Sorry about the lack of posts this week. I'm still dumbfounded at the Tessa Jowell case. It's not that I'm particularly surprised by the greed of some cabinet ministers but it is disappointing to think that those ministers supposedly with an influence in cracking down on tax avoidance, actually have partners who help clients avoid tens of millions of pounds in tax. I never liked Tessa Jowell (super casinos) and now I like her even less.
Then of course you have to ask, why would someone as dodgy as Berlusconi (with known mafia links) 'gift' 350,000 pounds to the husband of a cabinet minister? It is also very worrying the closeness of Blair to people like Berlusconi and of course we all know his wife Cherie, has a fondness for dodgy deals using their dodgy friends.
It all reeks of corruption and greed and is at least as bad as Jeffrey Archer and Jonathon Aitkin. I suppose at least no Labour minister has been sent to jail yet, the Tories are still two nil up on that score.
Typically Polly Toynbee has already beaten me to writing about Labour and corruption. She seems quite convinced that Gordon Brown is going to put a cap on donations to political parties and introduce some form of state funding (both recommendations of the recent PoWEr Inquiry).
State funding of political parties is of course controversial and in the current climate of distrust of politicians not surprisingly unpopular. This is why the PoWEr Commission recommends leaving the decision on state funding to individuals, so that we can decide to 'give the bastards nothing' if we so choose.
Their idea is simply to have tick boxes on ballot papers. The individual would have to positively choose to allow 3 pounds a year of state funding to be given to a local party. If no box is ticked, no donation is made. This is an ingenius idea in so many ways.
Firstly and most importantly we already have some state funding of political parties but most of the money goes to the main parties. The tick box will enable smaller parties to have a much fairer slice of donations.
Secondly it reduces the reliance of parties on a small number of rich donors who wield disproportionate influence on policy decisions.
Finally it is an added incentive for all parties to inprove turnout and also an added incentive for voters to turnout. There would be no restriction on donating to a different party from whom you voted for.
Staying on the subject of Gordon Brown, I like his leisure vouchers for youngsters idea. It is not a world changing proposal, but it is a good idea. One of the biggest causes of juvenile crime is boredom and a lack of constructive things for youths to do. This can only help address that problem.
As this post is sort of turning into my review of the week, I might as well tell you about some of the things I've been up to.
Went to the GC meeting on Monday, as well as electing members to the NEC, it was also a mini election within the party. I've been handed the role of Data Handling for the constituency to add to my role in the ward as campaigns organiser. I also got chose as the delegate for the party conference in September in Manchester.
I'm going to find out more about my 'data handling' role on Friday, as I'm not entirely sure what it entails as yet. I hear B4L (site is down at moment) is not entirely sure about his new role either.
One interesting fact I did hear which disturbed me no end (and this is harking back to the Power Report's conclusions on disengagement), is that political parties don't necessarily have their most members in wards where they receive the most votes. Being in a political party is very much a middle class activity, so therefore the more middle class an area, the more members a party has. This is sadly just as true with Labour party members.
Skuds likes the idea of 'supporters networks' in addressing this problem. Supporters networks are a FREE 'halfway house' to membership, with some voting rights and notifications about party events, but without the need to be a full party member and pay dues.
The problem with this highlighted by Kerron of the delectable left is that this gives even more reason for party membership to fall. If you can get most of the benefits free as a supporter, why pay to be a member (even if it is only 2 pounds a month)?
Anyway, saying all that, I quite like the idea. It will enable Labour to keep in touch with more people and that must be a good thing.
On Tuesday I went to the Brighton & Hove Humanist Society meeting at the Farm Tavern in Hove. They have their meetings every first Tuesday and have a guest speaker on a different topic each month. This month it was 'The Christian God is a Myth', delivered by Norman Bacrac of the ethical record.
I will write more on this in another post, but for now I'm off to see the 'God that wasn't there', and then hopefully see Polly Toynbee speaking at Sussex University on how 'religion is bad for the nation's health'.