it.
This brings me to the Left List, the SWP's electoral front that contested the London Assembly elections in 2008 as an anti-Galloway spoiler. Its accounts make confusing reading. For all intents and purposes the front ceased to be after the elections. The Left List didn't rear its head in the European elections nor at any time since. So what campaigns did it spend £3,040 on in 2009? Also included are a number of general office costs - again, for what? And lastly, some £13,600 came in as individual members' donations (this is put under the 'donations below £200' category'), implying there was a Left List appeal of some sort. But there's been nary a mention of it in Socialist Worker since the 2008 contest. What's going on?