Cruddas and party funding
From a Tory perspective, this is an almighty cockup. It’s also, almost certainly, a criminal act, by Cruddas – and, if the line of authority can be shown, which will be harder, by those who authorised him; , but politically, it is a cockup.
No one should be surprised that this sort of thing happens; Cruddas cocked up by speaking directly rather than in circumlocutions: remember, guys, any potential donor could be a setup.
And, in truth, no one is surprised. Least of all Sir Christopher Kelly, who has recommended major reforms including the state funding of political parties – which we the voters will not tolerate.
It all leads to the continued erosion of public trust in politics. Even David Cameron saw this coming – if not this particular one, one very like it, sooner or later.
Lord Levy, the Labour fundraiser who got caught out selling peerages for the same purpose as Cruddas was selling Cameron invitations, tried to make the disingenuous claim on the Today programme this morning that somehow a private dinner was different to one at the private apartments of No 10. The Liberal Democrats would have long since been financially-bankrupt had they not taken a big donation from a corrupt Swiss commodity trader; but since they are now politically-bankrupt, particularly after their complicity in the trashing of the NHS, I don’t think we need concern ourselves too much with them. I predict that after 2015 they will have fewer seats in Parliament than they did in the 1950s.
The fact is that today’s overblown political parties need to spend money to stay competitive with each other. Labour has its guaranteed source of funding from the few remaining Trades Unions, and the Tories have always relied on commercial donations as much as from the membership fees of local associations. I don’t think you can directly compare the union political levy with corporate contributions, but both are problematic.
The answer, as I have said before, is quite clear. Firstly, we need to make all political parties utterly transparent financially, with all accounts published in full on-line, and we need to ban *all* donations to political parties, and make them rely on subscription income only. I might be prepared to concede that for the next two years the state should advance them a loan, with interest, jointly and severally secured against the personal guarantee of each of their Members of Parliament.
Relying on a few big donations rather than lots of very small membership dues will inevitably lead to compromises in order to secure those payments. No one believes that policy is not going to be affected by those donations – however convincing the assurances given to the contrary. The fact that it looks dodgy undermines our trust in politicians.
So if they have to start treating ordinary voters better, not just at election time but throughout the Parliament, in order to raise the money to fight the next election, democracy will be improved. They will have to make us engage with them to give them the money they need for an election. Which means they will have to tread us better .