After 15 months of deliberation and endless delays, the Committee on Standards in Public Life recommended that there should be a £10,000 cap on ‘political donations’. Since the committee report in November there’s been complete silence. The LibDems, who have nothing to lose and much to gain, are apparently in favour. Not so The Conservative and Labour party. The Conservatives want a cap of at least £50,000, and Labour doesn’t want to see their union ‘donations’ disappear.
So where do we go from here? Well, Graham Allen who’s chairman of the Political and Constitutional Reform Committee, is urging the government to pull its socks up, take the issue out of the ‘too difficult box’, and deal with the issue without further delay. He thinks that public confidence in politics risks being undermined if some future scandal erupts before a solution is put in place. He’s right. (Does he know something he needs to share with us?)
One of the ‘sticking points’ (apart from the amount of the cap) is the amount of taxpayer’s money that’ll be required to implement the Committee’s recommendation. It’s 29 million. (or approximately the same amount Barclay’s boss Bob ‘I’m not saying sorry’ Diamond has trousered in the last two years.) Politicians think that to ask the ‘hard-pressed’ electorate to cough up would be a step too far. Nonsense! The electorate would be more than happy to pay up if it meant that it would clean up politics.
The reality is that until money is taken out of politics it will always be open to corruption, however ‘mild’ that corruption might be. The proposed cap of £10,000 is too high. The maximum should be more like £1,500, even if that meant a higher subsidy – and there is an argument that donations should be banned completely. That might be difficult to achieve, but politicians should be under no illusion, the electorate is growing very tired of the endless delays and obfuscation that surrounds this issue. It needs to be dealt with without further delay.
It’s not the threat of an impending scandal that politicians should be worried about, but how the electorate’s frustration at politicians’ unwillingness to clean up their act might manifest itself. It might surprise them. They should remember the expenses scandal is still fresh in everybody’s mind – as is their reluctance to come clean.
Set an example to ‘democracies’ across the world, Mr Cameron, take money out of British politics.