09 March 2006

Political Parties and Corruption.

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'.


  1. it is disappointing to think that those ministers supposedly with an influence in cracking down on tax evasion, actually have partners who help clients evade tens of millions of pounds in tax.

    You might want to look up the difference between tax avoidance and tax evasion and then consider whether you are happy libelling a cabinet minister's partner like this...

  2. Andrew: Err..yes I meant tax avoidance, duly changed, cheers.

  3. No problem Neil. I wouldn't want you carted off to Belmarsh on some trumped up charge. You never can tell with this lot in power. ;)

  4. when you say political parties and corruption, don't you mean the Labour Party and corruption? You lot are even betetr than the Tories at it. he he he

  5. Ah1 But can you name a Labour Party member who ended up in Belmarsh! I can think of a Tory who ended up there!

  6. When you say that the Jowell affair is at least as bad as Jeffrey Archer and Jonathan Aitken, do you actually mean the opposite, that it is not so bad?

    Has Jowell lied to a court to extract some cash out of a newspaper? Is she involved in arming some ghastly Soviet-aligned theocracy?

    No of course she isn't, unless Blair criminal justice system now operates in secret and the Camden Borough Council was involved in a much greater diversity of activities than previously presumed, neither of which strikes me as very likely.

    Stop pretending that two bad things are equally bad, whether it be tax avoidance and tax evasion or the sins of various senior politicians.

  7. What about your councillors who went to jail for postal vote fraud?

    what ever happened to bliar's promises on being squeeky clean? another lie to get your nasty party to power.

  8. What I actually meant was that the Tories had a worse record, the mere fact two of them ended up in prison shows that!

  9. Anon: There are hundreds of councillors of all parties that have ended up in prison. I'm talking about government ministers. On that score the Tories are 2-0 ahead.

    Morally I think tax avoidance is almost as bad as tax evasion. When it is a government minister's spouse involved it is even worse. That's just my opinion. How can we have confidence in a government cracking down on such things when they condone it?

    Saying that, I suppose Aitken and Archer are worse than Jowell, but it is more disappointing that Labour are hobnobbing it with the likes of Belusconi, I expect it of the Tories!

  10. well the husband (or is it ex husband - how quick the people in your nasty party drop their so called loved ones) of that culture chick looks like hes going down for a very long time. that'll give the rest of us something to have a really good laugh about.

  11. How was The God Who Wasn't There? It looks intriguing, providing it's actually a decent examination...

  12. Andrew: 'God who wasn't there'.

    It's got a lot of good info in there. Particularly interesting stuff about 'the missing link' of Christianity. This is where after the death of Jesus (or should I say Dionysis or other pagan and greek legends who he resembles?) there is nobody writing about him until the gospels that came 40 or so years later.

    It is obviously a very low budget film which gives it a 'C5 doc' feel in places, but it did hold together quite well. The guy who did it was a fundamentalist Christian turned militant atheist. There is some excellent footage where he goes back to meet his fundamentalist school tutor and plenty of interviews with glassy eyed fundamentalists who are completely lost when asked about the history of Christianity and how it spread.

  13. "Morally I think tax avoidance is almost as bad as tax evasion. "


    Morally, I think the current tax system stinks. The marginal rate of tax for someone on benefits is something close to 90% (because you lose tax credits as your income rises). That is frankly immoral because it saps the incentive of the very poorest to take responsibility for their own lives and make them better. Indeed, anyone in this position with a chance of earning some extra cash is very very likely to go down the EVASION route of failing to declare it. Wouldn't you?

    Whilst we are on the subject of tax, I find the tick box idea for £3 funding per individual absolutely abhorrent UNLESS there is an additional option labelled:

    "Give me MY hard earned £3 back (tax payers only)".

    If the government is offering me a choice, it should damned well offer me the choice about whether to fund ANY party. If not, it should have the decency to refund the money appropriated.

    You - along with most on the economic left - seem completely unaware that tax revenues are NOT the government's money. It was earned by taxpayers and appropriated on threat of imprisonment. It is not magic. It does not grow on trees.

    I don't think this particular gripe applies to you though Neil as I suspect that you are paid entirely by the generosity of taxpayers and value-creators in the private sector.

  14. PG: I agree with you about the benefits trap where there are 90% marginal rates, that is why I want a citizen's income.

    Whether on the left or the right, we should all want the most efficient tax and benefit system. The current system is a mess. On that I'm sure there is a lot I could agree with you about.

    The beauty of the 3 pound tick box, is it is totally up to the individual. If you don't want any party to get your funding, then don't tick any box.

  15. I just think we're in a dangerous shift period where faith in any sort of politician is evaporating. I know some thought we were already there but the Tessa thing has struck home deeply, deeply, with lots of punters. It is very worrying, leaves a gap in the game for something awful.

  16. I don't think I've ever had 'faith' in a politician.