Thoughts on politics and life from a liberal perspective

Wednesday, 28 March 2012

The next time there is a funding scandal under this system we should force the leader to resign

Cash for questions. Cash for influence. Cash for peerages. Cash for dinners.

I don't know about you but I'm utterly sick of it.

I've been following politics very closely for years. I have always voted and more recently got more deeply involved with the party I am ideologically closest to. I think some of my friends and family consider my interest in this somewhat eccentric. I have found it a struggle on occasion to convince people I know outside politics to even vote let alone engage on anything like the level I do.

How much harder it is to convince people of the value of our politics when some bloke working on behalf of one of our major political parties is caught on camera claiming to be able to sell the ability to influence the Prime Minister for £250 grand.

Sadly it is far from the first time this sort of thing has happened. I have literally lost count of the number of funding and influence type scandals that have cropped up in the 20 or so years I have been following politics.

There has been some tinkering around the edges with registers of interests and a few other attempts at safeguards but the same old problems keep occurring again and again. It is because our system lends itself too easily to this sort of thing. There is no cap on donations and the parties have long since stopped being mass member organisations able to essentially fund themselves from their members.

There is nothing inevitable about this. Organisations like the RSPB and the National Trust have millions of members. I know they have particular hooks but with more imagination there is no reason why our political parties cannot get more members.

As my good friend Emma pointed out on the Total Politics blog this week if we had reform to cap donations the parties would have to find ways of increasing their memberships. Perhaps, shock horror, they might even have to give them good reasons to become and remain members.

We know our current system is broken. Peter Watt writing on Labour Uncut this week tells of how politicians effectively sub out these "dark arts" to party functionaries who have lots of pressure heaped on them to get results and a sort of "don't ask don't tell" omerta operates. Until the shit hits the fan of course at which point the hapless functionary is cast out as a bad apple/rotten egg. The politicians plead ignorance and promise to look into reform. The parties are unwilling to compromise and the whole process starts all over again. Ad infinitum/nauseum.


As far as I am concerned a line in the sand should now be drawn. The next time there is a funding scandal under this system. The next time someone is caught offering to sell influence to the highest bidder we should call for the resignation of the leader of that party. Not the hapless functionary (they'll be out on their ear anyway). The leader.

The leader who has had opportunities to reform the system and declined to do so. The leader who has decided that their supposed party interest should trump propriety in politics.

There comes a point when "unintended consequences" are no longer unintended. We have now reached that point. It is clear they are built into the system.

I don't care who this leader is. Cameron, Clegg or Miliband. Each of them has the power to do something about this. If the others won't compromise they should go it alone. They will soon shame their opponents into action and can genuinely claim to be acting for the greater good.

But if they choose not to they should reap the consequences.

So I call on all activists of all parties and none who are utterly sick of how these scandals taint us all to pledge with me to call strongly for the resignation of the leader of any party including their own the next time there is a scandal if they have not taken steps to reform funding either multilaterally or unilaterally.

They have had their opportunities to do this. No more excuses. No more chances.

Fix the system. Or pay the price.


Anonymous said...

A lot of people on the left wing of politics seem to think that taxpayer funding of political parties is the way to go.
If you wish to see where this leads, may I suggest that you look to Greece.
The parties, this year, received 52million euros between them and they have managed to build up a debt pile of 245 million euro. They tried to pass a law to give themselves a favourable lending rate from the banks to reduce their costs.
This direction is not the way to go.

Giolla Decair said...

We also shouldn't forget that this cash in hand economy is depriving the exchequer of valuable taxes and thus tantamount to killing grannies.

Anonymous said...

The problem is that as they all do it (they have to: the system requires it, given public funding is a non-starter), you're effectively saying that the person who has the bad luck to be the next one touched by scandal should go, even though they may have done nothing worse than any of the others.

That doesn't sound very just to me.