Follow the money

15 Mar 2024
mix of banknotes

The big political story of the week has been the revelation that the biggest donor to the Tory party Frank Hester was reported as making racist and sexist comments about the Labour politician Diane Abbott.


The story has run all week firstly because the Tory Party denied the comments made were racist and misogynistic ( which they clearly were ) but then having changed their stance refused to return the £10m donated to them. It then subsequently emerged that a further £5m donation was in the works and that Mr Hester recently donated £15000 to our Prime Minister to allow him to use a helicopter on political business.


It wont surprise you to know that we think the donation should be returned but the whole affair raises the much bigger issue of how our political parties are funded.


Is it really healthy that our governing party ( or indeed any political party) receives over £15m from one individual?


Such a donation may be pure altruism but that sort of money buys influence as past nomination of big donors to the House of Lords well illustrates.


Only this week businessman Mohammed Amersi was in the news having paid £100,000 for a breakfast meeting with Mr Johnson, after winning a fundraising dinner auction in November 2019. When the meeting never materialised he had a long fight to get his money back. But the bigger question is why should it be possible to buy such access in the first place.


Whilst in election periods limits on political funding are pretty tight funds spent outside that period are fairly free of restrictions. The Daily Mirror recently reported that £740,491 has been spent on local Facebook ads in the first nine weeks of this year, compared to just £53,484 in the same period last year.. Without big donors this sort of spend would be impossible.


With the Tories generally raising the most funds it is probably not surprising they recently increased the maximum spend during a General Election campaign from £19.5m to £35m.


Limiting donations from individuals, corporations and Trade Unions is just part of what we need to do to clean up our politics. Stopping the nonsense of sending mates and donor to the House of Lords where they can influence legislation for the rest of their lives and introducing a more proportional electoral system to encourage greater cooperation would also make a big difference to cleaning up the sleaze.


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