Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Michael White-wash?

This is a rather baffling comment piece by Michael White in today's Guardian. It's occasionally disingenuous, like the following:
All the same, it was a bit naughty of Francis Maude, unfrocked chairman of the Tory party, to pretend on Radio 4's Today programme that Labour rejected the Hayden Phillips review formula for party funding - more state aid, matching funds for voluntary donations and a cap both on donations (up to £50,000) and spending.

Labour did it because it would have broken their historic link with the unions, whose members pay the political levy as individuals under ballots stipulated by Thatcher legislation. Labour has few big donors - people like Lord Sainsbury and (we now know) David Abrahams, plus the unions, of course.

The Tories have big donors too, but, much more important, they have many more people willing and able to give smaller sums - up to £50,000, for instance. So it's not surprising, Frankie, as you know very well.
If, as White says in his second paragraph, Labour did it [ie reject Hayden Phillips] then it's not remotely 'naughty' of Francis Maude to mention it is it? And it isn't a pretence. What Labour tried to do was scupper Tory funding while leaving their own untouched. So long as the Union link remains, attempts by labour to prevent large scale individual donations are hypocritical in the extreme.
This was odd too:
It's not surprising either that the BBC's news division makes such a fuss on all channels. Dear old Jim Naughtie was almost shouting "you've broken your own act" at Labour NEC chair Diane Hayter this morning. She was very competent, but refrained from reminding Jimbo that at least one BBC TV programme was among the television shows caught defrauding the viewers on the premium phone line racket this year.
She wasn't remotely competent! She sounded like either an idiot or a liar. To say, repeatedly, that the NEC had no idea of the link between Abrahams and his shadows, when it seems that everyone from Hilary Benn to Baroness Amos did know was extremely unconvincing. And that last tu quoque bit is thoroughly ridiculous. Does White think it an acceptable excuse for the Governing Party breaking a law that it introduced itself on party funding that a television programme played fast and loose with premium phone lines? It's absurd.
But the pack presses ahead, putting the worst possible construction on what happened, which, as an Italian woman reporter reminded the audience, wasn't a very big deal unless corruption is revealed. Brown is sending the money back and investigating what went wrong. Stuff like this happens in most organisations.
Great, so our political climate is better than Italy's and 'most organisations' receive money in direct contravention of the law, do nothing about it for months, if not years, and then promise to pay it back? Weak weak weak.

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

Well that's Michael White all over. But the last bit reminds me of the points made in the new Peter Oborne book. He points out that the idea that politicians are held to an artificially high standard by a (an?) hypocritical media is an old canard that's trotted out frequently, but is generally untrue.

The idea that "Stuff like this happens in most organisations" is just so untrue it's unreal. As many people have pointed out, this government brought in laws against money laundering that mean for most organisations accepting registering money as being from one person when you know they're a proxy is a serious crime.

8:17 am  

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