Big money politics takes more victims

The prompt resignation of the Labour party General Secretary implies this is a big problem for Labour.

Much of the money passed to the Labour party after Gordon Brown had taken over. There are many questions to answer:

1. Harriet Harman received money for her deputy leadership campaign from similar sources. Was this properly reported? Did she know of the connections?
2. David Abrahams was given a good seat at Tony Blair’s farewell. Who organised this? Did they know he was a big donor?
3. Mr Abrahams passed money onto staff and business associates. How did they account for this money? Was any of it taxable?
4. Hilary Benn did not take money from Mrs Kidd but did accept a donation from Mr Abrahams. Were his team told of the links by Baroness Jay? If so, who else did she tell? If Hilary Benn did not know via her, how did they know?
5. What checks did the Labour party carry out before filling in its return for these donations?

All of this is very depressing for politics. It reminds us of the dangers of big money politics, and shows how Labour thought the rules they had invented did not really apply to them.

I just hope this is not used as another excuse to demand more money from taxpayers for political parties. The best answer is for the main parties to spend less on national campaigns, and to accept less from individual donors. Gordon Brown should do a deal with the other party leaders, accepting a cap of ??50,000 on all donations including donations from Trade Unions. If individual Tade Union members wish to give to the Labour party they are free to do so, so Unions and companies should be treated similarly for these purposes.

I do not take pleasure from this latest funding scandal, even though it is a Labour one. All the time we have big money politics, all parties are vulnerable to temptation or to misunderstanding about donors and donations. We need to get to the bottom of this latest funding crisis as quickly as possible, so we know who if anyone apart from the General Secretary made a misjudgement. We also need to know if Labour’s own law on financing political parties has been broken. To restore faith in politics we need the three main parties to agree to spend less and raise less from individual donors and Unions.

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6 Comments

  1. APL
    Posted November 27, 2007 at 12:34 pm | Permalink

    JR: “I just hope this is not used as another excuse to demand more money from taxpayers for political parties.”

    Of course it will – already has been. The ‘narrative’ goes like this: “we are too dishonest to be trusted to raise our party funds directly, therefore we need to be able to dip our hands directly into tax revenue.”

    A bit like ‘we are incapable of securing your private details’ therefore identity cards run by the government are a good idea.

    Such brass neck and brazen dishonesty is astounding.

  2. steve_roberts
    Posted November 27, 2007 at 4:18 pm | Permalink

    "more money from taxpayers for political parties."

    For me, if any political party can't raise what it wants to spend by voluntary donations, capped at a sufficiently low level to prevent individuals and organisations buying policies and parties, if they can't raise enough voluntarily, they will just have to spend less. Funding their spending ambitions out of the pockets of the public by taxation is just not on.

  3. Stuart Fairney
    Posted November 27, 2007 at 4:43 pm | Permalink

    If Benn knew( Mrs Kidd -ed) was not the real source of the money, it is hard to believe Harman was not privy to the same information.

    If she knew, then it's surely over for her, if she didn't know, then presumably she just accepts money from more or less anyone, in which case, is such a person with such a cavalier attitude, the best possible person to be deputy leader of the labour party?

    Today's news conference with the PM reminded me of one of those sleazy American senators caught in gross impropriety. "I have no recollection of…" and "I acted in good faith" etc. Weasel words indeed.

  4. norm
    Posted November 27, 2007 at 5:52 pm | Permalink

    Margaret Jay clearly knew that Mrs Kidd was just a bag lady for Mr Abrahams.
    The question is, how did Jay know this? It can only be that she had seen the same subterfuge and the same names used elsewhere.
    I wonder where??

    Reply: Maybe she was told it came from Mr Abrahams when she checked it out in connection with the Benn donation.

  5. Letters From A Tory
    Posted November 28, 2007 at 9:07 am | Permalink

    I agree. This funding crisis goes a lot deeper than Labour's incompetence and sleaze and no doubt the Conservatives and Lib Dems will be caught out as some point as well.
    http://lettersfromatory.wordpress.com

  6. Colin Hart
    Posted November 28, 2007 at 1:30 pm | Permalink

    Did Margaret Jay warn Hilary Benn or was she letting him know so he would know who to thank later?
    The taxpayer already subsidises parties – Short money etc. This is no reason to screw even more out of us. Watch out for us withholding taxes. The argument that state-funding is the norm in Europe concludes the case against.

    Reply: I have not heard Lady Jay's response to such a question. It would be interesting to hear an interview with her, as she could prove an important witness in this case.

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    John Redwood won a free place at Kent College, Canterbury, and graduated from Magdalen College Oxford. He is a Distinguished fellow of All Souls, Oxford. A businessman by background, he has set up an investment management business, was both executive and non executive chairman of a quoted industrial PLC, and chaired a manufacturing company with factories in Birmingham, Chicago, India and China. He is the MP for Wokingham, first elected in 1987.

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