The issue of secret loans to political parties which started as a run of the mill, identikit case of political sleaze – political party provided much needed funding reciprocates in kind with peerages, privilege or favourable policy amendments – has altogether spawned a more pernicious genealogy; state funding of political parties, and a further capping of General Election expenditure.
Those who have tried to raise funds for the Conservative Party, or Labour or the Liberals, will acknowledge the extreme difficulty and often thankless task of raising money. Running a local campaign costs thousands... running a national campaign and providing an efficient and effective political organisation between elections costs millions. Being generous, it is perhaps because of the difficulty of getting small donors, to provide sufficient funds to avoid the suspicious reliance on a handful of major donors, that has led all political parties to gratefully seize the bosom of state funding.
We are of course all to blame for the inevitability that we as taxpayers will have to foot the bill for legions of spin doctors. I confess to smug satisfaction and glee when Labour was initially embroiled in this cash for peerages row. In retrospect, I was wrong. It wasn’t wrong for Labour or indeed the Conservatives to accept loans or donations. What was wrong, and where public ire has been stoked, is that the provider of each loan was until recently concealed. Transparency, or lack of it, is the issue.
There seems now to be an acceptance that it is political donations themselves that are the problem and that the only solution to this manufactured problem is state funding. A wholly regrettable solution to an imagined problem, but one which looks increasingly likely.