Join me in imagining a hypothetical scenario.
Imagine George Osborne sat in Parliament as an MP of the ‘Conservative & Tory’ Party. Imagine this affiliated party was funded by a large business conglomerate, the Tory Group. Now imagine Osborne boasted of helping to change the law so that the Tory Group could strike a merger deal for its Tory Bank arm.
Let’s say the deal went sour, the Chairman of Tory Bank was engulfed in scandal and turned out to be totally unsuited for the job, then the Group was forced to sell 70 per cent of it just to stave off disaster. Members of the board brought in to reform Tory Group resign in the face of internal opposition, and finally the company reports losses of £2.5 billion – but still intends to keep funding George Osborne and his fellow Conservative & Tory MPs.
What would Ed Miliband, Ed Balls and Chuka Umunna have to say about such a situation?
I bet all three men would be on the airwaves week in, week out, condemning the Chancellor’s relationship with the troubled organisation – and asking why a loss-making company in crisis is still funding politicians. It would be a perfectly reasonable position to take.
We’ve heard plenty over the last four years from the Opposition about what they think makes for good business. They have gone well beyond discussing what kind of regulation would be effective for the economy, and into explicit judgements about how businesses ought to be run. Predators, producers, hefty rewards for boardroom failure, ethical business, unhealthy relationships between political donors and recipients – all have become well-trodden Labour themes, so a scandal like this would be their natural territory.
Of course, they haven’t criticised the situation I described above – but not because it’s hypothetical. This story really happened, but the names are different: the politician in question is Ed Balls, a member of the Labour & Co-Operative Party, funded by the troubled Co-Operative Group.
Given that they’re so hungry for publicity that they have even spoken out about the price of Waitrose coffee, why ever could it be that Labour are so reluctant to criticise bad business in the case of the Co-Op?