The Thick of It


Wednesday, March 03, 2010


Lord Ashcroft probably thought that by ending years of speculation and announcing his status as a non-dom that after a couple of days of hysteria, the story would be killed. So far the hullabaloo around Ashcroft's tax status has grown rather than diminished. This is a problem for the Tories and politics generally because his donations to the Tory election fund open suggestions that his money is 'buying' the election. Cash for honours and covert funding of political parties undermines confidence in the UK's political process.

The Ashcroft affair suggest politics can be bought. With a high number of extremely marginal seats fought in this year's election increased funding for local campaigns from Ashcroft's money will be able to make a key difference. Aside from the promises he is said to have made about paying tax in the UK to gain a peerage, Ashcroft's money raises  serious questions about the influence of private money over our elections.

Michael White highlights how it isn't just the non-dom problem that is an issue here. It is the influence of someone who doesn't pay tax here having over Tory policy making and campaigning in marginal seats: "Ashcroft is using what should have been taxpayers' money to finance his campaign in the marginals". This affair also leaves serious questions unanswered abut Ashcroft's influence over Cameron and Hague - the latter of which also recommended convicted fraudster Conrad Black for a peerage whilst Tory leader. 

State funding of politics would ensure that accusations over political donations, such as those by Lord Ashcroft, would be banished. A fully elected second chamber would also banish the potential to buy influence in our legislature. James Purnell, a sad loss to the commons, agrees. Only this way can we start to restore faith in our politics.

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Idle Pen Pusher said...

That Michael White comment just shows what a knob he is. The money was taxpayer's money by virtue of the fact it wasn't expropriated by the looters. What a seriously dumb comment. Why "should" he have paid more tax than he was obliged to by law?

Labour get money that "should have" been fed to the greedy beast, too. The reason Labour are getting their brown-stained knickers in a twist over not very much at all is the fact they're scared he's an effective campaigner. It's almost a mirror image of the Tories making a fuss over Mandelson 13 years ago.

State funding would ensure that tax would have to be raised to pay even more to politicians.

An elected upper chamber would ensure it was full of venal, corrupt, preening career politicians just like the Commons. If you think a British 'Senate' would banish money (ie, other people's time) from politics, you're mad!

Tim McLoughlin said...

Don't you think that state funding is a price worth paying to stamp out sleaze?

Idle Pen Pusher said...

No - practically, it would entrench incumbancy which is the last thing British politics needs. Morally, it would attack freedom of expression. Again, a fresh assault on remaining liberties is not what we need.

I would support a law permitting donations only from those on the electoral roll. Why should union and company bosses spend their memebers' shareholders' money on political donations? If they want to give money, they can give their own.

Tim McLoughlin said...

The Labour Party will never accept an end to union funding after all it was the unions that created the Labour party to represent them. At the same time the Tories are intent on keeping individual donors. The only way out of this is to make all funding independent.

Idle Pen Pusher said...

Apart from unions and businesses (and other organisations), funding is independent. What could be more 'independent' than a free man donating to a party through his own free will an amount which his conscience alone determined under no duress from any authority?

I really don't see the problem with someone freely giving money to a political party and deciding himself how much to give. I do have a problem with the state snatching money out of people's possession and giving it to political parties according to some filthy little formula cooked up by a bunch of cretins on green and red benches.