Ashcroft, Paul and Murdoch
The MPs expenses scandal has slowly begun to bring home to politicians that times are changing and transparency is now a requirement. So, ten years too late, Lord Ashcroft admits that he is a non-dom, while on the other side of the chamber, Lord Paul, another non-dom, is made a Privy Councillor.
There’s little that I can add that hasn’t been said already. Both main parties are in the wrong; and the LibDems can’t make too much noise about it for fear of drawing attention to their own murky fundraising.
It seems to me quite clear that while no rules have been broken, the trust between us and our rulers (and would-be rulers) has yet again been betrayed. It’s not difficult to see why it is so offensive that our laws might be made and influenced by people who aren’t domiciled here. It’s much less about the donations than it is about legislators choosing not to follow the rules they set for the rest of us. David Cameron has proposed just such a law, but – conveniently – it won’t apply until after the election, when Lord Ashcroft will probably resign his peerage and go back to not paying taxes in Belize, a country he practically owns, having bought the required number of votes in the marginal constituencies to see Cameron home.
While Ashcroft’s influence, as one of the Tories’ deputy chairs, is pernicious, it is substantially less dangerous than Rupert Murdoch’s. What applies to legislators should equally apply to the Fourth Estate, whose influence today is on a par with that of the Second and Third and has totally eclipsed the First.