The intervention by Ken Clarke on this subject in todays Observer seems to miss on several levels: Firstly to suggest that the “Tory party must shun wealthy donors to avoid scandal” is entirely out of touch. The scandal is already a reality and I suspect that these donors will be a great deal more difficult to disconnect from the Party than the optimistic Ken Clarke suggests in his article. They have already made their investment and they are not going to walk away without a return that they are willing to accept. That is why this issue is so toxic.
Then there is a failure in suggesting that what is needed is a cap on donors and public funding to make up the difference. Public funding is already in place, and if anything some of this needs to be removed, not increased. At present we provide around £8M a year to the major political parties. Most of this goes to the opposition party(s) to rebalance the income provided by the taxpayer to the Government who of course get funding in the form of Cabinet salaries and chauffer driven cars. It seems clear that this funding is unnecessary, just as most of the spending on the cars are unnecessary. In any event the funding is in addition to the salaries and expenses paid to our MPs and Lords, all of which reflects and helps to fund those working for the parties.
It is clear that all Political Parties need to have a robust cap on individual or third party donations. This needs to be low enough to avoid each organisation or individual from being seen to buy influence with people who may go on to set our laws. There must also be an end to large fundraising events when powerful individuals can pay to go shopping with Cabinet Ministers or have dinner on the table with party dignitaries. That is where the corruption looks most extreme. The names of those who attend the so called Black and White ball is kept out of the public domain, yet the Tory party claim they are committed to transparency.
One of the most insidious parts of the political funding debate is the link between political parties and the honours system. It is clear that this must be ended immediately.
Finally we need a reality check. I ran a campaign for election and spent 1% of the sum spent by the winning candidate, yet I received around half as many votes. I spent 7% of the amount spent by the candidate who came second yet we each received a similar number of votes. The parties claim they need to spend Millions on campaigns and on the organisation of their parties. This is pure nonsense. If I can campaign on such a small sum, then the parties could do the same. That they won’t is the real corruption and why Ken is too late to avoid the scandal he is so concerned about.