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March 12, 2006

Pounds for Peerages

Yet more on Tone’s Crones:

The confidential loan arrangements have been revealed by Chai Patel, chief executive of the Priory healthcare group and a party supporter who has donated £100,000 to Labour.

He discloses today that he was asked by a senior Labour fundraiser to provide an unsecured loan even though he was prepared to give a donation.

Within weeks of agreeing to the £1.5m loan, he was told he had been nominated by Blair for a peerage. He was advised by Labour officials that he did not have to disclose the loan.

If he had given the money as a donation, it would have had to be declared to the Electoral Commission and published, so exposing Labour to a potential cash-for-honours controversy.

In an interview with The Sunday Times, Patel said “there is clearly a history here and a reality of peerages for fundraising. The public has a right to be sceptical.”

Patel, 51, said he might have been prepared to convert the loan into a donation at a later date, which means it would not be publicised until long after he had been awarded an honour.

No, no, of course, not, there’s nothing corrupt about this, nothing dodgy at all. Afterall, the rules are being scrupulously followed, are they not? That is, in a box ticking culture, what is important. The rules, not the appearance nor the effect, not the underlying reality, just that the pencil licker can mark off the tick in the appropriate place.

What is far more worrying:

The latest revelations are bound to spark renewed debate about the way political parties are funded.

Sir Sigmund Sternberg, a Labour donor, said yesterday: “Payments to political parties should not be left to individuals which would avoid a lot of these problems.”

Even Lord Levy, Blair’s fundraiser, now believes state funding may be the only solution.

Bollocks. Once the State bureaucracy gets to decide who is and who is not a politician, worthy of support from said bureaucracy, only those with views acceptable to said bureaucracy will be able to be politicians.

 

March 12, 2006 in Politics | Permalink

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Comments

I couldn't agree more. The problem with letting lawyers without principle into parliament is the first thing they do is look at the rules governing their own conduct to try and find the loopholes. The only way to stop this sort of behaviour is to teach the corrupt nomenclatura that this sort of behaviour is unacceptable. Since they are incapable or unwilling to do it themselves there needs to be another method.

Whether that's a Parliamentary Watchdog with the power to order the resignation of any MP; or simply more press exposure and public condemnation at elections I do not know. State funding of parties is most definately not the answer.

What else is obvious, though, is that the moral compasses of politicians have swung markedly from the likes of John Profumo, who admitted his guilt, resigned and then spent his life trying, very quietly, to pay something back to the society he felt he had betrayed. I can't imagine Ms Jowell ever resigning and spending the next 40 years serving food to down and outs in the East End. She might do it for a couple of nights so that the press could get a couple of pictures and to boost her book sales though.

RM

Posted by: The Remittance Man | Mar 12, 2006 12:30:03 PM

You seem a bit confused. You're opposed to reform of the way political parties are funded, and oppose the idea of an elected second chamber, yet then get appalled at the direct consequence of both.

Posted by: James Graham | Mar 12, 2006 12:40:53 PM

Jim,

Opposing a particular method of reforming the something is not to oppose reform in itself.

Virtually everyone in politics complains about the political elite becoming detatched from the electorate. Moving their funding further away from that same electorate is hardly likely to improve matters. More openess and reliance on party membership should be the way to go.

On the subject of Lords reform, Tony's modern version of rotten boroughs is hardly a step in a more democratic direction. What we need is a democratic solution that provides a second chamber unsoiled by the grubby issues surrounding the lower one.

In my own opinion the elected Lords should have a single term limit on sitting (one seven year term) and there should be a ban on former holders of political office standing for the Lords. Similarly no former Lord should be able to accept any government position (elected or not) once he has left the Lords. All votes in the Elected HOL should be without party coercion.

The Parliament Act should be repealed, and except in specific cases of national emergency (and possibly the budget) a bill moving from Commons to Lords should sit in limbo for 12 months before being read in the second chamber.

Now what in those two proposals do you see as being anti reform?

RM

Posted by: The Remittance Man | Mar 12, 2006 1:45:06 PM

RM, I was answering Tim not you. Sorry for not making that clear.

Posted by: James Graham | Mar 12, 2006 3:51:50 PM

Both my parents were keenly interested in politics and I can plainly recall being taken to watch them vote at the general election on 5 July 1945. One consequence is that I've been interested in politics ever since. Another is that I can't ever recall a time since then until now when so many adverse media reports circulated about bad governance and pervasive corruption in government. There was once a time when ministers took responsibility for mishaps and bad administration in their departments - as Alistair Darling, now minister of transport, very properly reminded a HoC select committee hearing in 2000:

"Perhaps I am rather old fashioned, and I suffer from having studied constitutional law when I was at university, but certainly it used to be the case - going back to Critchell Downs and all that - that Ministers were responsible for their Departments."
http://www.parliament.the-stationery-office.co.uk/pa/cm199900/cmselect/cmpubadm/uc433/uc43302.htm


Try pages 7/8 in this chapter about the constitutional conventions: http://www.nadr.co.uk/articles/published/ConstitutionalLaw/Chapter005Conventions.pdf

Posted by: Bob B | Mar 12, 2006 4:05:57 PM

Tim - then whole idea os state funding is to entrench more power in the bureaucracy, which is structurally left wing.

Posted by: Martin Hague | Mar 12, 2006 4:33:33 PM

Martin,

It depends on the system for state funding. Opponents of public funding like to ignore the fact that the debate has moved on and no-one is arguing for block grants to parties, or such like these days.

Power, for example, just suggested a voucher system whereby individuals would get to give £3 to a party of their choice (or, if they want, to nobody) at the same time as casting their vote. The other main suggestions being touted at the moment are tax relief, matched funding on donations and a registered supporter scheme.

All of these schemes have a common denominator which is that they are elective: it is up to individuals to use a proportion of their tax to spend on the political party of their choice, or not. The bureaucrats get very little of a look in.

Slogans about giving a structurally left wing bureaucracy too much power are fine and dandy, but they don't actually have any meaning in the debate as it is currently being conducted.

Posted by: James Graham | Mar 13, 2006 12:13:17 AM