Sleaze is making the headlines again (if not the News at 10!). Tony Blair recommended Dr Chai Patel for a peerage after he had made a £1.5 million loan to the Labour party last year. There is a loophole that loans to political parties don’t have to be made public.
Peter Preston comments about this sleaze in today’s Guardian:
"Sleaze is an oil slick on the beach of politics. It sticks, stinks –
and kills reputations. It stayed with John Profumo through 43 desolate
years as he toiled for redemption. It still swills around the
Conservative party that David Cameron strives to revive. And now it is
a threat this government can’t ignore any longer: a foul Blair "legacy"
that may finish off Brown as well.
Too apocalyptic? Why should a few
soft loans to Labour matter? Who cares if rich men, waving chequebooks,
can collect their peerages in that dark alley round the back? We’ve
wallowed in so much gunk since 1997 – dodgy millionaires, dodgy
mortgages, dodgy dossiers – that ermine for sale should barely rise
eyebrows. But it does."
We recently asked what had been Labour’s sleaziest moment, and there was no shortage of suggestions. But what can be done about party funding? Preston continues:
"The funding of political parties is a grey hole for democracy
everywhere from Washington to Paris. Desperate bank managers beget
desperate fundraisers. And probably neither the Committee on Standards,
nor its next organisation for examination, the Electoral Commission,
has easy answers."
ToryDiary recently advocated a cap of £100,000 – but people shouldn’t be able to get around the cap by making loans that then saddle political parties with unstable levels of debt and/or hold their policies hostage.