This week a number of issues have arisen at the same time which all point to how tawdry the political parties have made our democracy. The challenge here in the UK is of course a pale reflection of the distressing and obscene situation in the USA. However we are still traveling fast down a slope towards the point where money matters far more than is appropriate in my view, and that of other people I have spoken to. We have the reports from Michael Crick of the Conservative Party diverting funding that is nominally meant for national campaigning actually being spent on local campaigns, riding roughshod over the local campaigning rules that are put in place by these same parties to imply that our democracy is open to anyone who is eligible to stand. In reality whilst money does not buy votes, it can be used to make them much easier to be cast in one way or another. Last night I watched the interview by Jon Snow with Nigel Farage over the Crick investigation. It was clear from their conversation that you and I cannot rely on parties such as UKIP or Labour to complain about the abuses by the Conservatives, essentially because all of these parties are as complicit as one another in this corrupt abuse of our democracy. Meanwhile as I was watching these two men speaking people like Charlie Mullins and Iain Duncan Smith where being photographed at the Black and White Ball, which according to the Independent newspaper raised £2M less than was originally hoped. The paper did not state how much was raised and indeed secrecy is at the heart of this annual fundraiser. As Sir Alistair Graham, former chairman of the committee for standards in public life, said: “It is worrying that the Conservative party, the party of government, should continue to hold fundraising events in such ‘hole in the corner’ manner. What the public does not know, and has a right to know, [is] that these events are taking place together with who is attending, from both the industries and the government – so we can track, over the forthcoming months, if policy sweeteners have been promised as an incentive to attract donations.”
On a smaller scale across the country men and women are attempting to raise deposits to stand as Independent candidates in PCC elections and as Mayors in a number of places. The deposit fees have been set by the Government, the wealthy Tory Party which also sets the maximum spending limits allowed in these elections. They set these figures based not on how accessible democracy is to ordinary people, but on amounts which will allow their candidates to ensure that their wealth presents them with a major advantage in each and every election. It is surely time for those of us who care about democracy to challenge this issue which our major political parties don’t want to change for fear of losing their organisational advantage (or being shown up for what they have done previously).