Tuesday, March 21, 2006

SWAG bags

You may get the impression that I'm bashing the Tories almost every post at the minute - I'm not really, it's just the issues that have caught my eye recently.

Take the cash-for-peerages debate at the minute. I could easily write a post attacking Labour sleaze, but then everybody is doing that and frankly we don't expect much more these days. Labour has been badly wounded by this scandal, but for me, the more interesting thing has been the resulting debate about party funding as a whole. Therefore, what caught my eye far more, was the fact that Tories have announced that they will not be revealing the sources of their loans.

Now that is interesting. Because it means that whilst the Tories are rightly attacking Labour for the way they've gone about their finances, the Tories clearly have something to hide themselves by not publishing their own list. This is of concern for obvious reasons, but also because the Conservative party gets around two thirds of it's funding from donations, whereas Labour's total donations account for only about one third. Labour has been caught with it's pants down with the consequence that they've been forced to reveal their list, but at least they've done it. Just because the Tories don't have peerages to give out doesn't excuse from the fact that their finances must still be kept in order. Which, of course, they probably are, but with everything kept closely to their chest, we'll never know.

Basically, we need far clearer funding of our political parties, without the possibility of loopholes which allow funding to continue via side channels. Personally, I think that the only way to keep political financing transparent is to make public all incoming monies over some reasonably small amount of money like, say, £5000.And that includes gifts and cash in kind like big parties and functions as well as loans and donations. If people want their donations kept quiet, then everybody else should probably be asking why they don't want their political affiliations known.

Alternatively of course, the parties could just get their membership up and get more money in through membership fees. It isn't going to happen, but if it did, it might go some way to convincing people that politics is about the people rather than about a small cadre of millionaire businessmen and the politicians they can influence with their money.


Bob Piper said...

..."Just because the Tories don't have peerages to give out"

Errm, yes, they do actually. The opposition parties also nominate peers... and I think we all know why the Tories won't name their benefactors.

Jonn Elledge said...

Both parties have an interest in keeping the status quo, unfortunately.