More equal than others
Posted by Matt Walker on March 25, 2012
In a liberal democracy political equality is essential. As a citizen of the UK, I would expect to influence government no more than alternative voices, and hope that government would be even-handed when mediating between different interests, choosing policy positions on a rational, logical, and evidential basis. If this were not the case, then some people or organisations could influence government to make decisions in their own favour, at the expense of others who lack access to government circles.
And so this morning’s news about Conservative Party co-treasurer, Peter Cruddas, does not make for comfortable reading. I should say “ex-co-treasurer” as he has already resigned. Cruddas has been caught by a Sunday Times ‘sting’, videoed saying that a £250,000 donation to the Conservative Party would gain people access to the prime minister, as well as get their concerns on a Downing Street policy committee.
The Conservative Party has denied accepting money on this basis, and Cruddas has suggested he was merely exaggerating the influence donors could have over government policy. No doubt more information will emerge over the coming days, and I wouldn’t be surprised if the Sunday Times has other revelations up its sleeve. To some extent, this is nothing new. The Bernie Ecclestone Affair over donations to Labour in the 1990s jolted Tony Blair for a while, and Michael Crick produced a wonderful piece for the Channel 4 News about business donors at the 2010 Liberal democrat Conference. Such unsavoury happenings occur because political parties need to raise huge funds for their campaigns.
This latest scandal will only consume the government if it is proven that senior Tories have been accepting donations for direct influence over government policy. But it has once again highlighted some of the weaknesses within our democracy, and to echo a phrase George Orwell used in Animal Farm, some people are more equal than others.