In a recent blog post, Cat and Mouse, I discussed the frustrations of buying gas and electricity in the pseudo-market of 21st century Britain. In this post, I am looking at buying power of a different type: political power.
The recent ludicrous vanity project by billionaire Michael Ashcroft, his unauthorised “biography” Call Me Dave, made tabloid headlines. These highlighted some ridiculous uncorroborated claim about Cameron and a pig. Like the subject of the biography, I treat the story with the contempt it deserves.
But most newspapers seemed to have missed the most shocking aspect of this story: the casual assumption by Ashcroft that, by donating vast sums to the Tory party, this assured him of a key role in Cameron’s government. The unremarked assumption that money buys political power went largely unchallenged.
From fundraising dinners during the Conservative Party Conference, through the notorious Black and White Ball each February, to the Donor Clubs on their own party website, the Tories make it clear they’re up for sale. And of course, there’s that perennial unreformed bastion of patronage, the House of Lords, where party donations and seats are often “coincidentally” linked.
So when a politician next makes the claim that Britain’s political system is one of the least corrupt in the world, think carefully before you accept their reassurances.