Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Party funding

I noted a while back that Blair had created more peers than any PM since Lloyd George. It's not all that surprising that both men were accused, with overwhelming circumstantial evidence, of effectively selling peerages in return for party donations. PG Wodehouse noted the scandal in the 1920s, Bingo Little noting that his guvnor had 'paid the deuce of a sum' for his peerage, with even knighthoods costing a thousand quid.

Lloyd George was, in private, candid about this, commenting that selling peerages was quite the cleanest way of funding political parties, its problem being that it was so difficult to defend. The argument is, basically, that if rich people want to spend a million pounds on acquiring a title then why not let them? Both parties can nominate people for advancement to the peerage, so there is no question of abuse of government power, and now that hereditary peers have mainly vanished from the House of Lords, the risk of granting dynastic political power has also gone.

In other words, the scandal that Blair is selling peerages is a belated one to say the least. The system has continued unabated for well over a hundred years, in every party and at every level of honour. Far more important a scandal is what else Labour appears to be selling. Looking back to the beginnings of this administration, the Ecclestone affair gave a clear warning of the Government's character. In return for a donation of £1 million, Government policy on advertising cigarettes was changed.

This is the true nature of the scandal. On the list of donors appears Rod Aldridge, CEO of Capita who make most of their money fulfilling Government contracts. Paul Drayson, another donor, is now not only a minister in the Lords, but also won for his company a series of contracts to manufacture vaccines. What is pernicious is not the sale of honours, but the sale of policy.


Blogger Devil's Kitchen said...



5:37 pm  

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