“The Biggest Problem with Democracy
One of the biggest boasts in the UK is that anyone can stand for election, for free at local level and with a deposit if stand for Parliament and that unlike the USA you do not need mega money to be elected. Oh how we wish that were true in reality from the ground up at every level of British politics it costs hard cash to get elected, because in this life nothing is free, only the oxygen we breathe. Then once elected people want to influence our elected representatives and that costs cold hard cash. I was once told off for comparing politicians to sex workers in that they tend not to be too fussy who they accept cash from, as long as they paid. Cynical I know, but politics cost money however much the Parties and we the electorate avoid the issue we really need to stop putting our heads in the sand.
Bobby Friedman in Democracy Ltd has reminded us in his examination of how money and donations has corrupted British politics, and shows that this is nothing new, and that it even happened before Lloyd George, whom actually turned it in to a real money spinner. How even in the mid-70s and even in 1979 the Conservative Party may have been telling people to spend within their means, even though they had to run the 1979 election campaign on debt, for fear of being outspent by the Labour Party. To quote Conservative Party Treasurer of the time Lord Calpine ‘My view was a bankrupt Conservative Party was acceptable compared to a Labour government, so I was quite happy to take the party into debt and pull out all the stops to get funds to win the 1979 election.’
Friedman runs through all the money and donation scandals that entered the political lexicon during the 1980s bring things up to date with what is happening now. How both the two main Party’s finance were affected but being fair he also brings up that the LibDems are not exactly squeaky clean when it comes to donations. Especially as the curtain was coming down on British rule over Hong Kong how they sent Paddy Ashdown out of the room as the plate was send round for donations from the Hong Kong very rich residents.
The final chapter of the book brings us up to date with the current debate over Party donations and spending. How all parties are unable to agree in favour of reform through all wanting to get the better deal for their own party. Lord Tim Razzall former LibDem treasurer has been the most honest about Party financing in that ‘There’s a pact with the devil.’ All political parties will always attract those of shady character as they will want to buy influence their money can and will buy it through donations, and all the parties are competing against each other in an ever decreasing circle.
Democracy Ltd reminds us of all the shady characters that have bought influence for various different over the years and how no party can claim to be as innocent as they try to make out. One of the most important parts of this book is in the final chapter in that Friedman would like remind us the system is broken and that scandals will not go away unless we the political system is willing to change. The current system has and will continue to erode public trust in politics, and Friedman is optimistic in that if we change the system it will mean politicians will have to once again engage with the ordinary voter.
This is another voice in the wilderness that needs to be heard as we the public can no longer go on with our political leaders separated from us by money and self-interest. This is an important salvo in that debate and should be read, challenged and then re-open the debate on who or how Political Parties need to funded and if caps are required on spending. Buy this book and take part in the debate.