I always used to wonder* if Ebay and other online auction sites had impacted on the economy by changing the flow-of-money rules. People could suddenly move money around from sale to purchase and barely see the cash in their pockets. As a result, such money doesn’t increase labour therefore simply enters a vacuum of the internet and is rarely taxed, let alone spent on high streets. All this means is it effectively dissappears.
But Ebay et al must be small fry compared to a far bigger vacuum: political and politicised monies.
All of a sudden we realise vast transactions are moving through the Conservative party all the time. Instead of 99p for your old top, the idea of £250,000 here, there and everywhere, sucking life out of spending power, jobs and trade is quite frightening.
And we know this sort of money is like water between newspapers and the police. Amounts of money that are up to ten times the annual average salary.
The best thing to come out of a morally defensible scandal is a push for reform. However, unlike the MPs Expenses, we should not allow the reform of political funding to be pushed in the long grass or smothered by irrelevant news items. in addition to this, we must also address just why such a scandal is morally reprehensible, and the wider implications for our political houses.
A Dinner Date with Cameron as a scandal has raised two major issues. The first is the reappearance of the “cash for peerage” scandals of the Labour Administration and they indication of just how much of a plutocracy we really live in.
This issue is largely a scandal because it identifies the inextricable link between politics and wealth that has largely become an elephant in the room. People realise that to be a politician requires money, otherwise politicians would not be mainly made up of wealthy individuals. Campaigning, communications, public relations and networking take a great deal of time and money that most people can’t afford to spend.
As a result, people who can afford to spend, but don’t necessarily want to be in politics, choose the power option of influencing politics. As a result, the reason that a largely pejorative view of the Conservative Party has developed is because it is for the upper middle classes who share their wealth and influence politics to benefit only the upper and upper middle classes.
It doesn’t matter how many times David Cameron talks about hugging hoodies, being a more open and socially acceptable party that values the poor as well as the rich; the short truth is that politics in the UK is a classist system and all the time the Conservatives are funded by major donors and organisations, they will be unduly biased towards benefiting those in the event they are in power.
One of the biggest conflicts within the coalition has been that the Liberal Democrats have always taken a strong approach to reducing social divide and addressing a far more socialist agenda that removes class from the equation. This puts them in direct conflict with the Conservatives, despite all of the compromises made between both sides.
Therefore the Liberal Democrats find it morally offensive, even more so than the regular man, but such vast amounts of money should be used to influence policy or simply have dinner with someone when there are so many people in need across the country.
Rather than taking massive donations from people who want to be Lords, the Conservative Party should be focusing, like the Liberal Democrats, on using money like this to get the economy going, get people spending and bring back jobs.
Yes we need to reform political funding. Yes there is an active championing to reform political funding by the Liberal Democrats. Yes this has been blocked on every occasion by Labour and the Conservatives. But the sooner we champion this, clarified with a good scandal, the better.
Cash for Peerages
Interestingly, two of the major donors to the Conservative Party are Lords. The Cash for Honours scandal of the Labour Administration nearly bought the House of Lords to its knees.
All of this indicates the desperate need for the House of Lords to be changed completely to an elected system.
It is unfathomable in this day and age that we allow such negligible kleptocracy to take place under our noses. It is with sheer audacity that the leading political parties willingly place members of their administration, often through party donations, into the upper house of the UK Parliament.
Yes those members are therefore liable to be lobbied, yes those members are therefore liable to be whipped and to vote in a certain way; but those members are in no way in that position democratically.
The huge amounts of money that passed between the hands of the wealthy and the political classes not only morally offends “Mondeo man” on his £25,000 a year living in suburbia, but they offend anyone with any decent understanding of democratic principles, political sciences or social sciences.
There are three things that come out of the Number 10 Dining Street fiasco. We should not allow any of them to fail to be addressed within the next three years of Parliament. We need a democratic, transparent and accountable political funding system, we need a democratic transparent and accountable House of Lords and we need democratic, transparent and accountable members of Parliament.
*I don’t profess to have a qualification in economics. This is largely from stray Sociology and Economics degree texts that have strayed into my bored time