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Ben Clift and Justin Fisher, "Comparative Party Finance Reform: The Cases of France and Britain," Party Politics, 10 (November, 2004), 677-699.

First Paragraph:
In Britain, until February 2001, when the Political Parties, Elections and Referendums Act 2000 came into force, the funding regime was still shaped by the Corrupt and Illegal Practices (Prevention) Act 1883. In France, in the first 30 years after the formation of the Fifth Republic, party funding had not been the subject of any legislative attention. In both cases, prior to reform, the funding regime was characterized by a distinctly laissez-faire approach, and an attachment to voluntarist values. Indeed, one initial hurdle to overcome in party funding reform was that parties in Britain and France were not even recognized as legal entities. In this article we explore the similarities and differences between the respective reform processes in France and Britain. The desire to reform the regime regulating party finance in France provoked a bout of 'legislative incontinence' - resulting in over eight laws in seven years, while in Britain there is just the Political Parties, Elections and Referendums Act 2000 to draw upon. We focus on comparing the initial French propositions with the British reforms, concentrating on a number of instruments of party funding reform, selected by the criteria of degree of significance and comparability.

Figures and Tables:
Table 1. Instruments and mechanisms of reforms

Last Paragraph:
In conclusion, this article has demonstrated that new institutionalism (or at least some forms of it) provides a persuasive framework for analysis of party finance reform. The focus of much work on constitutional engineering is too narrowly focused. We are not hostile to the use of rational choice theory (far from it) - rather we argue simply that it does not provide a convincing explanation for institutional change in these examples. Thus, we may characterize the reforms enacted of political finance in Britain and France as 'the deliberate interventions of purposive goal-seeking agents' (Goodin, 1996: 25). In the light of these findings, we argue that the notion of constitutional engineering should be conceived more widely, and analysts should extend their gaze to include the instruments, mechanisms and consequences of party funding regimes.