Party funding: should Corbyn play the same game?

As the government tries to financially ‘cripple’ Labour but  protect its own income, Ayesha Hazarika argues “It’s not selling out to try to save the finances of the Labour Party”.

“Scandal”, says Times columnist Rachel Sylvester, explaining that the government wants to require union members to “opt in” to give money to political parties, “a small but critical change which is likely to cost Labour up to £6 million every year”. The Treasury has also announced cuts of almost 20% to the money paid to opposition parties to help them with their parliamentary costs.

She adds that though the system is ‘ripe for reform’, Government is doing nothing to limit the large donations from wealthy individuals on which the Conservative party’s income depends.

adam fleming event videoAdam Fleming addresses guests arriving at a 2015 fund-raiser – the most high-profile missed as they ‘snuck in the back’ – video here.

But it’s no laughing matter. An un-named MP said, “There are so many of us within the Conservative party who are sick of having to chat up hedge fund people — it distorts everything. We should use this opportunity to cleanse the whole system and show we are not the party of the rich.”

At one fund-raising event, it was reported, the table plan listed two bosses of firms embroiled in the Libor-rigging scandal, a bankrupt tycoon, a landlord whose ban from acting as a company director had only recently ended and a financier who had been fined in the 1990s for insider dealing.

Jess Garland (ERS) in an LSE blog also notes the large donations from individuals and groups of donors and politely comments, “That political parties are sustained by just a handful of individuals makes unfair influence a very real possibility”.

‘Possibility’ or fact? Do not most political decisions benefit, directly or indirectly, the wealthy?

gravy trainIn 2011, the Committee on Standards in Public Life recommended a £10,000 cap on individual donations alongside the introduction of an “opt in” system for union political funds. A recent poll by the Electoral Reform Society found that 77% of voters think that big donors have too much influence over politics and 72% think the system of party funding is “corrupt and should be changed” — up from 61% two years ago.

A Lords cross-party select committee is to hold ‘evidence sessions’ and examine the party funding anomaly, reporting back by the end of the month.

When it reports in a few weeks’ time, it is likely to recommend that ministers either drop or re-write the party funding clauses in the Trade Union Bill.

Conceding that the financing of politics is ripe for reform Ms Sylvester ends: “The government should take this opportunity to think again, abandon its one-sided initiative and draw up a proper proposal for reform of party funding. There should be a cap on political donations across the board — that would cover Labour’s trade union backers but also the Tories’ super-rich City friends”.

Lobbyists, politicians, civil servants, bankers and corporate advisers are promoting corporate influence over government and public institutions; not only have individual politicians been publicly shamed, the ‘revolving doors’ have been spinning rapidly and many, elected to serve the public, neglect this mandate to enhance the fortunes of the already wealthy.

Should Corbyn join them?

Posted on February 4, 2016, in Conflict of interest, Corporate political nexus, Democracy undermined, Finance, Government, Inequality, Lobbying, MPs, Parliamentary failure, Party funding, Planning, Politics, Revolving door, Secret State, Taxpayers' money, Vested interests and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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