The current UK government is suffering a bit of a deja vu experience at the moment with the Donors for Dinner scandal. (Jobs for the boys really…)
The UK political system is organised in such a way that wealthy benefactors can donate money to what they perceive a good cause. (That’s the theory at least….) In order to run a political party huge sums of money are required. We’re talking millions, so any donor money generally is welcome.
The thing is that donors don’t really donate. They generally want something back for their bucks. (Strange isn’t it?) They will want to exert influence over the party they have donated the sums of money to. This can be achieved through meeting the person in charge (Prime Minister, President or similar) and feeding him/her their views or by feeding their views into the party machine in the hope this will translate into laws. The more money you pay, oops donate, the more influence you can have. Did anyone said government was for sale?
David Cameron, the current UK Prime Minister, is being accused of meeting his party’s top donors over secret, private lunches and dinners at his official government residences. (Donors for Dinner as them media have dubbed it.) Given the views of some of their donors, you wonder how much has been translated into policy. Reduction in top rate tax anyone?
Lending their ears to wealthy benefactors is not a typical Conservative problem though. Tony Blair (Former Labour Prime Minister) suffered from a similar scandal where people paid politicians to ask questions in Parliament in order to influence politics. Blair and Co also had a cabinet staffed with millionaires, who were not really representative of the voting public and most of them had various fingers in financial pies. They all brought their private interests into government. The Blair government had a constant smell of ‘bought influence’ wafting around it. Can’t be much of a surprise then that he made his millions in no time after he quit his job.
The Brown (Tony Blair’s Labour successor) era had similar problems with donors, albeit that they were the unions on which Labour had to rely heavily in order to survive financially. There isn’t really a big difference between the fat cat union bosses and the fat cat industrialists who frequent the conservatives. They’re all after power and think they can buy it. Call this democracy? Not in my book. At least Gordon Brown didn’t become a fat cat Union boss….. Just the thought of it!
And it did not start with Bliar & Co either. In the 1930’s there was a cash for honours scandal where you could buy honours, i.e. a hereditary title or some other form of public recognition. Both the Conservative and the Labour parties were embroiled in this.
No doubt this was kind of the standard in previous governments. Kings & Queens all desperately needed money to fund their lifestyles, armies, colonies, etc. What easier way to lay your grubby hands on the dosh than to ennoble people when they “donated” to “public” coffers, ahum, causes? Many of today’s aristocrats started their esteemed family trees as robber barons, buccaneers or slave traders. People just forget or don’t realise this as history is not being taught anymore. (But that’s another story….!)
If you take inflation into account ￡250,000 has been the going rate for “buying” an honour in the UK since the 1930’s. This will most likely remain the rate for the foreseeable future, unless something major changes. Just make sure you pay it to the right shady paymasters.
Who invented the term ‘transparent government’ again?
Oh, and I haven’t even addressed corruption in the European Union yet……….