British and American ElectionsrnA Comparative Lookrnby Jeremy BlackrnIn June 1996, the funding of British poHtics came to frontpagernprominence with a controversy over the funding of po-rnUtical opposition to greater integration within the EuropeanrnUnion. This opposition, organized by Bill Cash, a backbenchrn(i.e., nonoffice-holding) Tory MP, was offered funds by SirrnJames Goldsmith, a very wealthy Anglo-French entrepreneurrnmostly resident outside Britain. This at once created controversy,rnbecause Goldsmith, anti-big government, pro-protectionism,rnand very opposed to European integration, had recentlyrnlaunched a Referendum Party, which insists on arnreferendum on the issue of integration. As Goldsmith had announcedrnthat his candidates would fight all MPs who were unwillingrnto support such a referendum. Cash was therefore bitterlyrncriticized within the Tory Party for taking money from arnpolitician opposed to many Tories. The controversy led him torndecline the donation, whereupon it was replaced by Mrs.rnThatcher, from the funds of the Thatcher Eoundation, a donationrntliat created fresh controversy.rnThe entire episode revealed aspects of the Americanizationrnof British politics. Goldsmith is a Perot figure, willing to use hisrngreat wealth to try to break the mold of two-party politics. Thernreferendum also indicates the rise of single-issue politics,rnwhich, while not unknown in British politics, has tended to bernsubsumed bv the coalition nature of British political parties.rnYet, despite these similarities, there are also major differencesrnbetween the funding of politics on both sides of the Atlantic.rnFirst, British politics is far cheaper, for three reasons: Britain is arnJeremy Black is a professor of history at the University ofrnDurham, England.rnmuch smaller country, and it is therefore easier to communicaterna political message on a national scale; the campaigningrnseason in Britain is far shorter; and third, public expectationsrnplay a major role. The public does not like extended campaigns,rnand is hostile toward the notion that elections can bernbought. There is considerably more unease, indeed opposition,rntoward expenditure on politics in Britain than there is in thernUnited States. Talk of campaign chests or donations excites disquiet,rnif not obloquy, and both major political parties are sensitivernon the issue. The Labour Party seeks to refute claims thatrnit is in the pockets of the trade unions, the Conservatives thatrnthe’ rely on business donations.rnA second major difference involves the party context. Britishrnpolitical parties play a greater role than their American counterparts,rnand they are certainly crucial in funding and expenditure,rnhidividual candidates play a much smaller role in bothrnthan in America. This, again, is a consequence of the smallerrnsize of the country and the less complex nature of its politics.rnPublic culture plays a role as well. Television channels arernobliged to air party political broadcasts free, and to allocate therntime available in relation to the political support of the individualrnparties. The slots are therefore dominated by Labour andrnthe Tories. However, there is also time for minority parties thatrnhave virtually no funds, including those representing cn’ironmentalist,rnfascist, and nationalist parties; thus both the Welshrnand the Scottish nationalist parties gain a British voice, orrnrather, attention, at that level. Free political broadcasts on television,rnallocated in accordance with electoral appeal, reflect arnpolitical culture that is somewhat different from that of thernUnited States. The role of teleision ad’ertising is also affectedrnNOVEMBER 1996/25rnrnrn