Tuesday, July 09, 2013

Quick! Look over there!

Ah, party funding. The scandal that never gets old. From Lloyd George knew my father, to cash for honours, to the recent schemozzle with Len McCluskey it's a hardy perennial of British politics. In its new iteration it is largely the product of the single largest feature of moder party politics: the death of the mass-participation political party.

If membership falls to minimal levels, parties cannot raise sufficient money from them to function - especially pertinent given the substantial increases in the costs of running a party. So, they need to look elsewhere. Labour looks to the Trade Union movement, Tories to business. Labour's Union link is proving a touch sticky just at the moment, what with all the entryism and subversion going on. So, high time for the Guardian to come to the aid of the party with a quick burst of whataboutery.

It's fairly predictable stuff: the Tories are in the pocket of the City, which explains their radically pro-financial sector policies (this will surprise many in the City). Tory policies (including on tax) are therefore entirely guided by this tiny donor clique in the financial sector, and thus far more of a scandal than Marxist-led Trade Unions subverting Labour selection-processes, while also providing 90% of Labour funding.

Well, a man's gotta do and all that, but the two examples he uses are slightly counter-productive. For a start, if you're trying to illustrate the fact that the Tories are in hock to their City paymasters, and that's why their policies are so finance-friendly, why would you use Sir Anthony Bamford as your lead example? He's an industrialist. Where is the radically pro-manufacturing industry policy that must surely have resulted?

For a second, to prove how much influence large individual donors have over the Tory party, Chakrabortty points us to Sir Stuart Wheeler. Who had so much influence over the party that, um, he defected to UKIP in 2009, saying that he disagreed so fundamentally with the Tories on European policy that he had to quite (and is now UKIP Treasurer).

There's dirt everywhere you look in party funding, but what Chakrabortty really seems to have done with this piece is demonstrate just how little most donors really get for their cash.

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